Posted by Ancestry Team on June 25, 2008 in Collections, News, Website

image1.jpgAt the National Genealogical Society Conference in Kansas City a few weeks ago, Ancestry celebrated its 25th Anniversary!

Maybe you’re thinking: “Wait a minute the website hasn’t been around that long!” You would be absolutely right. The company was actually incorporated as Ancestry, Inc., a genealogical book publishing company. Since 1983, Ancestry has published about 60 titles including The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, Ancestry’s Red Book, about 60 other book titles, and Ancestry Magazine. You can check out the books that Ancestry publishes in the store

The 25th Anniversary gala made me reflect a little on just how far we’ve come in the more than ten years that we have been adding online content.

Many of us remember the days of book and microfilm indexes, and the fruitless hours and days we spent scrolling through microfilm, page by page, until we were bleary-eyed. Ancestry played a revolutionary role in the way we research today. Online images and indexes forever changed they way most of us do research. Now, instead of heading to some remote location to use the census, passenger lists, military and a host of other records, I can do my work day or night in the comfort of my own home. And there’s even more comfort in knowing that I’m saving a lot of money on gasoline for my car.

Since the site first launched in 1996, Ancestry has placed new content on the site on an almost-daily basis. You can always be up to date with the latest additions to and get a sneak peek at upcoming content sets, too, by looking at the “What’s New” page located here:

In 1999 when I started with the company we only had 240 million names. Today there are more than 7 billion. If you want to take a look at what the website looked like back then you can go to the Internet Archive site at and see the evolution of the site for yourself.

Thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of great people I’ve been able to break down many a brick wall. As an added bonus, I’ve met lots of great friends and relatives using content and the community tools on

What content have you used to tear down any brick walls on I’d love to hear about your breakthroughs!


  1. Robert

    25 years of Ancestry it would be nice to know the background story on how and were Ancestry’s get there indexes, this would be a great help in understanding why they are full of mistakes

  2. Robert

    U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942
    Note regarding the images for the states of PA, MD, WV, and DE. These four states were scanned at the National Archives facility in such a way that the back of one person’s draft card appears on the same image as the front of the next individual. The result is that when you click to view the original image, you will see the correct front side of the draft card, but the back of the previous soldier’s card. Ancestry is aware of this problem, and is working to correct this issue.
    I hope Ancestry will fix this in the next 25 years

  3. Robert

    World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 in Pennsylvania you get the wrong image you have to go back about 13 images to get the right one for the person you want. How long will it be until this is fixed? 25 years!!

  4. JP

    “The 25th Anniversary gala made me reflect a little on just how far we’ve come in the more than ten years that we have been adding online content.”

    How far you came ….. for a while – and then the spiral into lack of quality control and lack of caring what the customer wants, and what seems to be a total focus on user contributed trees rather than actual useful data.

    A cancelled subscriber after 10+ years.

  5. Linda

    Ditto – I cancelled my 10+ year subscription in April. TGN has taken both Ancestry and FTM 2008 in the wrong direction in quality, customer service, and the growth strategy. If you want the long time users and their referrals, TGN will have to rethink its direction.

  6. Anji

    “just how far we’ve come”

    Try “how far we have to go”…

    Try addressing ALL the issues on the Message boards (previous email sent to AND resulting in ZERO response):

    While reviewing surnames entries on a board which I just adopted, I came across one message that is resistant to editing. It contains square brackets ( [ ] ) and curly brackets ( { } ). Are there problems editing messages that contain those types of brackets in addition to angle brackets ( )?

    For the sake of all admins, it would be beneficial if *someone* would post this type of information either on the “Admin Info” screen of on the “Board Administration News” board. How are we supposed to know these things unless *someone* tells us?

    It is becoming more and more frustrating to administer boards due to the excessive errors/bugs:
    1.) Error Retrieving Message. There is no rhyme or reason to the appearance of this error. Sometimes it takes 4-5 reloads to actually get the message to open. This happens to me every day. Although I haven’t counted them all, I’d say a minimum of 20 times a day.
    2.) Editing errors. Sometimes, again, for no rhyme or reason, when an admin clicks the “Edit Message” link, the Edit screen appears with a *different* message from a *different* board. The message that most frequently appears for me is the latest message on the “Board Administration News” board, but I have seen other messages, ALL from boards I do *not* administer. That is scary!
    3.) Angle brackets render messages non-editable (by admins). If a message contains angle brackets, all editing attempts result in 500 errors. Surely programmers could correct this fairly easily. It doesn’t make sense to waste staff time with these minor edits. Also, if this is going to be allowed to remain, the Board FAQ and Post screen should have a blurb about avoiding the use of angle brackets, which many posters use to denote a quote from a previous message.
    4.) Different board after edit. After clicking “Submit” on the Edit screen, we should be taken back to the main view for that particular board. However, on odd occasions, instead of going back to that board, I am taken to an entirely different board – – although both the URL and the “You are here:” shows I’m on the correct board. (The messages are from a different board). Reloading does correct this, usually on the first try, but sometimes it requires 2 reloads.
    5.) Non-accessible Recycle Bins. Recycle Bins for some of the boards are non-accessible to the board admin. It is constant (no access at any time) on those particular boards. This has been a known issue for over a year and still not addressed.

