Posted by on 6 January 2011 in Site Features


Last November, we launched a new tree viewer in an optional preview.  If you chose to view your tree using the new view, we gave you the opportunity to tell us what you thought of the changes we’ve made.  Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback, we have turned off the old view and making the new tree viewer a permanent part of our site this morning.

For those that haven’t tried the new viewer and want to know more about the  changes, you can click here to read the blog post from November that details all the great new features.  Here are some highlights:

  • We increased the number of generations you can view at one time in the pedigree view
  • We made it possible to drag your tree around the screen to view more of your tree
  • We adjusted the borders so the view will expand to the full width and height of your monitor
  • We built a new family view so you can see more of your extended family like siblings, aunts and uncles.

We did receive a couple of suggestions from you that we felt would improve the experience and have included those changes in this new feature.  One of the most requested changes was to bring back what was formerly called the “Show immediate family” link on the person’s profile page. It’s now called “view family members” but has the same functionality as it did before. 

We’ve made a couple of other minor tweaks here and there to make the family view more stable and improve the layout to be more user friendly.  We hope you are as excited about this new feature as I am and as so many of our other members.


Irene Dredge 

This new site is the most awful one I have worked on why oh why did you not leave it so we can have the old one.

I don’t like I can’t find what I want where I want when I want, it just shows all meaningless people I don’t want. For gods sake give us back our old site. You may just start to lose more customers than you want.

The old site was better in as much you didn’t have too much to look through. Now you have more to look through and so may miss what you want. I have spent more time swearing at this site now than I have ever done before. I have tried to contact Ancestry but have not had a reply. So much for customer service. It may be good bye from me.

6 January 2011 at 2:11 pm
J. England 

I also greatly dislike the new format. Please please can we have the old view back.

I agree with all the comments by Irene Dredge and echo every single thing she says.

I cannot see what I want, cannot find what I want and it makes the whole experience of family research an irritation instead of the compulsive hobby it was until tonight.

I cannot say it enough times – please can we have the old view back.

I quite simply cannot work like this and feel I will be going elsewhere in the not too distant future unless things are returned to normal.
Not all changes are improvements, especially when something was perfect in the first place.

6 January 2011 at 8:42 pm

I’m glad that View Family Members has returned. When you first previewed your new format that disappeared and it’s great to see it back.

6 January 2011 at 10:18 pm
Winifred Adams 

I am in a VERY difficult situation here because of these changes. I CANNOT SEE WHAT IT SAYS ON THOSE BLUE BUTTONS!! My photos are cropped!! The TEXT is TOO PALE I cannot read it! I AM REGISTERED BLIND. I logged on tonight to do some of my tree and my pedigrew view is in the new format!! I can’t change it back and I can’t see most of the text!! I told Ancestry about this, AND THEY TOTALLY IGNORED ME! My world subscroption is due in 2 weeks, what caN i DO? bECAUSE OF THE LEVEL OF SIGHT i HAVE , THIS HAS BEEN MY ONLY REAL PLEASURE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, NOw ANCESTRY HAS RUINED THIS FOR ME. IT AWFUL!!
Its MY tree I pay £155 a year for the privledge, why can’t I have my tree the way it was? GIVE PEOPLE A CHOICE!!
THE LAYOUT IS DIFFICULT AND OF NO SPECIAL USE TO ANYBODY! ITs worse for me all round colour, format everything. One wastes time trying to find ones way round, never mind trying to read the text! I feel so utterly miserable, if I had tears I would cry, truly I would. I’m so frustrated and angry over this. Seems Ancestry just do as they please regardless.

7 January 2011 at 12:42 am
Oliver Pereira 

I see that most of the feedback in these comments has been negative, which is a shame. But I really like the new Tree Viewer.

Although I had seen the link saying I could try it out, I’d never bothered. Years of frustration have taught me that when a website changes its user interface, it’s *always* for the worse. But I tried the new Tree Viewer for the first time yesterday, and was amazed by its combination of increased detail and increased user-friendliness at the same time. I didn’t think it was possible to have both! I’m sure I’ll discover annoyances in time, but I haven’t yet!

I’d always found it frustrating that so little of a tree was visible at a time. It made it hard to get a feel for the relationships between different branches of a tree. The new viewer makes it much easier.

