Posted by Ancestry Team on December 14, 2007 in Website

kennyfreestoneHi there! I’m Kenny Freestone, product manager at over our online family tree tools, especially the relatively new Member Trees on Ancestry.

You might not be aware of the incredibly exciting work you have all been doing in building a family tree on Since the product’s launch in July of 2006, we’ve seen tremendous results:

  • 3.8 million people have started a family tree
  • 400 million names have been added
  • 51 million records attached
  • 4.5 million photos uploaded
  • 1 million family members invited

Wow! And thank you for the great work. It is very fun to watch these numbers continue to rise each week.

Now, how can we make it better? How can we help you get more out your efforts? We’re full of ideas, but would love to hear from you. Let’s open the dialogue some more and have some great discussion.

Two ways to talk—one is to add your comment to this blog post. We’ll be reading the comments.

The other way is to make use of our message boards. Today we’ve created a new message board that is focused just on the Ancestry Member Trees product. I hope this will become a place where we can give feedback, help each other (especially those new to the system to find answers to common questions).

(If neither of these ways suit you, send me an email and let me know what’s on your mind—kfreestone at

I’ll periodically post new stuff to this blog to let you know about new features we’re launching.


  1. Rob

    Hi, any plan to update the GEDCOM Standard with version 6?? is still using version 5.5 from January 1996! I would like to see the GEDCOM standard to be updated to include hot URL links (links active, not static) for web sources, repository purposes and among possible other features. Thanks!

  2. xander

    Gedcom version 6? Do you mean that 5-year-old working draft that was released nearly five years ago and then abandoned?

  3. I’d like the ability to upload EXISTING audio or video. You allow to record new audio, but I have a LOT of great audio interviews I’ve already done with people that are no longer with us that I want to upload. That would be fantastic!

  4. Linda Matthews

    Quanity is not necessarily what counts. The advantage of family records online is to make contacts and share information with other members. Current policies block some members from submitting due to privacy issues and usage of data by Ancestry. Other policies have allowed some other users to submit living person information and not remain accountable for the validity of the information by letting email addresses expire or having no contact information. Ancestry also is not cooperative in removing having living person information removed upon request by a non-submitter if the submitter cannot be contacted.

    I would like to see a 1) blocking of all living person information on family tree files submitted; 2) a submission agreement that doesn’t turn over the rights of Ancestry to “reproduce, complile, and distribute, all information about non-living individuals” and only makes “reasonable efforts to hide all information about the living individual” a 3) mandatory requirement for submitters to maintain valid email addresses for contact or have Ancestry delete the database from site and 4) better monitoring and cooperation by Ancestry in deleting living person information for those submitters who don’t reply to their emails or no longer have a valid address.

  5. Christy Fillerup

    I would like to use the Ancestry Member Trees area to share information with my family, however I will never use it as my primary database. It’s frustrating to enter my information in two places. I would like the ability to update the online tree from my FTM 2008 file rather than uploading an all new tree.

  6. David

    You have the ability to attach Historical records to someone and give hints. This is great, and has helped a great deal. One thing though, I would differentiate between what is an original historical record, and one that is from OneWorldTree. I wouldn’t consider user contributed information to be an historical record, as it may or may not be fact. Can you separate these two?

    Also, when a person in my family tree does not have an historical record attached, you can click on the historical record link and start the search. When a record becomes attached, it makes it so the search is not available without going to the top of the page an doing a “search” mode.

  7. Mary Beth Marchant

    I agree with other comments here. I especially would never consider using to build a Family Tree. I will keep my files on my own computer and update as necessary. That way, I know they will be there. I would not trust a commercial enterprise to keep my data for me. I do however, have 3 online trees uploaded and posted from my genealogy program. I have invited many close and distant relatives to view and add to the trees.

    I also would like to echo the comment by another poster discussing source usage. OneWorldTree is not a source but is a compilation of trees posted by others. This needs to be clarified and differentiated. Sources such as census images-not transcripts-death & birth records-not transcripts-probate records and wills-not transcripts. These are the types of sources that are legitimate-not a tree posted by someone else which may or may not be backed up by a source.

  8. My expertise is not great. Could it be possible for me to see the product so that I can evaluate what chance I have of being successful in useing it.
    Is there support from your experts?
    Do you commuicate with possible customers?

  9. I would like to be able to attach an audio file that I have already recorded, an .mp3 file. The current features of recording it on the computer microphone or telephone are nice, but this would be a great new option that we need.

