Posted by on March 12, 2009 in Site Features, Website

I’d like to introduce the new online Messages feature that we added to the site today. It is a great new way to connect with other members you come across on the site and replaces the email-based Ancestry Connection Service.


First, if you haven’t ever connected with other Ancestry members I hope you find the opportunity to do so. has the world’s largest online community dedicated to family history and members help each other make new discoveries every day. The further you follow your family story back in time, the more likely you are to find other members who have ancestors in common with you. You can learn from and share with these members, and you may even find a relative you didn’t know you had.

Previously the tool available to contact other members was the email-based Ancestry Connection Service, but there were some challenges with this tool. First, it was hard to see who you were communicating with because there was no connection to their public profile on the site or other information about them. Second, the messages would come mixed in with your other emails which made it easy to miss them and hard to organize them. They may have even ended up in a junk folder without you ever seeing them.

The new online Messages feature overcomes these problems and is hopefully a more enriching way to connect with other members. When you send or receive a message from another member you now just do it on the website.

When you find another member that you are interested in contacting there will be a Contact link available on their public profile that lets you send them a message right away. All members registered with can view and reply to messages received from others, whether they have a paid membership or not. Paid members can also click on the Contact link for other members they find throughout the site and initiate contact with them.

You can get easy access to messages you’ve received from others just by clicking the “Messages” link at the top of any page. And if there are messages waiting for you that you haven’t read yet, we’ll include a number at the end of the link indicating how many new messages you have. (You’ll also get an email notification about new messages from other members to make sure that you don’t miss them.)

When reading a message you can see information from the public profile of the person who contacted you, in addition to reading the message they sent. This makes it a lot easier to learn more about them and see what areas of family history research you might have in common. When you’re replying back and forth with another member we’ll also keep all messages in the thread together so that you can more easily follow the conversation.

Since your past messages are all together on the site it helps make sure that you don’t lose track of any of them. You can even create personalized folders to organize your messages however you’d like to.

I hope that by using the new Messages feature you’ll be able to more easily connect and work with other Ancestry members.


  1. Joybugg

    The message systems sounds like it has some benefits, but there are times I am not doing research so not checking the website. Receiving the note in my email got a much faster response from me than waiting for me to log into Ancestry. I am happy to try out the new system, but it would be nice to have the option to still be notified via email that something has been added in messages.

  2. Hi Joybugg
    They are sending e-mail too:

    “You can get easy access to messages you’ve received from others just by clicking the “Messages” link at the top of any page. And if there are messages waiting for you that you haven’t read yet, we’ll include a number at the end of the link indicating how many new messages you have. (You’ll also get an email notification about new messages from other members to make sure that you don’t miss them.)”


  3. Mary Beth Marchant

    The new messaging system would be all well and good except for-well I am pasting it in here

    “We’re sorry. We weren’t able to get your messages or message folders. Please click the Messages link in the header, or try again later.”

    So if that is what I am going to get for trying that, I think you should rethink your options and try again. Perhaps Ancestry should implement a program of Zero Product Defects. You have a long way to go.

  4. ssheehan57

    Hmm. So if I used the Ancestry connections service, it would send an email to the address of record for a member I wished to contact. This worked even if the person had posted their information / query years ago and no longer had an account but did still have the same e-mail address.

    If this new service is replacing that connection service, I see a potential downside in it since people generally DO check their e-mail regularly but may not log into Ancestry for weeks, months if at all. Chances of getting a response from someone just went down, as I see it.

  5. ssheehan57

    Tony –

    OK, it’s a little better that they’re sending mail, but I’ve had a number of great exchanges with folks who had posted information a few years ago and no longer log into Ancestry. Im thinking folks like that aren’t likely to start back in again just to get a message from someone they don’t know.

  6. Oxpictus

    Instead of just initiating new programs, why don’t you post a query, asking members what features they’d like to see on

    Personally, I’d like to see forward and back arrows ->

  7. Roger

    So I just read the Blog that talks about this new feature on As an user I had to log on to that site to see if you had introduced the feature there as well. Surprise, Surprise there it was a tiny bit of font at the top of the page that I had been missing all day.

    This Blog is almost unknown to UK users and the way it is slanted to US users I’m not surprised. Please don’t forget that is not the only site. Think of all the other countries where you offer a service and how you can talk to users there.

