Posted by on May 30, 2008 in Site Features, Website

Yesterday we made some improvements to public member profiles on the site. Some of you may not know that there were member profiles on the site, so let me tell you a little about them.

Your profile is a place that you can let others on Ancestry know about you. It’s designed to showcase your family history interests and experience so that you can connect with others who may be doing similar research as you, or who may even be related to you.

The information you add about yourself, especially the research interests you enter, also helps you connect with other members you might not have discovered otherwise. First, others on the site can search for you and other similar members through our Member Directory. Second, when you tell us more about yourself we can automatically suggest other members you might be interested in contacting. You’ll find some of these suggested connections when you visit the main Community page on the site.

With these changes we have updated the design of the profiles so that they hopefully showcase interesting information better.  We’ve also tried to make it quicker and easier to edit your profile.  Finally, we’ve added a few new features:

  • You can choose to show your real name instead of your username

  • You can let others know about what kind of family history activities you can help with

  • You can show off photos you’ve added to deceased ancestors in your public family trees

  • You can include links to your public family trees (the living individuals obviously won’t be visible to others)

  • You can show links to your favorite message boards or boards that you are the administrator for

In addition to the changes to the profiles themselves, in some areas of the site you’ll see members listed differently.  We’re now starting to show a thumbnail photo next to members’ usernames (or their real name if they’ve chosen to display it).  When you click the username you will get a preview of their profile without leaving the page.  If it’s interesting to you, you can click to view the full profile or to contact the member.  This is what it looks like:


You’ll initially only find this on the Message Boards, Member Directory, and Member Connections sections of the sites, but we hope to eventually add it everywhere.

To see an example of the updated profile, check out my profile.

We also suggest that you update your own profile.  You can also customize your preferences for how others can connect with you and what sections display on your profile.

We really hope that you take advantage of these updates to public member profiles and find the opportunity to connect with other family historians.  If you have any feedback after trying out the profiles, please feel free to leave a comment here or email me directly (dgraham at


  1. Jade

    This is a bit silly. Wish the programmers doing this had been set to fixing important stuff like the really defective search engine.

    Oh, and Ancestry suggestions? Like email addresses of thousands of people researching unrelated but same-surnamed people? Or links to the jillions of mostly very defective and erroneous trees containing one of the surnames you are researching? This is useless, annoying dreck.

    Your people don’t seem to have an idea of what a collaborative community needs.

  2. Jade

    1) Why did you not announce this on the ‘Ancestry Improvements’ message board?

    2) *Add this everywhere*? Add *what*. Does this mean that when I am doing a search in an Ancestry database I will be assaulted with more ‘suggestions’, akin to the disruptive and obstructive instructions boxes in the New Search Skin? NO NO NO NO NO

  3. Jade

    Oh. By ‘add everywhere’ you may mean add this idiocy to the message boards on the Rootsweb side. No, please, leave them alone. I am glad not to see this feature on the Rootsweb side.

  4. Jade

    Congratulations. You have completely disabled the ‘contact member’ function on message boards on the Ancestry side.

    I suppose the link to display profiles only works for those Ancestry subscribers who have edited their Member Profiles *since you made the change*.

    Are people going to rush to edit their profiles (assuming they can figure out how to find the edit function)? What about all those past posters who are not currently Ancestry subscribers?


  5. Nan

    No, you made CHANGES, not IMPROVEMENTS.
    *Please* don’t inflict this on the rootsweb side also.

  6. Lisa

    Well, I for one am glad I can now finally go from a person’s profile to their tree(s) easily.
    I had completed one of the DNA kits and it was showing me profiles of people I was related to who had ancestry accounts, but then I had no way of knowing if they had a public tree! Like I really want to contact all those people one by one without having any idea of how we might be related first. So thank you for finally adding that.

  7. Board volunteer

    “You can show off photos you’ve added to deceased ancestors in your public family trees”

    What’s the point of showing photos to deceased ancestors? They can’t see. Can yours?!

  8. Board volunteer

    What is the point of adding the silly avatars? Even on a 21″ monitor, the pictures can’t be seen clearly.

    Is anyone in development actually thinking about the boards from a family research perspective? Recent “improvements” and “enhancements” lead many of us to believe who ever is coming up with these ideas doesn’t have a clue about family research.

  9. Board volunteer

    Clicking on “Tell us” under “Can you help other members?” results in a big, grey screen. Another bug?

  10. Board volunteer

    How are board administrators supposed to contact board posters now? We have been encouraged to write private e-mails to let posters know if and why posts have been moved or changes have been made. Unfortunately, with the new popup profiles, it’s impossible to e-mail posters, at least while in admin mode. Makes me wonder if anyone test this before it was released.

