Ancestry Blog » Kendall The official blog of Ancestry Fri, 31 Jul 2015 22:23:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Android app is here! Thu, 22 Dec 2011 01:09:10 +0000 Read more]]> For all of our users that have been patiently waiting for an Android app, your wait is over! We’re happy to announce the launch of our new Android app just in time for the holidays. Android app

Download the app now.

The new app for Android phones and tablets (and very soon including Kindle Fire, NOOK Color, and NOOK Tablet – pending app store approval) allows you to interact with your family tree while on the go. Not only can you view and edit your existing family trees, but you can also build new family trees from scratch, add new family members, edit their information, add and edit life events, and view historical records that have been attached on–anytime, anywhere. You never know where or when you’ll make a new discovery. It’s like having your entire family tree in your pocket!

Here’s what you can do with the new Android app:

  • View your family tree on your Android phone or tablet (you can easily zoom in or out to see anywhere from 2 to 5 or more generations)
  • Start a new family tree or add to an existing one easily
  • View life events and family members for the ancestors in your tree
  • Add, edit and delete people, life events and facts
  • Easily locate any ancestor in your family tree with our handy search tool
  • View historical documents and indexed information that you’ve attached to your family tree on
  • Many more features (like photos) coming soon… stay tuned!

To get started with your genealogy search, download the Android app here.

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Version 3 of our app for iPhone, iPad and iPod is here! Tue, 29 Nov 2011 12:01:57 +0000 Read more]]> Wouldn’t it be great to be able to view and merge’s “shaky leaf” record hints into your family tree directly on your iPhone, iPad or iPod?  We thought so, too.

Today, we announced the availability of an enhanced version 3 of our iPhone, iPad and iPod app, Ancestry, that now offers several new features:

  • Ability to access’s “shaky leaf” hints for new discoveries of historical records about your ancestors directly in the app
  • Merge functionality that identifies and extracts information about family members from historical records to help you grow your tree
  • In-app purchasing, allowing non-subscribers to access record hints without a subscription
  • Improved ability to add information to photos
  • Ability to easily change your family tree privacy settings
  • A more stable app with better performance

Don’t have an Apple iOS device?  Don’t worry, our Android app is in beta testing and will be available in late December for download.

For more information, or to download the app, visit

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Android Beta Testers Needed Tue, 27 Sep 2011 16:03:55 +0000 Read more]]> We’ve been working hard on an Android version of the Ancestry mobile app, and we’re looking for Android users to help us test an early beta version. If you are interested in being a beta tester, regularly use an Android phone or tablet, and are an subscriber, please click here to take a short survey. We will contact a small group of respondents that meet our requirements. Watch this space for future testing opportunities and announcements on the Android app’s progress.

Survey link:

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Ancestry app hits 1 million downloads Tue, 19 Apr 2011 20:35:42 +0000 Read more]]> Ancestry app for iPad iPhoneI’m excited to announce that the Ancestry mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod has been downloaded over 1 million times! Many of you are finding the app to be a great way to interact with your family tree on, share records and photos with others (I’ve personally really enjoyed sitting down with my relatives to look at historical photos together on the iPad), and take your research with you on the go.

Although we’re thrilled to hit the 1-million-download milestone, I think this is really just the beginning for our mobile initiatives.  Not only is there so much more we can do with our existing app for Apple mobile devices, but we also have early plans in place for an Android app coming up on the horizon, as well as ideas around supporting on other mobile devices.

We’re pleased that our users find such satisfaction in using the Ancestry app to learn more about and share their family genealogy.  I’d love to get more of your feedback on how we can improve the app, so please post comments with your ideas.

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New iPad and iPhone app Tue, 01 Feb 2011 00:18:30 +0000 Read more]]> How would you like to be able to see and navigate your family tree on your iPhone or iPad so you can more easily share family stories visually?  How would you like to be able to view the Census and other records you’ve attached to people in your family tree on your iPhone or iPad at your next family gathering?  Well good news – now there’s an app for that.