  8. my difficulty is the member who has no connection info on his or her profile so how do I contact them??? There is a tree out there with several people in common with me that I would love to be in contact with but the owner has no contact info so I am unable to send any querry to them. Penny Main

  9. Greg Hills

    Hah. Another wretched “communications” system. We are expected to interact meaningfully with other people on a complex subject in 2000 characters (330 words) or less, pecked into a box 59 characters (10 words) wide by 11 rows deep (less than 650 words visible at a time) and with very limited options for cut & paste. And the only way we can know someone wants to talk to us is to log into Ancestry!

    its jst SMS wth a kybrd & I h8 it alrdy

    Not impressed.

  10. Panabode

    So glad you’ve done this. I’m sick and tired of people emailing random requests, ignoring the response and then evermore sending me their spam for whatever left-wing political pet-projects. It will be a lot easier when people no longer spam.

    To “Greg Hills” um – if you feel this way about the this change of policy, I have a grand and brilliant idea: Exchange email addresses.

  11. David Graham

    Thanks to everyone for the feedback. I just wanted to reply to a few questions I’ve seen raised here and elsewhere.

    – We will continue to send email notifications when you or another member receive a message to make sure the messages are not missed.

    – The email-based Connection Service will still work for replying to past emails you received from that service. It is just new messages that will go through the new online Messages tool.

    – We will evaluate our current character limit to see if we can increase it to enable longer conversations with other users

    Thanks for trying out the new Messages feature!

  12. Andy Hatchett

    David Graham said:
    – We will evaluate our current character limit to see if we can increase it to enable longer conversations with other users

    Dear Mr. Graham,

    Don’t be obtuse; of course the size of teh message box can be increased. Any *good* programmer could revise the code in probably less than two hours. This is *not* rocket science.

    Here’s the clue:

    Take all the space reserved for ads and add it to the message box parameters!

    This will add to the message box size as well as relieve those reading the message of the tedium of being bombarded by ads while they are trying to accomplish something useful.

  13. roger

    I’ve just had the same problem as No 8 – a person with no contact info on their personal page. We appear to have a number of ancestors in common and I’d love to contact them, but how?

    I’ve just made contact with someone who is not a paying member so I know thats not the reason there’s no contact info and as they state they are ‘willing to help other Ancestry members’ I find it strange they are impossible to contact.

    I wonder if this is an Ancestry Bug or have these people chosen to remain uncontactable?

  14. Diane Johnston

    do not understand why this change was necessary. We always had the option of being contacted anonymously through the connection service or by letting the other users see and use our email. I prefer to use my own email, many times I have been asked if I have documented proof of something I have posted or a photograph of someone. Using my own email I can send the person attachments if asked to do so. Also as pointed out by others I have also contacted previous users who still use the same email address with success. This service should be an option of cotacting someone based on their preference, not a requirement. I check my email regularly and answer queries sent to me from there in one step. I am not going to check email then be force to log on to Ancestry to answer it. My days of helping others just ended.
    This combined with “the new search” has turned a happy customer into an unhappy one.

  15. mary lochrie

    i understand that i cant virew my fmily tree on my mobile phone but why cant you set up a mobile messaging site for the connections also. i think the neww mesdsaging service is good but i also think you need to step up a gear and get it for mobile phones too especially for the addicted family historians

  16. John Hartman

    I have multiple private families trees on The old emails listed the family tree so I knew where to look for the information someone requested. I don’t see any indication of the family tree in the new message system. That needs added ASAP.

  17. I have set up my file folders, but find that I cannot rearrange them to suit. Could we have up and down arrows to accomplish that, please? I would also like to file my sent messages in those subject folders. How can I do that? To the naysayers, I say give it a chance. It is better than losing connection email into spam folders. If you need more direct or private contact, you can post your email address on your profile or selectively give it to those you want to have it. That is what you do with the connection email now since you can not attach files to it. Anything can be improved over time if we stick with it.

  18. Maggie

    You say an email is despatched when you have new PM (messages) on the new Ancestry system.

    I didn’t get one to tell me the
    Message Team had left a message!

    Also is there anyway you can tell if an Ancestry member has picked up/ read the message you have sent to them?