  11. Mary Beth Marchant

    This is just another piece of junk that has been foisted off on the subscribers who are really interested in genealogy. This might tickle the fancy of young folks who are really looking for a social networking web site(which seems to be your aim anyway) but no way does this “tickle my fancy” even a little bit. Why not fix the many bugs you have on your web site instead of adding all this silly junk.

  12. Carole

    Another piece of visual crap that screams bells and whistles but is not genealogically functional.

    This new “improvement” is worthless.

    I have been an ancestry subscriber for nearly 10 years, but I am quickly becoming sick and tired of all the “improvements” that have improved nothing.

    The Ancestry website has slowed to a crawl. Pages take forever to load, and the searches are bringing up bizarre matches.

    Early transcriptions of censuses contained families that were listed from head of family down to the last of the family member in that family. Now the search brings up part of the family and includes members from other families listed in another household.

    I don’t want this on my print-out sheet. I want MY entire family. I don’t want Joe Blow, his middle daughter, his mother, and then 4 members of the family who live in the house next door.

    Your new beta search function is atrocious. If you implement that as a permanent feature without a choice to search the original way, I will then consider canceling my subscription.

    Enough is enough.

  13. Rebekha

    I can’t add new or edit existing Researh Interests to my public profile. After submitting, I come to a sorry try again later page on an Internet Explorer cannot display webpage the webpage.

  14. Emma K.


  15. emma k

    ALL people have a right to express an opinion. i surgest you re read your own post and reflect upon it.

  16. Jade

    Emma K.,

    When Corporate makes decisions for the sake of marketing, whose repercussons adversely affect ability (of paying subscribers and the genealogy community that is Rootsweb’s base) to do the research and communications that are the most central and significant functions of the web site, they should expect to have negative feedback.

    Their desire to add disruptive bells and whistles instead of making real improvements (such as fixing the search engine) is a constant theme. Continuation of such activity will inevitably get responses.

  17. Karen Cooper

    The site is not user friendly. Searches can not be narrowed, or at least I can’t find a way to do them. Also the pages take forever to load. The Newspapers do not open for me. Haven’t been able to use them in a week. We pay way too much money not to be able to access these sites. Please fix.

  18. Deanna Harris

    I have too many usernames on Ancestry’s message board.How do I get rid of them. I only want to keep one of them. This happened when I registered with other affiliates of Please help!

  19. Karen

    Guys. Please. No more extras. It’s pretty, but that’s all it is. If people want to see our photos, they can go to…Pictures. If I want someone to know my Real Name, I can correspond with them, and leave my name.
    The one thing you should have limited yourself to with these ‘changes’ is listing the Member Trees on the Profile page. Now, that is useful.

    I have not had problems with Ancestry dragging, or being slow, but if you keep adding all this window dressing, it might start to. Please focus on more important things, like the fact I still cannot view a WW1 record for one of my ancestors.

  20. Linda

    I lost the contact link on my profile when I changed the preference to both subscribers and non-subscribers. There is no link at all unless I access through Rootsweb rather than Ancestry. I’ve noticed that for others as well. Looks like another piece of functionality that was not well thought out and not thoroughly tested. When I cancelled my 10+ year Ancestry subscription, I had hoped that the FREE message boards would be exempt from more of the useless tinkering. Now I wonder how long the Rootsweb/Ancestry message boards will remain FREE and a means of smart communication with other researchers.

    I also wonder how many Ancestry message board users out there know that their communication settings were set to contact with subscribers only.

    Please no more useless functionality! Please spent the time resolving issues with databases and other functionality.

  21. Linda

    My contact link disappeared when I changed options in my profile to “Display my email address to other members” from the options to allow contact only by subscribers (the default when your profile is set up). The Help articles and support were no help. I finally figured it out by myself. It turns out the problem is a poor, illogical interface.

    There are checkboxes in addition to the radio button option of “Display my email address to other members.
    Free for members to contact you. Paid members can also contact you anonymously through Ancestry’s Connection Service.” Turns out this option is UNTRUE unless one of the checkboxes down the page is selected. The contact link does not display unless one of the checkboxes specifying type of information the contact responds to is checked. There is no option for those who don’t want to be contacted at all.

    There are many more logical user interface paths that could be made. Here are some suggestions:

    1) Add the radio button option of “Do not wish to be contacted. Remove the contact link.” Also, remove the checkbox options. If I didn’t want to be contacted, I wouldn’t have chosen the radio button options of being contacted, written email messages or added research interests to my profile. I assume “research activities” means “research interests”.