Reading the other people’s comments, I wonder if you could make some tweaks. You could change the colour scheme to make it readable for Winifred Adams. And could you have a new button that toggled the display of side branches of trees? That way, Irene Dredge and J. England could have their view stripped of “meaningless people” if they wanted.

7 January 2011 at 3:07 am
Oliver Pereira 

I hope you don’t think this is taking liberties, but as I was commenting, I thought I’d note two features that I’d *really* like to see.

If I go to a person’s profile page in one of my trees, I can click on a link with the text “View relationship to me” to get a display of the relationship. I love this feature! But I think it would be so much better if you used a display format like that used in the Tree Viewer, rather than that linear flow going down the page. Instead of a downward-pointing arrow between each person and their parent or child, you would have a line joining the child to the parents’ union in the conventional way. (I.e., going up from child to parent, or down from parent to child.)

My second request would be to make something like “View relationship to me” available on *all* Public Member Trees. I often link individuals in my main Public Member Tree to individuals in other people’s Public Member Trees, and I often wonder if I should get in touch with those other people to ask about the individuals in question. But I always want to know, first of all, who these individuals are in relation to the tree owners. There is a big difference between, “Wow, I’ve just linked my father to your father, so we must be half-siblings!” and, “I’ve just linked my father to your third cousin’s grandfather’s half-sister’s fourth cousin twice removed, so we’re barely connected at all.” A link that said “View relationship to Home Person” would be very useful for this.

7 January 2011 at 3:41 am
Irene Dredge 

I note that most are mentioning viewing their trees I am not bothered with that I have my own tree independant of Ancestry, its looking for Ancesters on Censuses it was and is bad enough when they keep changing their details place of birth and age etc. But Ancestry had the edge, you could look for first name born in a parish with age and you could check the spellings found some funny spelling as well. So because of this I have subscription to both sites that do Census etc. Both had their good points so it was hard to say which I would keep, so I use both. Now Ancestry has gone below the other I may just keep one when my subscription needs renewing. I am still finding it very frustrating looking for my ancestors down a whole pile of junk which has no relation to me. It was worse yesterday my blood pressure went up because I didn’t know how to stop all records birth marriage death and census that is rubbish just too much to view. Its not as bad this morning but there is still a load of rubbish and the screen is used up more with no more information why when you could go down and see which could be your one in the old one. It seems to me that maybe this site is more for USA users than the UK, even though we pay for Uk use only. Irene

7 January 2011 at 8:53 am
Chris B 

Well done Ancestry. Websites that don’t evolve perish. The interface you have made is clear and user friendly for navigating a lot of complicated information without having to go off the current page.

The new Tree View is very useful as previously non-direct relationships meant looking at the tree in an offline application. Seeing cousins and other relations in the same view gives a better perspective of the family as a whole.

For those of you who appear to be getting spurious returns on your searches (which isn’t really meant to be the subject of this Blog entry), this is nothing to do with the change in family viewing interface – learn to use the site – read the helps and work out how to filter your results effectively. The base genealogical information hasn’t changed; proper use of all the search facilities will lead to proper returns e.g. using the ‘Collection Priority’ dropdown in the Search form to stop returns from the US or other countries. If anything, the search returns now are better than ever when used correctly.

For those who don’t appreciate interface changes there is always the option to use Family Tree Maker – you can still access the Ancestry searches, but the interface won’t change unless you chose to upgrade.

Searching online is no different to that done offline in a library for instance. It still requires skill, effort and persistence. The web is merely a means to helping with this. It won’t dish up relatives on a plate every time one searches.

Sometimes the changes to the site have me wandering about for a while and then when I’ve got used to the new layout and the new features I find them most useful by and large.

7 January 2011 at 10:14 am

“Websites that don’t evolve perish.”

Absolutely Chris!! Ancestry have done a good job and given us some excellent features in the past year. Well done!

To those geriatric whingers who do nothing but complain, I would say that no good every comes from returning to the past! Let it go, and learn to live with progress! In reality the problem lies with them and not with Ancestry!

And to those who say they are about to leave Ancestry, I would ask them exactly where they think they are going to go? No other genealogy web sites are prepared to dumb-down to the level these people require!

7 January 2011 at 10:52 am
William Blake 

I much prefer the old viever. Why not give people the choice?, after all we are paying customers.

7 January 2011 at 11:20 am
Irene Dredge 

Geriatric I may be but I have been doing my family tree for 10 years, I don’t think I do nothing but complain, I just stating that I don’t like the change. For the younger set maybe they can pick things up quicker we get there in the end, but why change something that works, you can add to it. Anyway why not run both they did for a few months. I am not asking them to dumb down just return what we were use to which worked for us.