    Regards Maggie

  19. Suzanne Eyer

    Can you adjust this info so that it is current? See any “Profile Page”:
    Connection Preferences —-
    — You can choose to only be contacted anonymously through Ancestry’s Connection Service, — If you choose to be contacted through the Connection Service, paying members can contact you anonymously by clicking on a link in your public profile. —Paying members will — contact you anonymously through the Connection Service as described above.———– I have copied only bits of the article here for you to read.
    Also, I did not receive an email alerting me to this change. I am willing to give your new set up a fair try. Thanks for the work on it.

  20. I am so happy to be a member of I have connected with my
    2nd cousin. It is so wonderful to meet some in my family. I knew that
    she was in the family but I had never seen her growning up. She found my tree with her grandmother’s
    syblings. with out ancestry I would never have connected with her.
    Thanks Team.

  21. I am so happy to be a member of I have connected with my
    2nd cousin. It is so wonderful to meet someone in my family. I knew that
    she was in the family but I had never seen her growning up. She found my tree with her grandmother and her grandmothers
    syblings. with out ancestry I would never have connected with her.
    Thanks Team.

  22. chriscav

    This new message system sounds like a step in the right direction. I am also concerned that messages I send folks end up in their spam catcher. A related issue that concerns me is getting a “hint” on my tree that turns out to be someone who has simply taken information from my tree and added to their tree. When I look at their tree, it is often incomplete or unclear why they added my information. I feel this practice should be changed; if you are going to add info from someone’s tree, you must contact them first to show how your relatives are connected. When I have written folks who have added info from my tree, they have not responded. I’d be interested to hear from others about their feelings on this subject. Thanks to for continuing work on improvements.

  23. pinky logan

    i am looking for info on my grand father eddie emory logan from yazoo county ms around about 1870 tp 1930

  24. Regarding #3, all I get is the same message, “We’re sorry. We weren’t able to get your messages or message folders. Please click the Messages link in the header, or try again later.” All I get is the same response, going around in circles. What good does it do to implement a new feature if you don’t run a BETA test on it? And yes, I have cleared my cache, did the “hard reload” and cleared cookies, so don’t even bother to suggest that fix.

    Aalso, #13, hooray for your words. The ads which Ancestry is placing are slowing down the whole system. Other websites I use have as many, if not more ads, and their response times are light years faster than Ancestry.

  25. Tom

    Chriscav #24,

    I keep my trees private for the very reason you talk about. I have had the same thing happen to me.

    I also ask how the person is connected to my family/s.

    I don’t know how else you would prevent such a practice unless you keep trees private.

  26. Stacey

    The message system is a nice feature but as mentioned by others there are times when I am not researching so I am not checking the website. These means missing messages. I prefer being sent an email as was done in the pass.

    I have a question or two for Ancestry – why did you not ask your customers what they would like? Why aren’t you giving us an option as to how we receive messages? And why haven’t you notified us by email of this change?

  27. Teresa Sullivan

    Hi! I’ve just re-subscribed. What has happened to the One-World Tree? There is now much less information available than before.

  28. Ene

    Re No. 24 chriscav

    Thank you Chris for raising the issue of those awful, wiggly, green leaf hints. They are the tools of the rubber-stamp artists who are more interested in quantity than quality in their trees. I, too, take exception to being “chastized” by Ancestry’s system for “ignoring” these “rich hints” when I know full well many are incomplete, erroneous, or ludicrous. At times the hints are from persons I have given data to in the past and am now being presented with “their” research as current sources to validate my own research. No thanks! Such sources are worthless to me. The more “sources” I find attached to someone’s tree, the less likely I am to accept their data, especially when the sources indicated are not relevant and prove nothing. I’ll take the high road…..

  29. D Anson

    Well, I, for one, am just tickled pink about the message center! Very few features of this website run well, but, by God, this is something we REALLY needed! I’d like to shake the person’s hand who said, “I’ve got it! How about a message center? It would distract the members who are paying or have paid for a subscription and they won’t notice or no longer care that most of the other features on the website are meager.” Yep, thank the brain trusts for coming up with this superb enhancement to Here’s a big smooch for you!!! (I’m being facetious, of course)

  30. Philip Smart

    This new system is bad bad bad! It assumes that users are constantly checking the website for messages. I now understand why I am suddenly not receiving replies from people as I used to. People do check their email regularly, so that was a much better system. Please bring it back!
    I myself only go onto Ancestry sporadcally and my guess is that others do the same.