  10. I would like to attach a video file that has already been recorded. The current feature of recording new video via the web cam is nice, but we already have video snippets we would like to add to the individuals in the tree. We would like to be able to attach those videos and be able to play them from the persons page.

  11. I would like to be able to link photos to stories, so that when someone is reading the written story they could click on the photos linked to the story and see them, and maybe see thumbnails of the linked photos on the page when the story is displayed and printed.

  12. MEMBERS of a tree would like to be able to send a message to all MEMBERS of a tree to pass on some information, news, etc from within the site. Right now comments do not email to all members, only the owner.

  13. Members are saying that it would be a wonderful enhancement if a photo “Slideshow” view for the “Recent Photos” tool and the individuals photo page would be provided. The slideshow could work like the slideshow does on 1.0. Right now it is very cumbersome to view the photos in a larger view. We have to page over 2 or 3 pages to see the photo we want to look at then click on it to view it larger, then when we go back, it starts over at the first one again, and we have to page over and over to see them. The view all photos page is wonderful now showing just 48 photos at a time, but the thumbnails are too small for somee. If a view could be provided on the all photos to view the thumbnails (current view small, add a medium, and large view). View Size: Small, View Size: Medium, View Size: Large

  14. We would like to have a new feature to allow the photos attached to an individual and shown in the “Recent Photos” to be re-ordered. Photos could be moved forward or backward to change the order that they would display in the “Recent Photos” tool, or the individuals photos page.

  15. We would like to see enhancements to the Tree Photos page (ALL PHOTOS PAGE) to include Photo Albums/Categories similar to 1.0 has.

    The current view is All Albums “view as one group”
    with all the photos in the tree belonging to the default album = the name of the tree and showing the number of photos in the album.

    For example:

    View albums: as one group

    Our Big Family 999999 number of photos

    also provide
    View albums: group by member
    View albums: group by date created (this would be the default)
    Allow us to select the album we want to view like 1.0 does so that we can narrow down the photos we want to view.

    Allow the creation of new albums/categories and allow attaching current photos to those albums/categories.

    Instead show automatically created virtual albums / categories = SURNAME.
    These auto created virtual albums, that is an album = Surname with photos attached to individuals with the same surname included in the Album. Members could click on the surname/category/album they are interested in to view those photos.
    We would like to be able to assign the photos to multiple categories/albums. For example a photo could be linked the the LASTNAME as a category, but could also be linked to other categories like an event. Let us define additional categories in addition to automatic surname category.

    And slideshow functionality for the album added so that members can look at the photos in a larger view with forward/backward navigation.

  16. An enhancement to be able to print the family group sheet for a couple, listing all children, birth dates/places, death dates/places?

    on the family view page after pressing “View more family information”
    this could be provided here by adding a print option.

    We need to see father, mother, children
    each with birth dates/places, death dates/places, burial dates/places as well as the marriage date/places for the couple.

  17. We would like to see an easier way to delete individuals, like on the “View more family information” family view, put an X icon (for delete) next to each individual. We could press the X and then confirm delete of the individual. We need a faster way to delete an entire family group (husband, wife, and children – all descendants) without having to do edit profile, delete, go back, over and over.

  18. Just like we have “Recent Photos”, “Recent Video Stories”, and “Recent Audio Stories”, we would love to see a “Recent Individuals” view into the tree to see the people that have been added with newest first. If that person has a primary photo show that photo as a thumbnail for that person.

  19. We would like for each individual in the tree to have a date added, added by who, date changed, changed by who.

    Provide views into the tree to view individuals added by a member, changed by a member, etc.

  20. We would like to see enhancements to the “See full list of people” page SEARCH capability

    To show death date / location, burial date / location

    I would like to be able to search on any of columns in the view.

    I would like to find all people buried in a location matching something *CEMETERY*, or STATE, COUNTY.
    Same goes for dates
    Same for any location field for birth, death, burial. This would allow me to generate a simple list of those individuals all matching the search criteria.

  21. I would love to see an enhancement to allow the tree owner to download the entire ONLINE memmber tree including all media, photos, stories, comments, audio, video, so that I can have it available in FTM 2008 for offline reporting and editing and viewing when I can’t get online. For example I was at a little family reunion and I couldn’t get online. To have all the media available as I see it online in the offline FTM 2008 file with photos, documents, stories, attached to the individuals in the FTM 2008 file. This would be a wonderful enhancement as the next step. For me that download would take a while I bet with so many photos, and I wouldn’t do this very often. Right now I do a GEDCOM download about once a month or so for offline use and backup.

