Posted by Ancestry Team on October 17, 2008 in Website

Change can be painful, as I was reminded last weekend when an early snowstorm abruptly ended a stretch of lovely fall weather. As a new homeowner, I was surprised to learn that turning on a gas furnace is more complicated than pushing a button. I was so afraid of blowing myself up by tinkering with the furnace that I spent four hours huddled under a quilt on my living room sofa…until I remembered that the owner’s manual for the furnace was in the kitchen, in a big envelope full of useful information that the previous owners had thoughtfully left behind. I followed the somewhat arcane 14-point instructions, and within half an hour the house was toasty warm.

Life had been so much simpler in my tiny apartment in Manhattan, where the landlord activated the steam heat for the whole building every October. The downside was that I couldn’t control the temperature, and on most winter days my apartment had been too warm, since it absorbed the heat from the floors below. Now that I can adjust the thermostat in my own home, I realize how empowering it is to get the temperature exactly where I want it — definitely worth the 10 minutes I spent figuring out which switches to flip.

If you’ve used’s publishing service recently, you’ve noticed that we’ve made some rather dramatic changes. For starters, the service is no longer called AncestryPress. The site has a new look. And the project creation process is slightly different. Do not panic. The publishing software, which I will refer to as the Project Editor, is still the same. You can still access all of your AncestryPress projects by clicking on “My Projects.” Best of all, as you explore the site you’ll see that we’ve added lots of new content and output options.

Once you start using the new site, I think you’ll find the transition to be relatively painless. Even more important, I hope you feel empowered by all of the new products, features, backgrounds, themes and embellishments. It may take a few minutes to get used to the new site — although I hope the new layout of the My Projects page is less confusing than the gas valve diagram in my furnace manual. But our goal is to give you more control, more options and more creative freedom so that you can get your projects exactly how you want them.

One change that may be slightly confusing to previous users is the new cover selection process. On the old site, you chose your cover as part of the checkout process. Now you select and customize your cover while you’re editing your book. The level of customization depends on which product you choose. If you’re making a book with a leatherette or bonded leather cover, you can enter a two-line title. If you’re making a premium book with a velvet, nubuck or genuine leather cover, you can add a photo and a two-line title. If you’re making a photo book with a custom cover, you can edit every element of the cover (if you’re using a template) or even design your cover from scratch.

For example, here’s what you’ll see if you’re making a standard 11×8.5 family history book with a leatherette cover:


Click to enlarge image

If you type in a title and then decide you’d rather word it a little differently, just click the first page thumbnail (far left) at the bottom of the main workspace. You can go back and edit your cover as often as you wish.

If you’re making a custom cover photo book based on one of our themes, you’ll get a cover template that coordinates with the other pages in that theme. The screen shot below shows the cover template for the “Very Squary” theme.


Click to enlarge image

It only takes a moment to drop in a couple of photos and type in a title on the front and a photo caption on the back.


Click to enlarge image

But you don’t have to stop there. Because this is a custom cover, you can also manipulate the photos, edit the text, and add frames and embellishments. You can even wrap an element around the book — from back to front — as I’ve done with the blue box in the example below.


Click to enlarge image

I’d love to hear what you think about our new site. Please take a few minutes to explore the site, learn about the new products and experiment with the new content and features. We will of course do some fine-tuning over the next few weeks, and we’re counting on your feedback to help us focus our efforts.

To learn more about MyCanvas,’s online publishing service, please read my interview with Kelvin Hulet, who oversees the development of new features.


  1. Sharon Newton

    I just try to load family tree maker 2008 by I bought at Staples, in Owosso, Mi- It would not let me register my program, there is nothing wrong with my intenet explorer or having problem getting out on the web. I can accept cookies and family tree and ancestry are in my safe site.10/18/08 I dont want to lose out on my 6 months free to premium access to, Hope to hear from you reall soon. Thank you Sharon Newton

  2. TJ Tell

    I do not like the new mycanvas option and wish I could turn it off. It takes a long time to load the page and then it forces you through an obstacle course just to access the book and if that is not enough it does not open the book!
    After waiting for the “pages and backgrounds” to load it pops up an error and my book pages do not come up. The bottom bar shows blank pages!
    I have 2 books that I have been working on, both over 125 pages and am not happy that I can’t access them or that the “new enhancements” are having a negative impact, causing frustration and more steps.
    Still after multiple tries, hours wasted, I can’t get into or edit my books.
    I want a direct path into the book I choose, the ability to Edit.

  3. William Gaultier

    Nice to know that is evolving and seems to understand that Family Tree Maker and Genealogy buffs are very numerous and hungry for help.
    I was hoping you can send me links to solutions for the following issues:
    – Trying to export my Family Tree Maker 16 files into Gedcom WITHOUT loosing notes, scrapbook, mariage details, sources etc.
    – Trying to do the same as above but exporting it to HTML with all the scrapbook, notes, marriage details, etc.