And as to returning to the past isn’t that just the point we are all returning to the past.

from a geriatic but not a whinger

7 January 2011 at 11:23 am

And as to returning to the past isn’t that just the point we are all returning to the past.

No, we are looking at the past, we are not returning to it!

7 January 2011 at 11:35 am
Winifred Adams 

I agree entirely with Irene. I rarely complain about anything, but coping with severe disabilities IS hard and because of that change makes it rven harder. I may be severely disabled, blind and almost deaf. Geriatric I certainly am, not so very computer literate, but DUMB I certainly am not! to bromaelor:- if you achieve just half of the degrees in the sciences I have within your life time , WELL DONE! This is about CHOICE! The old formatt as far as I am concerned was perfect for my needs, therefore GIVE ME THE CHOICE OF KEEPING IT!!
I have been on the phone all morning to Ancestry and cancelled my subscription, however I wonder if anybody can tell me if the 2011 world treemaker is in the old format?

7 January 2011 at 2:23 pm

Winifred. I have a degree in Mathematics, I am retired and I can use a computer!

7 January 2011 at 2:53 pm
winifred adams 

It matters not one’s level of education, it has to do with choice. Change, no matter how insignificant it may be to some , to others it becomes a hurdle. Then again ,I personally do not like how it “looks” neither. For the money I pay I should have the choice, especially regarding colour. Why would I need to hand grab the page and slide it about for instance, what purpose does that serve? Why would I NEED to use that? Clearly I’m missing something here.
I have purchased Family tree maker World Edition today , at lkeast, although not the same format as Ancestry online , I will have SOME control over how I view it!

7 January 2011 at 4:48 pm
J. England 

OK this seems to be getting a bit nasty now. I accept that yesterday perhaps I reacted quickly and I will admit that I should have allowed myself time to become accustomed to the changes – even if I didn’t want or ask for the changes. I now think that my biggest complaint is the fact that when you view your tree in many cases only half of the persons name is visible and that is completely stupid. Please at the very least can something be done about that. Many thanks. Overreacting geriatric.

7 January 2011 at 4:53 pm 

Thank you to all for your comments. We understand that everyone feels strongly about this topic, but please do be respectful of others and keep things constructive and polite!

We never make any changes to core functionality of the site without extensive research and user testing beforehand. Whilst we can never please everyone, we endeavour at all times to improve the experience for the majority of users.

We encourage you to complete our feedback form, linked from top right of the new Tree Viewer page. This feedback goes directly to our trees team and everything is read and considered.

In the meantime please do give the new tree viewer a proper go, we think once you get used to it you will love it!

For a bit of fun – imagine if we never changed, our site might still look like this! when it launched in 2001

7 January 2011 at 5:23 pm

Winifred. My comment on qualifications was in response to your comment:
… if you achieve just half of the degrees in the sciences I have within your life time …
so please don’t accuse me of elitism!!!

7 January 2011 at 6:11 pm
Tweets that mention Family Trees: New Tree Viewer Launch -- 

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7 January 2011 at 6:28 pm

I would like to comment on the colour of the new tree viewer, I too have a eye problem and find that the colours used (grey, pale blue & pink) make it extremely difficult to read. I understand that things have to move on but a little consideration for those paying customers who have genuine concerns and diabilites goes a long way. Perhaps the nice people at Ancestry could take a look at the concerns raised here. I’m happy with the concept of having more rellies shown but it would be good to actually see them!

7 January 2011 at 7:24 pm

I do like the new lay out a lot better and I can find things much easier. I never used the pedigree option in the old view because it was poor, but now find it useful. However two points, first this might help some people particully poor sighted, How about a some options for the color, fonts ect. Of course they could be using the inbult help to change the views that Windows and the Browsers have. The other which I find anoying is that when going back to the tree view it went to the last person viewed now it goes back to the home person. Going back to point one it might be helpfull if you had a help section for the poor sighted so they can get the best use of their PC when using your site?

7 January 2011 at 7:49 pm
paula ireland 

I am horrified to have just gone onto ancestry to find the new tree. Unfortunately I can’t even view the details as they are too small even after adjsuting the zoom in to its maximum. I am so cross that it has been changed. I get a lot of enjoyment from ancestry and am greatly concerned that this will now stop.