  22. Then the next step, option, for the intelligent upload/merging of additions/changes from the FTM2008 file of new individuals and media, stories, etc. Allow FTM2008 to optionally store the tree ID and IDs of the individuals in the online member tree to aid in this synchronization.

  23. When the member tree presents a oneworldtree hint for an individual, please enhance to allow browse out to that person in the “OneWorldTree” and see what is there. There is no easy way to do that today.
    If I click on the link it wants to add the link to the person in my tree/ and merge data before I can even look at it.
    Please improve this to include a one click link to the oneworldtree for browsing what is available there for this person to see if there are really any matches?

  24. Enhance the oneworldtree hints to include other member trees. Allow attaching links to other member trees as “sources”, or a way to cross link individuals in a tree to other public trees or personal trees that we are members of. For example individuals may be in two are three trees and we would like to positively show that the person in this tree is the same as the person in other trees. We would like a view into an individual to show ALL other trees that have linked to our individual and a view to show all trees we have cross linked to. Allow easy navigation between the trees like the new photo enhancement (Save Photo). Allow “Save Individual” to another tree and show this linking on the individual page somehow. And if not too much to ask allow “Save Individual and all spouses/descendants” to another tree we are member of. If I am a member of two trees, somehow allow the linking of an individual in one of my trees to the same individual in another of my trees. The individual already exists in both let me browse out to the other tree and manually link the two.

  25. We need a search capability into the photos of our member tree. For example we know there is a photo somewhere in the tree with certain keywords in the picture name and/or description, and we want to be able to see all photos in a list that match search criteria for word in those.
    Allow search on the fixed categories we already have:
    Show all photos that are:
    Portrait/Family Photo

    matching wildcard searches on
    Picture Name
    and other fields contained in the photo type like the Document/Certificate has.
    Also allow searching photos on those attached to wildcard matching on first name, Surname.

  26. We need search capability into the stories in a member tree.
    We need wildcard searching of stories matching on Story Title, Story Text, Description, Location, Date, and individual names attached to the story.
    For example show me all stories that have individuals attached with a surname matching *NOLAN*
    or title or story body or description, etc matching *picnic”

  27. We need search capability into the comments in a member tree.
    We need wildcard searching of comments matching on Comment Subject and Comment Body,and individual names that the comment is attached to. For example show me all comments that are attached to anything like photos/stories/etc that are attached to individuals with a surname matching *NOLAN*
    or show me all comments matching a wildcard value in Comment Subject or Body matching *picnic”

  28. We need to get paging capability added to the ALL comments page. Currently the page loads a view of ALL comments and the number of comments in the tree is getting quite large and is taking a while to load. We need it to show the first 48 comments or so and allow paging forward and backward one page at a time.

  29. We need to get paging capability added to the ALL stories page. Currently the page loads a view of ALL stories and the number of stories in the tree is getting quite large and is taking a while to load. We need it to show the first 48 stories or so and allow paging forward and backward one page at a time.

  30. We need enhancements to the view all comments page to allow viewing comments o show only comments added by a particular treemember

    Another view that would show all comments added in a time frame
    o added in a time frame ( by month would be great)

  31. We need enhancements to the view all stories page to allow viewing stories
    o show only stories added by a particular treemember

    Another view that would show all stories added in a time frame
    o added in a time frame ( by month would be great)

  32. Rob

    Responding to no. 2 post by Xander:
    Heck yeah! Time for to re-open it up and get busy on it.


  33. Norma Roper

    I have fully enjoyed working on my family tree but feel I’ve run into a “dead end” at present. If I cancel my subscription for a short while….will I still be able to view the research I’ve already done? I’m not fully computer illiterate but I’m not sure what I will need to do. What do I do now???

  34. Cathy

    The new Ancestry World Tree (AWT) is defective and is not for serious genealogists.

    Any notes, sources or census information that was included in the original Online Family Tree (OFT) will not be transfered over when your old tree is submitted to the new AWT system.

    The AWT is a simplified data entry system for people who are not necessarily computer efficient. Ancestry attempts to gain control of all records submitted, uploaded, viewed or otherwise in connection with your family histories. All documents uploaded to your tree will be placed in Ancestry’s own databases because they are in the business of harvesting vital records. You, the submitter, are paying Ancestry to view and use their data, you pay to obtain vital records for your family tree members, and Ancestry takes your photos and your documents.

    The new AWT system has flaws in the family views. There is no descendancy views for the famililes, printing ability is limited or non-existent.

    Any notes you do add, are not visible to the public, even those who are invited to view your tree.

