Posted by Ancestry Team on December 2, 2014 in Mobile, Site Features, Website

What was it like for your immigrant great-grandparents to pass through Ellis Island? Did your mother watch as the Great Mississippi flood destroyed her hometown? Have you ever wondered what your grandfather’s life was like when he served in the army in World War I?

We realize how much these types of historical events shaped your ancestors’ lives—and how much richer they make your family history experience. To help you discover some of these amazing stories behind your family tree, we’re launching a new feature called Historical Insights. You may find out that your relatives lived in North Carolina when pirates roamed the coastline or that they followed the Oregon Trail to make a new home in the West.

Historical Insights

Introducing Historical Insights

So how does it work? In some ways, insights are like hints. While we can’t be positive that your family member experienced a certain event like the San Francisco earthquake, we use information you’ve added to your tree and historical records to determine whether your relative might have been in the city in 1906 when it occurred. And like hints, you have the ability to accept an insight and keep it in a person’s profile or ignore it.

You’ll also be able to see at a glance all the family members we think experienced the same event. You may discover that ancestors who never knew each other were actually shaped by the same moment in history.Historical Insights 2

You can see insights for your own family using your iPhone or iPad, if you’re using the latest version of our mobile app. In coming months, Historical Insights will be added to the website. A preview of the insight will appear on a person’s timeline—just look for the leaf. To read about the historical event and see photos, simply tap the insight in the timeline.Historical Insights 3

While researching these insights our team enjoyed learning how history touched the lives of our ancestors again and again. We hope that you will too.


  1. Brenda Keefer

    What a fantastic idea. Love it and can’t wait for it on the website. This will help add historical info to my tree and flavor to my ancestors lives.

  2. Linda

    This looks great. I’m surprised again that new features roll out to iPhone/iPads. It seems to me that the web is available to all so that would be the logical starting point for new features followed by both iPhone/iPad and Android apps.

  3. Susannah

    This is great. Sad its only on iProducts. We exclusively use Windows products (Windows Phone /Surface). Ancestry is frustrating on those devices. As a long-time and loyal Ancestry subscriber, I would love to see more Windows support.

  4. Cathleen

    Yay! I only use Apple products, but this still doesn’t help me, as I don’t have an iPhone or iPad. I only have a Mac laptop and an iPod Touch. I don’t use ancestry on the iPod, though, as it’s way too small to use anything like this. I don’t care. I’m just happy to see they have something like this and that it will be available on the website soon. Way to go, Ancestry!

  5. Donna Rae Hays

    Another disappointed Android user. Makes me think you don’t care about those using using Android.

  6. Kit

    I don’t have Ancestry on my iPad yet. Not too thrilled with it on my iPhone, but I’m a computer user mostly. This will be great on that alone, anyway. Love the idea.

  7. Sandra Barber

    Seriously, I think you underestimate how many users you have that DO NOT and iproducts. I’ll bet the majority are PC and android users like me. No Apple products here.

  8. MaryKay Massey

    Wonderful idea! I’ve wanted a way to put family in historical perspective, but as is trending….idon’t. My Android is full of music and family photos and does not have room for another app. I use Ancestry only on my laptop. Looking forward to when I can see this new development!!!!

  9. Matt

    Please give us the option to disable it, this type of feature is annoying when trying to show my tree to someone else. It’d be neat in doses but not all the time.

  10. Leah

    I’ve been using it since your released it and I really like it. I’ve encountered the same date on multiple ancestors but the fact only shows on one relative’s timeline. Why doesn’t it appear on every timeline?

  11. Tim

    When tech based companies roll out new features it is extremely common to make an initial release to just a small subset of users. In this way you can do quality control on the new feature, evaluate the impact, fix bugs, and make sure the feature is really ready to go before making a wider release.

    So I don’t think this shows any favoritism to Apple, nor does it knock Google, Android, nor Apple desktop users.