It would not seem unreasonable to be able to have a choice.

7 January 2011 at 8:27 pm
Irene Dredge 

Can someone tell me is there an easier way to delete my tree other than person by person



7 January 2011 at 9:36 pm
Chris B 

Deleting a tree for those who can’t find it in ‘Help’

Open up the Tree (Pedigree) View, go to the Tree Pages dropdown (just to the right of your tree name) near the top right, chose Tree Settings, ‘Delete your tree’ is in the bottom right

Otherwise, do what the rest of us do, read the Help, enter “delete tree” in the search and follow the instructions.

Maybe before castigating some really good, clean and sensible website design it would be could for those who don’t do so already to start using the resources provided for them. If it’s easy to complain about the algorithmic returns of searches, it is much easier to have the courtesy to read the help pages provided.

7 January 2011 at 9:48 pm
Irene Dredge 

Thanks for your comments but I have already made up my mind. I will do as you suggest. By the way I had contact Ancestry but they have so far not replied. Can you wonder how I feel, they have taken my money for years and then do not bother to answer my email.

7 January 2011 at 9:57 pm
J. England 

Irene – don’t be too eager to delete your tree-once you’ve done that it’s gone. Just leave things for a while and see what happens.

7 January 2011 at 9:58 pm

I don’t like this new version at all, and agree with Irene Dredge and J England. Searching for records brings up everything and everyone, and the screen is far to busy.. We should have been given the option to use either version. After using Ancestry for around 10 years and a paying customer i feel we should have the choice which version we use. Now the old version has been turned off i feel i will be looking elsewhere.

9 January 2011 at 5:22 pm
Irene Dredge 

One very important point in the 1841 census

WHY CAN’T WE PUT IN THE YEAR OF BIRTH any more when we are look for a person

or does this mean we have to go through all the names your computer can throw at us. It would be nice if Ancestry could put a point or two down here as well.


9 January 2011 at 11:38 pm
Valerie Turvey 

I can’t believe you would choose the new search over the old one. The new one is the most frustrating and time consuming experience, it throws up people who are in no way connected to who I am searching for. I am not enjoying my researching any more. Please bring back an option to use the old search.


10 January 2011 at 11:51 am

For some reason the new tree viewer doesn’t work under FireFox 3.6. I cannot click on the hints, nothing happens. When I switch to IE8 it works fine, although I am not yet convinced by the change.

OS in Windows Vista

12 January 2011 at 9:52 pm
Irene Dredge 

Another thing you have put on the new site, when looking for marriages, between 1911 and 1915, you can’t put partners surname, not a very good idea that, so far not much to give me any pleasure using this new site.


14 January 2011 at 4:52 pm
Carol Williams 

I appreciate that poor eyesight can cause problems with the colours used, i have found the majority of people who contact me through Ancestry are over fifty years old, it is a real rarity for younger people to be the researchers, so i think it should be born in mind with these changes. I do find the biggest problem is the inability to use the “Old Search ” this new system takes much much longer to find the same information and while you are looking the person you are investigating disappears from view so you cannot double check anything. Athough it looks very nice and certain aspects of it are an improvement i am afraid for me it is far to frustrating and time consuming, i am afraid after many happy years with Ancestry, i am seriously thinking of ending my membership , Carol Williams

15 January 2011 at 5:02 pm

I did like the new format on my laptop no problem – BUT I CANNOT view anything readable on my PC which is normally where I do all my hard researching. THe only view I have of any of my trees is minute and the zoom only enlarges the text NOT THE BOXES surrounding the text – absolutely a BIG BIG problems with no obvious answer – any comments???

16 January 2011 at 4:16 pm
Irene Dredge 

Just wasted more time looking for family christening in London, for example, William Worsfold and Mary children born around 1838 10 years around looking in London. Since when has Henry and Sarah as parents been William and Mary this has got to be the most frustrating site ever. Even when using the site as KINDLY POINTED OUT!!! you still can’t find what you want. Wake up Ancestry your very loyal old customer are getting pretty fed up.

16 January 2011 at 4:50 pm

Please give us the option to use the old format – the new format is hideously over-complicated & extremely un-user-friendly.

I was going to re-new my subscription at the end of this month but if this new format is how the site is going to be then I’ll find another site to join.

At least allow us the decency to use the old format.

19 January 2011 at 10:42 pm