    2) Alternatively, Add the 3rd radio button as suggested in 1). Omit the checkboxes. Have a second set of radio buttons under a heading of “Types of Contact Responses Allowed” or something like that and have the choices:
    a) Information I post or add to Ancestry (i.e. message board, trees, profile items, (with link to help for other items)
    b) My personal research PREFERENCES on Ancestry (Not sure what was meant by activities)
    c) Both a and b (THIS WOULD BE THE DEFAULT)

    The above proposals prevents the affirmative action a user makes to select a type of contact to be negated by either intentional or unintentional omission of making a checkbox choice. It also gives a clear choice to the user who does not want contact from subscribers or non-subscribers.

    It is too late now, but had I been part of the team implementing this, I would have kept the email address displayed for all users and offered the choice to users to change it to increase their level of privacy rather than the other way around. I didn’t realize until this week that no one but subscribers could contact me. I realize some people prefer the privacy but for me, I have made some of my best contacts with other users years after I posted my message and haven’t had problems with excess spam due to the encryption.

    So what is the future of message boards? Is that option for contact going to eventually change to subscribers only and then option to post to subscribers only? I hope not. What will happen to Rootsweb message boards since it is the same message board database as Ancestry?

  22. Jade


    You are so right about the obtuseness of the user interface for setting up profile and contact parameters.

    Not to worry, it appears that the new setup for personal profiles has completely delinked ability to contact message board posters — for all *subscriber* posters who have not updated their profile on the Ancestry side since the new routine was installed.

    Past subscribers will not be updating.

    Present subscribers will not be updating unless there is a widely publicized announcement of this defect in the new program. The new setup was not announced even on the ancestry-topic message boards. Confining Announcements in this blog is like deciding to speak to less than 0.5% of the subscribers. Not all that many read the ancestry-topic boards, either.

    I suggest using the Rootsweb side for as long as they leave it alone, and thus allow the contact-info links to work.

    But it appears that they would rather have the personal profile pages somewhat prettier, for the very few who use them, instead of allowing Message Board users to contact persons who post stuff. All with the *ostensible* purpose of improving the collaborative community.

    There has not been any response from Ancestry to notices about this problem. No mention of an ‘oops’ recognition, no statement ‘we are working on this’.

    And they **do** intend to do this on the Rootsweb side.

    After that, I expect the next move to be in the vein of – “Hey, people, since we have made it impossible for you to contact nearly all people who posted past messages, we are now going to remove messages that are more than 2 weeks old.” Hear the screams of dismay. Hear no response from Corporate or Marketing. Hear no concern for the immense amount of human labor that has gone into no few of the Message Board posts.

    Wish us luck.

  23. Diana

    This is the first time I have visited this site since it has been changed over.
    I came upon the part where it says, “Contact this person.”
    I tried it and instead of taking you to where you can e-mail the person it takes you to the Ancestry page where it wants you to pay for one of Ancestry’s plans.
    This is just wrong. We put our information in and now you want us to PAY to e-mail someone.

  24. Linda

    So David…any solution to the poorly implemented contact link updates? There are lots of message board submitters out there that probably don’t realize their ability to be contacted by others is no longer there. To overturn the nonsense default implemented by TGN, they must purposely go in and change the radio button choice AND check one or more checkboxes as to the type of information they can be contacted about. We’d love to have communication by you or someone addressing the concerns of those who have taken the time to comment on the profile feature(s).

  25. Eloise Gipson

    I foolishly, through ignorance, started three separate family trees instead of one combined one. I have a Williams Family Tree which includes Williams and Shirleys’and Davis)(father and mother surnames) then a Gipson Family Tree which includes Gipson and Hardy families, plus my Williams Line, and a third tree with some combinations of the above. Was managing okay until I became ill, was hospitalized numerous times and when I came home had a hard time putting it back together again. My main tree has more than 1800 entries, another one 600 to 800, and a third with a few hundred. Is there a quick way to combine these? Some of it is duplications.

  26. David Graham

    Thanks to everyone who has given feedback on the updated member profiles. We are truly working to improve the overall Ancestry experience for all of our members, and have seen that the new profile features, like links to public trees and photos, have been used a lot. In reading over comments, though, I have noticed three main areas of concern that I wanted to quickly address.

    –Contact links–
    The recent profile changes should not have affected anyone’s contact settings. If you were set to be contacted anonymously through Ancestry’s Connection Service, that is how you should still be set up. If you were set up to publicly show your email address, that is how you should still be set up. If you don’t have a “contact” link on your profile it would mean that your contact settings are set up with neither contact option selected. This setting should not have changed with the profile updates, but we recognize that the “My Site Preferences” page where this setting is made is not clear as it could be. We will work to make that page more clear in the future.

    So again, the profile updates should not have changed your contact settings. If your settings are not what you’d like them to be, just go to the “My Site Preferences” page under the Community tab to update them.