Today, we announced the availability of an enhanced version of our iPhone app, Ancestry, that now has universal support for the iPad and offers several new features:

  • An interactive family tree viewer to visualize relationships in your family history
  • Access to family trees that were shared with you
  • Ability to view attached historical documents and source citations attached via
  • An improved user experience
  • Available on the iPad

Built with the tablet experience in mind, the new Ancestry app brings to life on iPad’s large screen multi-generational family trees complete with images of original family records and photos, making iPad a powerful tool for you to display and share your trees with family and friends in an interactive, highly visual way.

Don’t have an iPad or an iPhone?  Don’t despair – we’re carefully considering the creation of an Android version of the Ancestry app down the road.  Stay tuned for more info.

Learn more

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Announcing New Search Webinar Fri, 18 Jul 2008 17:35:24 +0000 Read more]]> On Wednesday, July 30, at 8:30 pm ET, I will be hosting a public webinar for anyone who is interested in learning more about how to use the new search on Geared toward intermediate and advanced researchers, the webinar will focus on how to use the tools in’s new search:

  • Record Previews
  • Image Snapshots
  • Refined Searches
  • Type-ahead Tools
  • Global Searches
  • Advanced Searches
  • Filters
  • Keyword Searches

Anyone can register to attend the webinar by visiting the New Search Webinar Registration

The webinar is open to everyone; you do not have to be a member of to register for or attend the webinar.

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Norton Tools problem with Enhanced Image Viewer resolved Mon, 14 Jul 2008 17:20:35 +0000 Read more]]> We have recently been working with Symantec, the makers of Norton Internet security products, on an issue one of their programs causes with our Enhanced Image Viewer.  If you are able to load an original image, but then your browser freezes or locks up and you have Norton Internet security products installed, Norton assures us that their latest update will resolve this issue; please run LiveUpdate to receive this fix.  For instructions on how to run LiveUpdate, please see this article from Symantec’s Knowledge Base:

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Continuing the Dialogue about the New Search Experience Fri, 11 Jul 2008 17:44:26 +0000 Read more]]> Thanks for your feedback on the new search interface at  I assure you that we are reading through your feedback and thinking about how we can better meet your needs with the new search.  I thought that one person in particular, Jerry Bryan, had some very insightful comments—I love getting specific examples—it really helps us be able to understand the issues more clearly and respond to them.

Allow me to clear up a misconception that the new home page on and the new search interface are related—they are not.  When we launched the new home page, there was a bug that inadvertently took many of the new home page visitors into the new search experience at the same time.  We’re sorry about that—the bug has subsequently been fixed.  So, if you find yourself in the new search experience and would like to switch back to the old search experience, you can do that on any of the search pages, just not from the home page itself.  I hope that helps. 

Let me summarize some of the key issues that people have brought up so I can respond to each one in turn:

1. The exact settings don’t seem to work the same way between the new and old search experiences

Thanks for the feedback on this issue.  Specific examples have helped us identify a significant bug in the system that was indeed preventing the exact matches from returning appropriately in the new search.  We’ve fixed that bug and things should be much, much better now.  If you’re still seeing cases where you’ve marked exact on the search or on a specific field and it looks like it is being ignored somehow, please let us know.  We want to make sure we get these issues resolved as soon as possible.

2. The “fuzzy” search returns too many results

We’re working on making the search engine stricter about what results it returns, even on “fuzzy” searches—this should dramatically reduce the number of matches that are returned.  Additionally, you can always turn on the “Advanced” features on the new search and simply mark any field as “Exact” to ensure that results matching only the appropriate information are displayed.  You can also check a single box to make the entire search “Exact” so only items matching all of your criteria exactly are returned.  I think that using this filtering technique (some fields exact, others not) is the best way to get the most out of our search system.