  31. Vicki

    Re #30 Ene

    Please don’t disregard all trees with a lot of sources. I have a lot in mine and they’re sources I’ve researched myself (unless it’s “The research of…” or a note in the document saying “Document provided by…”).

    My tree on Ancestry is private, but I have a public one on RootsWeb. (Sorry Ancestry, but you don’t protect the privacy of the living nearly as well as RootsWeb.) All my sources list my RootsWeb tree, so that anyone who grabs a copy for their tree has sources pointing back to mine. I don’t mind sharing info, but I do mind my work being stolen.

  32. md1631

    Does this mean that all messages are now open to public view? I have been waiting for an email from a cousin that I have connected with and we email about our family etc. I guess we will have to just email privately from now on ?

  33. smking82

    Thanks for the new messaging center. I always look forward to new things to try and I’m also glad to see that Ancestry is still sending out email.

    But, I agree with Chriscav. I’m also tired of having people attach to my tree and then when I email them to see what the realtionship is – No Reply or the only info they have is what I’ve put out on my tree.

    I love the “green leaf”. I still get excited when a new one appears even though I might not get more information then what I have. Maybe Ancestry could request like maybe email updates in case the email address has changed?

    Thanks again Ancestry for trying to please everyone!

  34. Marion

    I’m concerned to find people I’ve never heard of attaching themselves to my tree but, when I try to contact them they appear to be unavailable and don’t bother to reply. I even discovered I’d DIED according to one man, I don’t know, and have never heard of, who placed me on his tree. Who are these people, I wonder. I now feel I shall have to remove my details from your site just to be on the safe side.
    I would appreciate a reply from to this complaint but, I understand, you don’t reply to subscribers.

  35. D Anson

    #37 – Marian, you are absolutely right! I just downloaded the beta trial version and NO ADS ANYWHERE!!
    Many thanks for sharing this information!

  36. Katherine

    Does this replace the Message Board? I hope not. So far the changes to Ancestry have not been positive so I’ll just have to wait and see on this one. The new search system is a good example.

  37. David Graham

    I just wanted to add a note with updates on a few of the items raised here.

    — We will still send you an email when you receive a message from another member. (We did not send this email for the welcome message that we sent from the Messages Team about the new feature, though.) You will also get a notification on the Ancestry website when another member contacts you. Sorry if this wasn’t clear before.

    — The messages sent using this new feature are private and can only be seen by the other member you are contacting.

    — We are working to increase the character limit on messages sent.

    — When another member contacts you about a private tree you have on Ancestry, we are working to include information about the person they are contacting you about in the message you receive.

    Thanks for all of the other suggestions and feedback that has been shared here. We will work to continue to improve this new feature and hope that you are able to benefit from it.

  38. Ron

    I appreciate the new message format. I know I will be able to use this effectively in finding others with the same family research interests.

    The comment about rubber stamping a hint or merge feature is well taken. Once could certainly fill up a tree with bad information in a hurry. The term stolen work seems a little harsh. If we are not sharing what we discover through our hours and hours of hard work, how does it help in developing accurate family trees. I certainly appreciate those that have done their homework researching and share their information. I also hope they appreciate the hours, days, weeks, and years I have taken to source and include accurate information. Please do use my work, as I know you are at least using work that is very well researched and sourced.

  39. Tammy

    As a paid subscriber with a very extensive tree, I used to receive 4-5 inquiries/day on my tree (very time consuming to try and look up/answer all the questions). So I made my tree private and chose not to receive messages.
    With the new system, I am again receiving 4-5 emails/day even though my preferences are set not to receive messages. Wouldn’t other members prefer to not be able to send a message than to take the time to send one and wait for a reply that will never come?

  40. Someone has graciously offered to help me research my family tree but now has become the owner of my tree. How does that happen? I would rather I have authority over my own tree.

  41. Carol Morgan

    Jeez. Let’s loosen up folks.

    I think this is a great addition. That email message system really was awful. I don’t want messages in my email box. Let them come here, where I’ve already got the window open and am in the genealogy frame of mind. There aren’t any life-or-death emergencies in genealogy. Be patient and hope the other person will eventually reply to you. If not – keep working.