    As for the feature itself, I’m really looking forward to it! Just like “hints” I’m sure there will be times it is useful, times when it isn’t, and times when it is simply wrong. But overall I’m looking forward to the insights! 🙂

  12. Tracy Wells

    Will there be a simple way to turn off this feature? Or will we have to turn each one off, individually? This could be a useful feature for those who are not already well versed in history, but it could be timeline clutter for those who don’t need it.

  13. Lisa M. Potter

    I love Ancestry, all though i am not a paying member i hope i can get this feature! ! Someday i hope to ba able to afford a membership!

  14. Tom

    No apple products – fix the search engine before adding comments that a relative in 1860 lived in the north ???

  15. Julie T

    This is wonderful. I was just contemplating questions like this over the weekend…Why would my ancestors have moved from Germany to the United States in the 1850s?

  16. I have been a member of for several years and I wonder why each time I click on a “hint” i get the screen wanting me to sign up for membership. I waste so much time trying to get around that page and find myself getting nowhere!

  17. I understand how PC/Android/Chrome users feel. Since 1985 I have been on the other side. All for PC-rare for Apple/Mac products. Have had to buy a PC because a publisher demanded it!! Not fun. Be nice to those PC users, eh!

  18. JohnW

    Resources would be much better spent improving the search algorithm rather than providing ‘insight’ (?!) into the fact that somebody lived in the north during the Civil War.

  19. PSeitz

    I was trying to do something similar myself for my family members. This will cut down on my work. Thank you.

  20. Mary Smith

    Love this addition to! Always have tried to imagine what life was like during all those generations tat came before.

  21. I have always wanted something like this and began asking genealogical software vendors to do it many years ago. And after 15 years it is almost available on Ancestry. Wunderbar!

  22. Rosemary Nicholson

    I am paying you a lot of money and now I see a feature which others can access and I can’t (only use computer) are you going to give me a discount for services not available? Doubt it!

  23. Marianne Frazee

    I think the historical insights is a wonderful idea that will enhance what each of us have learned thus far about our ancestors. Thank you team!

  24. Dawn Marlow

    Have been wanting this feature for years. I really want to be able to match major events to my ancestors to improve insights into what they were living through during their lifetimes and how they may have been affected.

    Regardless of where our ancestors lived in America (or abroad) during the Civil War, the impact of the war was felt and was a fact of life for that time period of their lives. It didn’t matter what age, gender or race they were, the fact that they were alive during this time period would have very likely affected their day to day decisions and thought processes and would have contributed in some way to the people they later became.

    In more recent history, terrorist events like 911, natural disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons and earthquakes and major advances to mankind like man’s first step on the moon have certainly had both national and international impacts in the shaping of not just the thousands who were directly affected by these events but also by millions of people who were little more than witnesses to the stories as they unfolded.

    While I know that improving other issues are equally important, I can’t wait to be able to use this new feature and the migration maps. I am also a PC/Windows/Android user and sincerely hope that the initial release testing is successful and the rest of us can access this soon! Thanks.

  25. jbrangenberg

    I too am disappointed this is only available on i products! Also does this feature not go back to earlier times than the Civil War to know the beginnings of why our ancestors may have left their homelands to migrate to America. I think this is a great feature, but useless to me if I can’t get it on my PC.

  26. Barbara_Jean_Ocon

    So excited that you are offering this and looking forward to the time it’s added to the website. I am going to do a presentation to my family in a few weeks and I’ve been thinking a lot about the important times that they (and I) lived in. To be able to see what was happening during their lifetimes is an absolute treasure. Thank you!

  27. Ruth Detjen

    Looking forward to this feature. Do you think there will ever be a feature grouping large numbers of ancestors by their birthplace? Like, “these were born in NYC” and then a list of names. My tree has grown to 17,000, so a feature like that would be helpful.

  28. Bonita

    I would love to be able to access this information, but, I am also a PC use even though I have I products. Will this be available to use only to those that have a tree posted on Ancestry or will those doing a “search” be able to use it also?