    All trees submitted to will only be able to be viewed by PAYING MEMBERS, so if you cancel your subscription, you will not be able to view, modify, remove or download your gedcom file.

    If you delete your OFT tree from Ancestry’s database now, you will never again be able to upload it. The only option left to you is that you are forced to use their new AWT system.

    Navigating within the new AWT system is difficult and confusing. It is easy to lose your way, and you are forced to start over again from your home person. Navigating from one person to another is a constant click-click-click-click. Adding life events is a constant series of clicks, new pages and drop down boxes.

    The name search engine for the name list is defective and does not always work. You can bring the name up into the search box, click GO, and the search will stall out, remain in the page you started at, or take you to the home person.

    The hints are another story. They can be annoying. Hint searches miss the obvious, miss the nonobvious and sometimes don’t bring anything up at all even when you know the document is right there. The submitter is forced to manually attach each document to each person, despite the fact that they may have had the census information already in the original file. This is a way for Ancestry to keep the document under their control.

    The hints for name merges from other people’s trees is an accident waiting to happen. Accidently click on MERGE and you’ve added 89 unwanted or duplicate names to your tree that must be individually and manually deleted, one by one. In addition, if the tree that is to be merged into yours contains incorrect, undocumented information that was not confirmed, but simply copied from another incorrect tree, you are adding this incorrect information into your own tree, that could be catastrophic.

    Think carefully before using the “new and improved” Ancestry World Tree.

    I recommend an outside program called RootsMagic, that is very similar to the original Ancestry Online Tree (OFT) with superior descendancy views, superior report printouts that include your notes, and any other details or life events that were added. This program also gives you the ability to upload documents and photos. is attempting to force an inferior, defective program down all genealogists throats and we have to pay them to do this?

    If someone is looking for a place to upload their tree just for viewing purposes and not for editing, adding or removing information, upload your gedcom file NOW to It will stay there until you remove it, and you won’t have to pay anyone to look at it. At least for now anyway unless Ancestry changes that too.

  35. Yo Kenny – you are gay. I can say that because I am as well…

    I have spent years researching my family and some I did not know were my family. I will give props to the resources available however the hours and years I have spent doing this – every time I log on – seems like the first time. Everything is gone…all the work…all the hours spent….I will be cancelling my account forever. Sometimes, especially for this price, inefficiency is and always be inadequate. Not that anyone will ever see this; however, think twice before you make the investment unless you want to make a manual family tree….everything you do will just be deleted like you and your family never mattered…

  36. I read where you are going to add newspapers. Please tell me that I am going to get lucky and you will also include the newspapers from Manchester, New Hampshire. They have archived their past issues at the Manchester Library. But, knowing my luck….

  37. Nancy Penn

    I’m confused about what needs to be done (if anything) to transfer family trees from OFT to AMT. How do I know which one I’m using now? After looking at the pedigree screen prints that were shown for both programs, it looks to me like I already use AMT.

  38. maxwell444

    One World Tree: This is the greatest source of ERRONEOUS INFORMATION available on the Internet, and serves only to propogate that information across the globe. It is hazardous to the new genealogist’s research, who believes the information must be accurate or it wouldn’t be published. HOWEVER, it does help, when the information is used only as a “hint” to search different individuals. As such, I offer the following suggestions:

    1. Allow preview of tree.

    2. In Search Results, “Alternates” are marked, but I can’t find a way to view the alternate parents, or allow comments about erroneous information.

    3. Allow group email feature, to email everyone who has submitted erroneous information to alert them of the error. For example, Ezra Lockwood is listed as the father of Major Lockwood (born 1806). A basic review of source information proves this is definitely erroneous, yet it has spread to hundreds of family trees.

    4. Allow merging of individuals, or selected portions of the tree. For instance, if I know for certain that the first three generations on the tree are accurate, but the fourth generation is NOT, I would like to be able to add just the first three generations.

  39. maxwell444

    1. Allow DESCENDENT view – this is the MOST NEEDED feature for me.

    2. Ability to noticably mark individuals as UNCONFIRMED, so their information can be added and worked on to confirm the validity of the relationship.

    3. Allow an adopted individual to be added to adoptive family, with links, on Individual page and Family View, to natural family. I have two instances where families adopted children of cousins with different surnames.

    4. Allow adopted children to be listed under natural family, with “adopted by” field prominently displayed on Individual page as well as in Family View.

    5. Allow graphic view of tree showing common ancestor or descendent between any two selected individuals in the Names list.

