Posted by on October 21, 2010 in Site Features

AUTHORED BY TONY MACKLIN (FROM ANCESTRY.COM)

We have just announced a new “Labs” area on Ancestry.com.  Labs is a separate site where we can give you a sneak preview of new ideas and concepts for helping family history research (but that are not yet ready for prime time). Most importantly for us, it gives us a chance to hear feedback directly from our most passionate users.

Right now, Ancestry Labs will be linked only from relevant blog posts, but in the future, it’s possible we may introduce a permanent link from the Ancestry.com site, and perhaps from Ancestry.com.au.

The projects we will place in this area may be in beta (like Ancestry Wiki) or they may be early prototypes.  Some of these may make their way into the Ancestry.com site and perhaps Ancestry.com.au, others may not. Much depends on your feedback.

The first prototype that we’re launching today is codenamed “Person View” and we’re testing two new ideas:

  1. Person consolidation – can we group records and trees together in a way that exposes the relationships between records in a completely new way?
  2. Web records – can we find records on the web that match your query (from outside of Ancestry’s collections), and then link you directly to them?

You can access Person View from the labs website through this URL: http://www.ancestry.com/labs and you can see a quick demo of how Person View works here: http://screencast.com/t/Y2NiYWM2Y. Please give it a try and let us know what you think.

About Person consolidation:

Person consolidation allows you to access our collections in a completely new way. Our aim is to search our records and trees to find a matching “person” and then give you direct access to the records that support the facts about that person  – many factors affect whether this works well – the time period, the location and whether the person is already represented in our trees. We want to experiment with this across as wide a range of people as possible, and we’d love to hear whether it works for your ancestors.

About Web records:

Across the web, the number of sites that are transcribing and publishing historical records is growing all of the time.  Many of these are freely available. Person View helps you find links to sites that contain records matching your search.

However, in providing access to these, it’s very important to us that we are respectful to the publishers of these websites. We’d like to be completely transparent about how we intend to do this:

  • Our goal is to make it easy for our users to find websites that have records they may be interested in, and to make it easy for them to visit these websites.
  • To do this we will build an index of essential information in the record (e.g. the website link, the matching name, date, place), and make this available to our users through our search tools.
  • We will always strive to follow web industry standards for website crawling permissions.  For example, some sites contain a robots.txt file telling search engines (such as Google) not to crawl that site.
  • We will put in place processes to remove the content from our search index if the website/content owner requests, with the goal of doing this as quickly as possible. We will clearly publish how to contact our team to do this (our contact us page has more details).
  • We may allow our users to save a reference to the record to their family trees, but whenever this information is later presented, we intend to give proper attribution, with a clear reference or link to the site from which the index data came.

You won’t see web records from Australia, the UK or other European sites in Person View just yet, as we are focusing on US records initially.  However, we would love feedback from Ancestry.com.au users on this new feature and its functionality, and look forward to hearing from you.  There is a feedback link on the right hand side of every page of the Person View site.

If you are a website owner, and want to see what other content owners are saying, please visit our publishers message boards (you will need to have a free registration with Ancestry.com.au to post on this board, but you can browse what people are saying without being registered). If you think we should be including your website in the search, or if you wish us to remove your site from the web index, you can email our team directly.

We’d love to hear from you.

The Ancestry Labs team