    –Message board errors–
    Around the same time that we released the updated profiles it sounded like some errors started coming up for some members on the message boards. These were unrelated to the profile changes and we continue to work to address any errors we are aware of. If you are experiencing any specific errors, please try refreshing the page to see if there was a connection error. If you continue to experience errors, please notify us at

    –Message board administrators–
    There was a bug introduced with our profile changes that affected message board administrators. This has been resolved and we will be posting to the Message Board Admin Center with an update.

    Again, we hope that many of you are able to find value in the changes we’ve made. We are working to make sure that changes we make don’t negatively impact your experience with other areas of the site.

    David Graham

  27. I have taken your survey ….and I still want to know why when I hit ‘contact us’..I get more questions…instead of an email address that will go to ancestry and answer my question???? I find that that extreemly anoying. I have just purchased ftm2008 and passage express and continually use ancestry…but since rootsweb has intergrated with ancestry….no one responds to my queries and their emails seem to be non existant…also I have found there is no contact for some people…so why would one post information and not want to know more about their family? EMAIL address should be updated and removed if they are non-existant. I have only once got a responce from the more than 20 queries I have answered….customer service should be more of a priority.

  28. Jade


    Thank you for replying to some of the concerns.

    The ‘contact’ feature seems to be working now, for old posts as well as new. Well, mostly. Some of the ‘contact’ links with avatars don’t open for me at all.

    I couldn’t see a way in ‘My Profile’ to add the graphic that’s supposed to go with the avatar, and have yet to see such an image in the Message Boards.

    That’s okay, the Profile is not of any importance except as a vehicle for a contact link.

  29. Wayne Newkirk

    I have found miss spelling of my great granfather and granfathers name
    based on a 1910 US Census. I am 65 and one of the last two survivors who new these relatives. That is why I know the correct names. All brothers and sisters are correct and birthdates are correct so I feel confident there were errorws made in transcription.

  30. Wayne Newkirk

    I have found miss spelling of my great granfather and granfathers name
    based on a 1910 US Census. I am 65 and one of the last two survivors who new these relatives. That is why I know the correct names. All brothers and sisters are correct and birthdates are correct so I feel confident there were errorws made in transcription. How do I Correct. with

  31. James&Ruth

    hello we are not members of the while going through some old soaking papers in my parents home we came across an obit for Ambrose E Kenny WW1 Vet barracks 884 wife named Margaret sister named mary kipple we did a free search and found what maybe his family on there can you please let them know they can email us for a copy of the obit image.

  32. Cathy Wilks

    I don’t think this is exactly where I should post this, but I’m too exhausted to figure out where. I have contacted Ancestry through the Help section but never have received an answer, so maybe someone out there will have pitty on me. When I update my online file, it shows that it was updated but the number of people remain the same and the new people I have added do not show up. What am I doing wrong? I delete my old gedcom file on my computer and resave a new one, then I click update on Ancestry. Any Suggestions of help? Thanks from someone who is techno-disadvantaged.

  33. Mildred Meadows

    This makes me very happy as I am new to genealogy and very ignorant of some of the methods used. Thank you. Mildred Meadows

  34. chita

    i just want to thank this service,i found my moms niece[actually my cousin] tru the message mom[85]hadn’t seen her niece since she was 4,they lost contact when my mos cousin died & then the lil one was put in an orphanage,she now is 75,her grand-daug. & i met tru the board.our grandmoms were sisters from chihuahua,mex. i can’t thank you enough.

  35. Margaret Booth

    I too have been trying to use the connection service but nothing is getting through. I have received numerous responses from the help desk saying there is nothing wrong. They also asked me to telephone and speak to a technical advisor which I did. They told me they would look into it and they would get back to me. This was before Christmas and I have heard nothing. I have tried again but it has not work. Is anybody else experiencing the same problem?

  36. monika schaefer

    I may be in the wrong section, but I could not find another appropriate one: I have many living individuals on my tree. So, I wanted to see how that shows up when you send it to people whom you do not want to give the names of the living individuals. I, threfore, sent the tree to a friend, requesting that the “living” not be shown. Then I went to this friend’s computer, and discovered the following: My husband and my brother-in-law showed as “dead” since there full name was listed. And all the other living individuals only had their first name not showing, but the other data (e.g., place of birth–which, in some cases, is still the place where they are living today) does show. It does not take a genious to go to the telephone book and find such an individual if you want to find that living person. Would it not be better if the profile would simply say “living” without first or last name (the latter of which could have changed in a marriage). Also, is everyone aware that–even if you have a private tree that you do not want to show on the index page: if you put something in the “Story” section, it is plastered all over the internet. When I did my research, I thought I had come across new information, only to find that “Stories” I had put on my “private” “do not show in index” tree, are plastered all over the internet and can be “googled” by anyone!

  37. Sue

    When will we be able to update “Research Interests” on our profiles? I’ve been waiting for this fix for over a year.

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