3. Some activities in the new search take more clicks than they did in the old search

Although we’ve tried hard to make the new search experience stream-lined to save clicks in many ways, there are some activities that do indeed take more clicks to accomplish in the new search experience than they did in the old experience.  We’re looking into what we can do to improve that.  One idea we’re playing around with is allowing a keystroke that would bring up the “Refine Search” form up all at once for easier editing.  What do you think?  Also, what are the other areas where it is taking you more clicks?  Specific examples are very helpful.Overall, however, we have developed a new search experience that ultimately should save you clicks as you search for ancestors.

4. The “fuzzy” search engine should return better matches and filter out blatantly wrong matches

Absolutely agree.  We’re working on it—it just takes a long time to make the enhancements we’re hoping for.  Stay tuned.

5. You should focus on making exact searching more powerful (example: get rid of the three-character limit on wildcard searching)

This is something that we’re looking at very closely—we want to make our advanced researchers happy with the tools we provide.  As a result, I’d love to talk more with a few of you who consider yourselves to be advanced researchers to pick your brains on some ideas we’re thinking about in this regard.  If you’re interested, please send me a note to

6. The new search is really designed for “fuzzy” searching

Although we did think a lot about “fuzzy” searching in the new search interface, we also considered exact search very carefully.  We added the “View” option to the search results (look for a drop-down on the right-hand-side of the search results) that lets you see the search results Summarized by Category so you can easily see the list of matching databases—this is particularly useful for exact searching.  Additionally, we made exact searching more powerful than it used to be because you can now specify whether you want a particular field exact or fuzzy on a particular database.  For example, you can now say I want to see results only where the residence was “Spokane, WA” and the last name is “Smith” but leave the first name as a fuzzy result for “John”. 

7. The location type-ahead feature doesn’t work well for counties and/or when searching a specific database

We’re reviewing the way that the location type-ahead feature works to improve it.  Specifically, we’re adding in the county names into the type-ahead list to make it easier to see what county you’re searching on.  When you’re searching on a specific database, we’re also looking into constraining the list of place matches to only matches that are available in the database.  If you have other feedback on the place type-ahead, please let us know.  We’d love to hear it.  Finally, I want to reassure everyone that we’re taking your feedback very seriously and looking carefully at ways to improve the new search experience.  Please continue to send constructive, specific examples and feedback to help us in that process.

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More on’s New Search Sun, 29 Jun 2008 12:56:34 +0000 Read more]]> My last post about our new search received a number of comments from concerned readers about the new search experience.  I’d like to address some of them in this post.

Before I begin, I think that it is important to explain that most people really like the new search interface.  According to our research, over 75% of the people who have tried it out think that it is at least as good as the old search experience, and over 50% think that it is significantly better than the old search experience.  That’s a great start, but we’d like even more of you to be happy with the new search experience–so we’re going to keep working on improving it.

It’s also important for me to clarify something about the new search.  Nearly all of the search changes you see are in the interface, not in the search engine itself.  That’s because making a change to the interface is usually more straight-forward than making a change to the search engine.  Changing the search engine is more like turning a huge boat–it is a big operation that takes a long time!  But that doesn’t mean we’re not working on it.  In fact, we’ve been toiling away on some good improvements to the search engine that should make searching easier.  I hope that I’ll be able to announce some of those changes in the next few months. So, while our search engine team is trying to “turn the ship”, we decided to make some changes to the interface to make it easier to use.

Now on to the concerns.  Here is the general gist of a few of the recurring concerns…

Concern #1: The search is returning results that aren’t even possibly right (Examples: Searched for someone who died in 1861 and got back a match for the 1930 US Federal Census. Searched for a person born in West Virginia but get back matches from the British Isles).