  29. paul garza

    just what I need to explain to my children that their ancestors are more than just names and dates. they lived the history taught in school.

  30. Lauree O

    I have been doing something like this recently and attaching the info to a photo. For instance, my grandmother was extremely proud of her first car which she purchased with earnings from her first job. Using searches on the internet I was able to identify the year, make and model of her car and included the potential earning power of a woman in an office job that year as well as how the cost of the car and earnings would compare to today’s vehicle cost and salaries. What an eye opener!! This feature will be very welcome and I hope open to additional info as users find it to make it interactive. Thanks for continual innovation in this field.

  31. Terry

    Looking forward to using it. Like so many of the other posters, I rely on a desktop computer. Thus the announcement is more of a disappointment that anything else.

  32. Mary Ellen

    I have a Windows desktop PC. Even if I did have another device, I wouldn’t want to put my Genealogy stuff on it. What’s wrong with the desktop?

  33. Jayne

    Very disappointed that I cannot get this feature on my desktop. Have been a member of Ancestry for many years. Some of us cannot afford to purchase expensive I-phones.

  34. Sonia

    I think this is a wonderful idea and can’t wait to be able to use it on Ancestry on my pc. Will this work on an Android as well? I hope so, so I can start using it right away!

  35. Dave

    Please provide an On Off function as I do not like this addition to all my hard work in producing MY family tree – most of the information is American based and bares no resemblance to my UK heritage – PLEASE REMOVE !

  36. Jim

    It might sound great but in practice it is extremely annoying, particularly on an iPhone. Please provide in Settings the option to turn off. If you can’t, then remove it. Thanks

  37. Debra

    Please enable us to switch this feature off, it is cluttering up my tree and is very annoying. Please don’t force it on us.

  38. frauke woods

    Half the fun is READING about particular times in history. Doesn’t anyone use libraries and the web for that? So for me “Thanks but no thanks.

  39. Pete N

    Please provide the option to turn this feature ON/OFF its just clutter and both patronising and misleading to suggest something from a bucket of “insights” have anything whatsoever to do with one’s family history.

  40. Rae Knight

    Looks awful! Really don’t want all this stuff cluttering up my tree. At least provide people with a choice as to whether they use it or not.

  41. Martin James

    Please provide ON/OFF option for this pointless Insights function which putting useless and incorrect information in my ancestors timeline.

  42. Dee

    Most information provided is American based and not relevant to my UK based ancestors, please provide the option to turn this off.

  43. Ian

    I don’t want Historical Insights: how do I turn this off? 99.9999% of this has no relevance whatsoever to the people in my tree.

  44. Marianne Last

    No thanks. I’m quite capable of researching *relevant* history myself and the thought of rejecting this feature for each individual in my tree rather than the whole tree fills me with horror. Please make this an optional extra for people outside America.

  45. Paula Jacunski

    What??? Not on Windows or Android? I’m seriously ticked….I love this idea, I’ve been adding that type of story to the ancestors I focus on to develop their life story. But I am beyond astounded that this is only on i-products. This is crazy.

  46. Walter Haisler

    Historical Insights might be a wonderful addition for some folks, but not me. It takes up valuable screen space on my iPad. Please implement a way to turn this off on iOS devices.

  47. Carol Swain

    I do not want my tree cluttered up with “historical events” of your choice. Please give me the option to turn it off.

  48. Very interesting,i never get enough history,home people lived.just love Indian an Irish.would love to look up my day

  49. Tony

    How do I TURN OFF this annoying feature?
    It dominates the individual’s timeline and makes proper research difficult.
    Fine as a feature – but PLEASE give us a means of turning it off – suggest next to the HINTS slider under options.

  50. Historical timelines are a great help – but MUST be optional. My TMG software has a whole host of them and you can write as many more as you wish – then turn them on/off as required. Anything else is nonsense! As is the i-products-only choice!

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