    I love this idea and look forward to it’s development and broad use. Thanks!

  42. D. C. Wisley

    I’ve been doing Genealogy for about 9 years now and this site has helped me fill a void in my life – finding about my paternal grandparents as I knew nothing of them because my parents divorced when I was only a few months old and also fill in the missing pieces on my maternal side. Fortuneatly, I was able to find the names of my maternal gr-gr-grandparents before my Mother passed away 3 years ago. Before I’d become a member of Ancestry, she never knew anything about her grandparents, where they were born, etc. I will always believe this site not only helped me fill a void in myself, but for her also.

    Its taken me a while to become accustomed to the new features and how to maneuver my way through them. I believe the new message center will be very helpful and look forward to helping others where I can.

    I’m looking forward to the release of new census records, death records, etc., because I’ve got several ancestors that have proven very elusive so far. It’s as if they were “hiding out” from census takers or fell in a sink hole somewhere.

    But I hope everyone will benefit from this site as I have. Ancestry, thank you and keep up the good work!!


  43. sissyblue11

    Well, I just got my first message on the new message center and I love it!!!! It was so easy to answer. I like that I don’t have to go in circles trying to get someone an answer. It is right there and it is fast to answer someone!
    AND – it keeps a list of people that I might want to contact later. I usually loose them in my regular email program.
    Question = since I work on FTM 2009 all the time now – why don’t you put a “message” button on that software too? That would be really nice.
    Thanks for this new feature!!!!

  44. hello iam looking for in info on the bower family my fathers name was harris daniel bower his fathers name was john willis bower and his mothername was della m bower his father was born in10/04/1878 and his motherwas born in 06/05/1885

  45. lora walker

    iam looking for oscar nathaniel walker family tree. ican’t find anything about where he came from or who his fatherwas.

  46. rebecca

    what are ancestry’s plans to incorporate social media outside of your new online message feature? i use facebook and would like to connect with other ancestry users via facebook.

  47. Verlina East

    I think this is a good idea. The former method was not appropriate unless you provided your email address,as it requested to look at your tree even if it is private. This way everything is on this site. Of course an email message stating that you have a message on this site would be helpful.

  48. Diane Thacker

    I love this new emailing system. One doesn’t have to click and paste etc. when trying to let the “relative” know of your possible connction. Cool.

  49. Cecily Ortemdahl Disana

    I need help with my maternal DNA results, I have asked for help and I have had no responses.I need clarification on my results.

    Cecily Ortendahl Disana

    I have been on since 2002.

  50. I would like to subscribe to However,I won’t subscribe because I would have to use a credit card online. Can’t you just bill a subscriber through the mail?

  51. Bonnie Toms

    I have received only 1 message so far..and when I opened it..the bottom of the page did not show was very annoying..perhaps there is something wrong with me..not ancestry??

  52. Jodie Polson Lagomarsino

    I am looking for Gimmy or Jeordie Morrison from Scotland. Either Golspie or Lutherlynn. our families were either friends or relatives. My gtandfather was Wilson Polson from Scotland. If anyone one can help me locate them I would greatly appriciate it. Thank- You Jodie

  53. Elizabeth Miller

    I am really getting frustrated trying find information. I have the 1920 census report, but when I try to find a death notice and put in the information (like – died in Philadelphia, PA) I get a list pages and pages long and they include every part of the state. And also different names pop up that that have no connection to what I put in. It is driving me crazy

  54. Colin den Ronden

    I used to work in the Index section of the Australian Electoral Office many years ago. I would find many people of the same name, in the same area, who were of no connection with each other. Consequently, when trying to trace my English ancestry I cannot trust a connection with someone of the same surname from a nearby are. Hence, I came to a dead end, unless I was to build up a tree whose connections would become more tenuous the further back in time I went. The person responsible for allowing the fire that burnt down Somerset House, that central repository of birth records, deserves a good flogging.

  55. Philip T. Alexander

    Hi, I have purchased your 2009 Family Tree Maker Guide & 2009 Family Tree Maker CD. I have installed Family Tree Maker and have been using it. However, I find it MUCH harder to use than what you have Online. Why can’t they be more similar and as easy to use? Sincerely, Phil Alexander

  56. Sally

    I think it is stupid to charge someone to find records on the relatives to complete their family tree.

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