This has to do with the way the search engine works–it basically looks for any possible match that might be for your ancestor.  Now it’s unlikely that a death in 1861 was mistranscribed and should have been 1961, but it is possible.  Thus, the engine will return the match if other elements of the record look similar to the search criteria even if something looks wrong, just in case the input data was incorrect.  That said, this is something we’re trying to improve to make the search engine stricter when it comes to dates that are clearly outside of the person’s lifespan.  As for the location fuzziness, we return these matches because they could possibly be for the right person—we find that often times users inherited incorrect information about their ancestors and/or they didn’t realize their ancestors lived in a different location for a time period.  I’ve had this happen to me several times in my research.  That said, I know it is aggravating when you know a match is wrong and you still get it.  We’re trying to improve the search engine to make it stricter on locations as well.

I tried a ranked search in both the old and the new systems for John Williams b. 1782, d. 1861.  The first matches I got were in the US Federal Census Mortality Schedules in the right time frame.  The only way a 1930 match would appear first is if the search engine did not find anything that was closer in terms of the names, places and the dates I searched on.  Now, if I want to get only results that closely match the death date, for example, I can simply click on “Advanced” in the new search system, open the death information and click the “Exact” checkbox for the death year.  (I can make timeframe a little broader by giving it +/- 5 years.)  When running this search, I could not possibly get back any 1930 census results because the dates do not exactly match any data in the 1930 census records.  Similarly on location, I can simply check the “exact” box next to the location I want to match exactly, and I will receive only matches with that location.  Using the advanced features is simple and will weed out the other partial matches.

So the bottom line is that we think we can eventually make the search engine stricter on these types of matches.  You can also use the “Advanced” functionality in the new search to limit the results you get back on a particular field to only those that exactly match what you specify–this should also eliminate any of those erroneous 1930 census matches or the British Isles matches.

Concern #2: I can’t find what I’m used to in the new search, but I can in the old search

I’m not sure exactly how to respond to this issue.  We’ve done a significant amount of testing, and nearly all of the searches between the new and the old search return the same results when they’re entered the same way.  If you find examples where they are materially different, please send VERY SPECIFIC EXAMPLES to and I’ll take a look at them and see what we can learn (please include the URLs/addresses to the results so I can see them).

Concern #3: The card catalog is hard to use

I agree that the card catalog isn’t as easy to use as it should be.  We’re working on making it a lot easier to search the card catalog, rather than only being able to browse it.  We’re also trying to make it more intuitive and use the space better to display more matches in a single screen.  Hopefully you’ll begin to see some of those changes in the next couple of weeks.

Concern #4: indexes are low quality–you should spend time fixing the indexes rather than improving the search

Building indexes from hand-written records is extremely difficult and time-consuming, and is as much an art as it is a science.  My first experience indexing old records about people that weren’t in my family lines was a humbling process.  We spend six months training each of our indexers to understand nuances of old handwriting in order to bring more content online quickly while still meeting quality standards–we also spend millions of dollars each year making records available.  I know that our indices have transcription errors in them–any indexing process does.  To help combat this common problem, we encourage anyone who finds an error to provide corrections to the names in our indices. Those name corrections are usually re-indexed as alternates within weeks of being submitted.  In order to submit a comment or correction on a record, simply click on the “Comments and Corrections” link on the record page.  We’re also working on ways to allow you to correct any information on the records, not just names.  Additionally, we have internal maintenance projects to improve the records we already have online.

That said, I think the solution to this issue is really two-pronged:  (1) Allow anyone to correct mistranscriptions; (2) Have the search engine find fuzzy matches on names, dates, and places–our name search, for example, searches on exact matches, as well as matches from our name authority (full of alternate spellings), Soundex matches, and common abbreviations and misspellings.  This allows you to more easily find transcription errors.  Similarly, the fuzziness around dates and places also helps with transcription errors on elements other than names.

Concern #5: The location fields in the new search don’t recognize counties

The location fields in the new search do recognize counties.  You can simply begin typing the county name and select it from the type-ahead list.  For example, if I start typing “Utah” in the location field, the type-ahead listing gives me an option for “Utah, USA” (this would be the state), and the next option is “Utah, Utah, USA” (this is Utah County in Utah).  Now if I type in “Payson” I get a choice for “Payson, Utah, USA” — that doesn’t mean that the county won’t be searched, it is just that we’re not displaying it in the limited space available in the search box.  We still search on the county as well as the city.  I hope this clarification helps.