    Also, the site where I can export my FTM files online seems to be from 1997…any more recent web sites where I can upload my FTM file and get a decent looking family tree with the branches and clickable details?

    I appreciate your help in advance.


  4. Stefanie Condie

    Sharon and William, for technical support with Family Tree Maker, please call 1-800-ANCESTRY and select the “Family Tree Maker” option from the phone tree. Customer service agents are available Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm.

  5. Anja

    While i like all the new-add ons and design options, it seems like it is much slower now that before. My project is over 130 pages and it is hardly loading. Everytime i change a background or click on another slide it takes very long to load which makes working on it a pain. Hopefully something can be done about the performance, otherwise it will take me veeeery long to finish this project. Thank you for the enhancements!

  6. Dallas

    I’m a student of Trinity Valley Community College in Terrell TX. Currently, our webmastering class is working on creating a website for the newly formed chapter of Student Veterans of America.
    Looking for pictures, I came across one submitted on the Dec. 5, 2007 blog page and was very interested in using it.
    I did not know who I needed to contact for permission to use it and found no contact info other than this.
    If you could please help, I would be very grateful

    the picture we would like to use:


  7. Carol A. H.


    Call 1-800-262-3787 (not 1-800-ANCESTRY, too many characters. Drop the Y in translation.)

    The time to call to get a human for technical help is 10 am to 6 pm EASTERN time. (7 am to 3 pm PACIFIC time and etc.)

  8. I have not been able to load the mycanvas site. I get a perpetual loading bar. Nothing loads, not even after half an hour. Can’t get my existing projects to load, either. I am unimpressed with the mycanvas experience thus far, and will soon be frantic if it means I can’t get my books completed in time for Christmas. I tried accessing it in IE7 and Firefox on the PC; FF and Safari on the Mac.

    Did anybody QA this before you launched it????

  9. Suzanne

    I am having the same problems; the pages do not load or if they do, it takes so long I shut it down.
    I can’t access the photo albums to choose the one I want. Once ti came up and I had one choice: balck or maroon. The site has stalled/froze and when it finally came back up, all of my backgrounds had been replaced with one photograph and had to be redone.
    Change is one thing. Change that doesn’t work is another.
    It’s very frustrating and after multiple times trying to use the site it is no longer something to look forward to, it has turned into a chore to avoid. I am VERY disappointed.

  10. Judy Florian

    I’m torn between giving you tips about using an old gas furnace and weatherization tips (such as buying special foam to go under all outlet covers on outside walls–check a hardware store)…. and asking you about the publishing features at Ancestry. LOL Well, I gave you one weatherization tip already 😉 … and I guess I can go explore the publishing site. Good luck with your new (er, old) house.


  11. Peggy Mealy

    Adjusting to the new “My Canvas” site, obviously needs a little help in the power department…I assume you’ll get there…On the old site you had a help/idea page that talked about dedications…I can’t find that now that I am about to finish my book. I skimmed it at the time and remember the ideas to be helpful, but I can’t find it now. Was this removed or can it be found on the mycanvas site?

  12. Doug Miller

    I have just lost all my photos that I had previously uploaded to Ancestry Press. I had been working on this book for over 50 hours.
    All wasted now.

  13. Doug Miller

    The program finally opened up. I selected a page that I had previously created in Ancestry Press. It had 4 pictures on it.
    When I opened it in My Canvas only two of those pictures loaded. I tried to reenter the two missing photos and it would not let me.
    I created a new page and it would not let me add photos to it. What gives. This is getting very disappointing.

  14. Nancy diCiolla

    I subscribe to Iwas using My Canvas custom print,it worked great. Then all of the sudden I went to print a census appearing on the screen with custom print as before, but it said “we are gathering your content from Ancestry & creating your project”. It went blank for a long time and finally stated: “Problem creating project.”

    Any idea!

  15. Ruthie

    Sorry, but I am very dissappointed in this new publishing service. I was really enjoying working on my books. Now it is no longer fun. I will more then likely delete all 3 books that I am working on. I really don’t want to do that. But this new version sucks. (SORRY)Please fix it or go back to Ancestry Press.

  16. Marie

    I also will join the legions of unhappy users. The new My Canvas is wayyyy too slow and it is too complicated getting to the projects. The old version was soo much better.

  17. Greg Werner

    Is there a word wrap function so that I can place a picture and the text will wrap around the picture automatically? It is very tedious to do this manually by forming text boxes around a picture. Also, please make a civil war background for the confederacy. I have both confederate and union ancestors and it would be great to have separate backrounds for them. Thanks.

  18. I don’t understand all the complaints about My canvas. It seems mostly the same as Ancestry Press but with lots of wonderful improvements/extras. I’ve had no problems using it and have enjoyed making my client’s family history book.

  19. A


  20. rog

    Very slow. It takes ages to first load project, then load backgrounds, next fonts and then more fonts, finally loading pages.

    I would also like to be able to burn a project to CD or DVD but I do not see this option.