  40. Linda

    I would love to see an enhancement to allow me to add a digital document to an event, like a copy of a marriage certificate

  41. Patrick


    I’m a bit concerned about security. I originally posted data to AWT using my surname as the title of the tree. I also made it a “public tree”.

    A few days ago, I changed the title of the tree to my full name and changed it to a “private tree”.

    However, I just looked at all the trees and I see that my tree is still listed as “public”. After I had changed the setting to “private”, I had posted some private information and stories to my tree, and now it’s there for all the world to see.

    can you help me with this security issue?

    Thanks very much.

  42. Kenny Freestone

    In response to comment 47…

    Hi Patrick,

    The search system reads an indexed copy of your tree, and usually lags a few days (or longer) behind the live tree system. So your tree will continue to be labeled as “public” (in the search system) even after you’ve made the change to “personal.”

    However, when a person clicks to see your tree, the tree system treats it as a “personal” tree immediately after you mark it–so those who find your tree in the “public” search list will not have access to it when they try to open it.

    In either case (public or personal), if we believe a person is living we do not include that person in the search system index.

    Hope this helps.


  43. kenny prehase you can explain why in the old olt system if the tree was removed from public veiw and made private that tree did disapeare within 72 hours although in reality it was near to 24 hours and that included the index not showing. then why in the amt does it take two weeks as my other posting show on the amt blog link to do the exsact same procedue of removing the public version and making it private and i am refering to the index left behind although i agree as you say it would not alough a veiwer to link into the tree the index is still there for a longer time than in the olt version when you are trying to convinse us that amt is better than olt ever was this seems to be the other way round when the old system of olt removes it quicker than the new system amt it says to me olt is better…which i happen to belive anyway

  44. Patrick

    Hi Kenny:

    Thanks for your response #48. However, it’s been 10 days since I re-labeled my “Alexander” tree to “Patrick Alexander” and changed it from public to private, yet nothing appears to have been changed.

    I still see the “Alexander” tree and it and all of my posted data is in public trees. Can you help me with this?

    Thanks very much.

  45. fran abar

    I’m not sure what website means so I did not fill in that part. My problem is the Family Tree Maker 2008. When I started working with it a pop up said I was not registered. My son tried to figure it out because I could not. Please help me figure this out. Also, make it REAL simple as I am not a computer nerd. Actually neither is my son. Thank you so much for your help. I am looking forward to doing my family tree.
    Fran Abar

  46. Jim Gregory

    In, when I add another person’s family tree into mine, it has happened twice where the program takes the new family tree as a default, and the data from the new family tree, when incorporated, has errors, which creates problems with my database, and getting my data back is fustrating. Suggestions?

  47. I have just about lost a relationship with a family member who could not understand how to view the family tree. My other uncle, who makes computers, I had to walk him through how to view the tree. I am so furious I am researching other sites to post my info and cancel my subscription of over 5 yars.

    This is the LEAST user friendly site for non-genalogogists I have ever seen. I work with a genealogy society and volunteer at the library genealogy section and would NOT recommend this site!!!

  48. Wioletta Mytyk

    Hallo Kenny ! Strona jest super . Jak można znajść krewnych Kacpra Mytyka ur.1893 wyemigrował do ameryki w 1912 zmarł w 1968 miał żone Josephine i ponoć syna Walter.

  49. Ancestry never seems to learn do they!

    They have moved around all those bells and whistles on this over graphic burdened AMT in an effort to show they are LISTENING TO US THEIR CUSTUMERS they even moved the research notes up to a more visible position but the fact remains there are no improvements at all. The research notes are now where you can see then IF YOU OWN THE TREE but it seems they are still INVISABLE TO ALL BUT THOSE THAT THE OWNER OF THE TREE INVITE. The page is less informative on the family than before.

    ancestry are acting just like a party magician they think that a little bit of slight of hand will impress and quieten our concerners but we know illusion when we see it especially badly preformed illusion. At the end of the day we have gained no improvement yet again we will protest while ancestry goes off to try to learn a new trick to enthral us. Ancestry needs to remember we know how magic works.

    I wish we could turn back time and go back to the way things were before the OWT WAS EVEN CONCIVED BECAUSE THATS WHEN THE ROT SET IN but that is an impossible dream mean while we have to watch as the site which we all once loved and wanted to be with for life changes in a direction which will inevitable end in divorce by many customers when they don’t renew their subscriptions that they have possible have had for years. it such a shame when the record collection is so vast and important to us the customers that the improvements which are being rolled out on NEW SEARCH and AMT are angering us the customers rather than pleasing us that we are all begin to fall out of love and we slowly look more and more towards the only solution left open to us.


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