Concern #6: I keep getting zero results in the new search

I think I understand what’s happening here–one of the neatest features in the new search is that it remembers the information from your Member Tree, and when you begin typing names into the search box, you can select a name from your family tree and it will fill out the whole search form for you.  Obviously, your tree may contain many details about the person for whom you’re searching, including the names of their parents, siblings, children, their birth and death information, etc.  As a result, checking the “Exact matches only” checkbox would return only matches that both have all of that information specified AND match each element exactly–finding such a match would be a truly rare event.  Thus, your best bet is to avoid checking the “Exact matches only” checkbox when using this feature.  Instead, turn on the “Advanced” options and select a few of the fields that you want to be exact rather than the entire set of fields.  For example, you may want to mark only the surname, the birth year, and the birth location as exact–this should give you a small set of good matches.

Thanks for posting your comments about our search experience.  Your passion for our products and family history research really come through.  That’s what we’re trying to do with the new search–make that experience easier for everyone.  We’re dedicated to improving the new search experience on to make it better and better, and your feedback is valuable in that process.

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New Search is available for everyone Thu, 29 May 2008 23:26:38 +0000 Read more]]> I’m pleased to announce that Ancestry’s new search preview is now available to all Ancestry users!  Based on thousands of pieces of customer feedback, we’ve completed some new search features that we believe will make searching for records about your ancestors easier, faster and more effective.  You can now switch to the new search and give it a spin by clicking the “Try It” link at the top of the main search page…


or you can just click here:

Don’t worry, if you want to switch back to the old search (although I can’t possibly imagine why you would!? J ), all you have to do is click on “Switch back to old search experience” and you’ll be back to the old interface again.


Here are some of the features that I think make the new search a great improvement over the old search:

  • Type-ahead tools
    • As you type information into a search field, we forecast what you’re typing and make it easy to automatically fill out the search form based on the information in your family tree.  If you don’t have a family tree on Ancestry yet, you should add one just to try this out.  It’s really a time-saver.  We also added type-ahead functionality to the location fields on the form so that you can search for any place out there, not just one in the limited dropdown fields in the old search experience.


  • Image snapshots
    • Now you can see a preview of newspaper and book pages highlighting your search terms so you can tell if a match is relevant or not without having to click through to it.  This should be another big time-saver when you’re looking at books and newspaper matches.


  • Site-wide search
    • We’ve made it easy to search all of Ancestry at once without sacrificing a thing.  You can also narrow down to improved categories and sub-categories of information.  For example, you can narrow down to Births, Marriages, and Deaths, to see a lot of vital records, but now you can narrow down again to just the Births or just the Deaths, so you don’t have to wade through all of them at the same time.


  • Powerful card catalog
    • It’s easy to sift through the more than 25,000 titles on Ancestry with our new-and-improved card catalog.  Now you can sort the information in the catalog, and narrow by location, time period, category or language of the content.  It’s really handy, so give it a try.  You can also search for a keyword in the title or description of a title as well.


  • Advanced searching
    • You can click on “Advanced” in the top-right of the search form, and turn on Exact match filters for each field in your search.  This allows you to mark a specific field as “Exact” while leaving the others fuzzy—it’s very powerful because we’ve added this functionality to each database.


  • Summary view of search results
    • Now you can easily switch between sorting the results by their relevance or listing them out in a summary view that lets you see which databases got the most matches.  It’s nice to be able to switch between the two views so easily, and it gives you the best of both worlds.


  • Adjustable text size
    • You can quickly adjust the size of the text so that it is easier to read.


We’re still working on even more improvements to search, so it should just keep getting better and better.  Go ahead, give it a test drive!


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