  21. Bonie DiCrocco

    The loading is very slow – have tried repeatedly to load family trees with the privitization feature turned off — but all living memebers are listed as just that — LIVING – so I get to edit 693 individuals with all information!!! That is ludicrous!
    Also I find that I am forced to enter family group sheets one by one and it would have been nice if there was an easier way to choose that option for all family members so they can be printed in order without having to rearrange each addition to be in logical order.
    The editing of timelines is also difficult. For example if using themes, why have American only timeline items? I had to search out online timelines of appropriate issues to match a foreign country timeline themed page – that should be automatically included – ie: Italian thems should show Italian issues. German theme should show German issues. Logical.
    I appreciate the tremendous amount of work that goes into the program making – I have a son who is invloved in learning software development. But ask your users before you assume you are supplying what they want – that way it is appropriaqte to what they would prefer and use.
    And I also agree with the option of saving to a CD to at leaet a doc. file or pdf. file – if nothing else to help us prevent data loss such as some have mentioned not being able to access long hours of work when the site is having issues. I have logged countless hours writing 4 books of average 200 plus pages each (except for one of them) – I am forced to write it offline now and then cut and paste to you instead to be sure not to lose those 800 pages – that means it is going very slowly. It also means I will not trust to order the printed books from you because I am afraid my data will go private or missing again meaning wasted money and time!

  22. Mary Ann Scott

    I am doing great with My Canvas but I have 2 stories for my Grandmother. The photo gallery only gave me one story. How do I get the other story?

  23. Patricia Dwyer

    For years I used Generation and my software was very old (4.2) I bought a new software (Family Tree 2009) It promised I could import the old files and I would have 3 months free was a problem and kept telling me I was not connected to the internet (I Was)
    It would not import the Generations.
    I started all over and then went to did not give me 3 months, only 14 days..Help!
    I love the new software!

  24. Carol Castaños

    My Canvas is ok for me, I think its great you have been able to upload and create so many new backgrounds, most of them are very nice but I think you have forgotten the original idea about Ancestry. I feel you have been taking another road and making to many backgrounds for hundrends of occations others than history and ancient topics You have been making a lot of contents and backgrounds for modern scrapbooking and its ok but dont forgett the original idea! I really loved it and I hope you keep on making military, life style and country backgrounds, ancient history is what we need, the ones with the old ships are fantastic, Id like more of those, we have so little.. Most of the other backgrouds are useless for me. Please dont forgett the original purpose of this site. If some one wants a picture book we can get it anywere else but I chose ancestry because it was different and special to me, you gave great importance to history and ancestry. please dont change it or forget it.

    thank you

  25. Barbara

    When I print a copy of my pages, none of the printing is crisp, and such things as death certificates are rather blurry.
    I have been very careful not to “over-enlarge” anything. Will the final printed book be blurry, or will the quality be finer?

  26. Nathaly

    I just received a calendar that I put together at MyCanvas. It was my first serious step into Ancestry’s printing services. I am extremely pleased with the quality of the print and paper, and I am a detail-oriented, particular person. I can hardly wait for the recipient of this calendar to see it. I will certainly do it again. I have not tried books yet, and after reading some of the blogs I am wondering if there is a limit to the number of pages that the program can comfortably handle. The only scary thing that happened to me was that when I tried to get into my calendar project, once I brought it forward, I got nowhere if I clicked on “Edit.” I had to click directly on the front of the calendar before it would open.
    I like all the options and hope for more embellishments to be added. However, I haven’t figured out why creative letter embellishments are only available in one letter or number, making combinations impractical unless you want something super-casual. Small embellishments can be quite difficult to move around, and I did have the program freeze up a time or two for short periods of time.
    I have not seen the old MyCanvas; so I cannot compare. My favorite thing is that so many options are available that only my creativity level would hold me back.

  27. Carol

    I find it interesting that in previous versions of FTM I was able to create and print books for my relatives. Now I am forced to upload my data to a website. I do not want to upload my family tree to your website, yet you appear to have totally removed the capability of publishing via one’s own computer. My guess is that FTM will then have access to my data, which I do not want to have happen. I am now stuck with either going back to a previous version and purchasing from a different vendor. Had I known that the book creation had been removed from your software, I would never have purchased the 2009 version. I would simply have purchased from a different genealogy software vendor.

    I think it is unfair to have have removed the book creation portion from your software package.

    Is there any way to upload my tree and prevent FTM or Ancestry from having access to it?

    You seem to be forcing folks to upload their trees. Not everyone wants to do this. Not eveyone wants their trees accessible by Ancestery or FTM.

  28. Barbara Germain

    I have worked on my family history for many years and I have no knowledge of what to do about making a book about this valuable information.
    Also what I noticed is that I had several copies of my genealogy in my files and don’t know which one is the one I started with. Lol

  29. Ciao Stephanie,

    I am interested in giving my son and daughter-in-law a nicely framed bow tie chart of their families. The problem is they have three children which I want to include on the chart. How can I add all three children to this chart under their names?


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