    Something is horribly wrong to continue to have all these errors 19 months after the “new” boards were implemented. Is it the software? Is it the programming? Is it a result of lack of testing? Does TGN care whether or not the boards work? It would appear the answer to the last question is: “Apparently not” since corrections are not being made. Having silly little avatars on our public profiles are important, but not consistently working message boards…


  7. One monument marks tthe gravesite of Merrit and sarah in the old cemetery in Junction, Tecas. My husband and I hope to get back there in the fall an clean the monument which is still legible however very dirty.

  8. jean

    what 25 years all ready

    well make the most of it because if you go on treating your subscribers as you do you wont be seeing another 25 years we are not happy.

  9. Jack

    I’m sorry but the previous comments are just unacceptable. If you are so unhappy with the website, stop complaining about it and filling up pages after pages with inappropriate and useless comments. Go back to the way things used to be and spend hours looking through microfilm instead of whining about the advances this site has made.

    With that being said,
    This is one subscriber who has had so much great success in tracking my ancestors. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE ON YOUR WEBSITE, and I will continue to support this site in the next 25 years.

    Congratulations on the anniversary.

  10. VES

    Congrats on the first 25 years! Yes, I’m VERY thankful has helped me to research & locate ancestors, but now with the cost of life in general being so high, I can no longer afford the high subscription rates. I’m to the point in research that I must “cross the borders” and can’t even afford to get to the next city on Ancestry… I hope Ancestry can continue their good work, but until the price goes down, I won’t be.

  11. I started using Family Tree Maker when it first came out. You could buy the CD’s from Broderbund [Banner Blue] I have many of those. I have upgraded to every version except the last one 2008. I am so glad I didn’t do it. My husband and I use to go to many of the counties in a lot of the states to research records. Exciting to touch a record 200 years old. While the thrill of handling these old records is not there, the fact that we can see them on Ancestry is just as good. I have no problems with the content of the records and I understand fully that some records are sharper in the fields than others. In some cases, this is not ancestry’s fault. Some people who filled in the data on a form did not write clearly or use the proper tool for completing the form. The person today who is trying to decipher the page has a real problem. Remember when you looked at some census forms? You probably said, “Can’t they write better?” This is still the problem. However, I would really like for ancestry not to push upon us their new home page. Remember, haste makes waste!

  12. Jonie Berdin

    Can we please have the children’s birth year listed by the child again on the “People” (parents) page. They were left off with the new page you changed to recently. Thank you.

  13. Dear Folks: has a major problem with its North Carolina Births Index, which I brought to their attention several years ago. It is explained in the following message that I posted today to the Caswell County and Catawba County (both North Carolina) message board.

    Many customers are being misled by this corrupted database.

    Thanks and best regards,

    Rick Frederick
    Archivist and Webmaster
    Caswell County Historical Association
    Caswell County NC GenWeb


    Dear Folks:

    In a message posted here 28 February 2006, I reported on very troublesome errors in the North Carolina Birth Index 1800-2000 on The problems remain even though I have called this to the attention of many times.

    Listed below are what I believe are the affected portions of the database. However, I wanted to let you know how to determine if the record was with respect to Catawba County or Caswell County:

    If you come upon a birth record that shows Catawba County as the birth location, but it is suspect, do not rely upon the digest, but go to the actual record. There is a column on the right side of the ledger page with the heading “Township.” Look at the entries on the entire page (often two pages are displayed). If you see listed in the “Township” column P, DR, M, LH, Y, L, SC, A, and/or HT, you definitely are on a Caswell County page. These are abbreviations for the nine Caswell County townships: Pelham, Dan River, Milton, Locust Hill, Yanceyville, Leasburg, Stoney Creek, Anderson, and Hightowers.

    The Caswell County coverage in the North Carolina Birth Index is divided into three sections:

    Roll Number: NCVR_B_CO20_66001

    Roll Number: NCVR_B_CO20_66002

    Roll Number: NCVR_B_CO20_68001

    The Catawba County coverage in the North Carolina Birth Index is divided into four sections:

    Roll Number: NCVR_B_CO21_66001

    Roll Number: NCVR_B_CO21_66002

    Roll Number: NCVR_B_CO21_68003

    Various [Delayed Birth Records]
    Roll Number: NCVR_B_CO21_68001

    The problem for those researching Caswell County (CO 20) apparently is in the 1913-1956 period. When you go to Roll Number NCVR_B_CO20_66001 (see above under Caswell County) you are taken to the Catawba County births index.

    The problem for those researching Catawba County (CO 21) apparently is in the 1960-1979 period. When you go to Roll Number NCVR_B_CO21_68003 (see above under Catawba County) you are taken to the Caswell County births index.

    Some records obviously have been incorrectly indexed by

    Your help in “pestering” would be greatly appreciated. I have worn out my welcome.

    Best regards,

    Richmond Stanfield Frederick, Jr.
    Archivist and Webmaster
    Caswell County Historical Association
    Caswell County NC GenWeb

  14. Rebecca Ashby

    I pay a subscription fee to use I would appreciate it if the advertisements were removed TOTALLY. I enjoy the service, but I hate the nuisance of flashy, non-relevant ads. They are not necessary and I am considering cancelling my subscription as a result.

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