Have you ever had one of those days when you made a major breakthrough in your family history? What do you do? You corner one of your kids, a spouse, or even a stranger walking down the street and tell them all about how cool it was that you finally realized there was a transcription error in the census and that led you to search differently in the Ohio death records and when you saw the witness on the death certificate you knew it was Molly and not Mary! What do they do? Run for cover. I’ve been guilty of this many times. I call this the wet dog effect. You know, like on a hot summer day when your dog has been having a great time swimming in the lake, and he comes out and wants to share his excitement by shaking all of that wet goodness all over you and your picnic. So I guess as a genealogist, I’m like a wet dog.
For many of us, one of the thrills in our family history journey comes when we move beyond names, dates, and places to discover the rich and unique stories of our ancestors. But one of the challenges in family history is that it can take a lot of work to tell the story of an ancestor in a way that lives up to their legacy. Especially if those you are trying to tell it to aren’t genealogists. First you have to discover the basic genealogical facts – the names, dates, places, events, and relationships. These of course need to be substantiated with evidence – so you link all of the historical records you’ve discovered to the ancestor. To really make a compelling story, you need to add more richness and context. You need to add photos of people and places. Add to that descriptions of local, national, and world events that would have impacted their lives. Next you plot the events of their life on a map or a timeline. Oh, and then you have to add in what was happening with their family. To top it all off, you embellish with brief excerpts of stories that you’ve discovered about the family along the way. Now that you have the raw material together, you can craft that into a compelling story.
That is a lot of work. Wouldn’t it be easier if you had a time machine and could just transport yourself back to Southern Wisconsin in the 1840s? Well we haven’t finished our time machine yet but as part of the new, improved Ancestry site (discussed here), you can experience a whole new way for your ancestors’ lives to come to life.
The New Ancestry introduces features like LifeStory and Historical Insights, as well as powerful enhancements to the Facts View and Media Gallery that transform how you view, arrange, and share the details of your ancestors’ lives, helping you weave together a richer, more complete picture of the events, places, and times that shaped the people who led to you.
The LifeStory jump-starts the effort to bring the story of your ancestors to life by analyzing all of the events, sources, and relationships you’ve added to your tree. It uses this information to create a time-based story with the highlights of your ancestor’s life.
The ‘storified’ timeline includes a map and any photographs that you’ve added to your tree which contain date information. Brief snippets of important events in the lives of your ancestor’s parents, spouse and children are automatically included in the LifeStory. Finally, Ancestry evaluates the life of your ancestor and attempts to add deeper perspective through new Historical Insights that let you explore the meaningful moments in history that may have impacted your family.
The LifeStory can give you new perspective and help you have a better sense of what it would have been like to live way back when. But remember, the auto-generated LifeStory is just the beginning. You can also enhance the story and make it your own. You can edit all of the narrative snippets, choose which Historical Insights you want to keep, and enhance the story with photos. The end result: a fast path to creating a story that captures the rich tapestry of your ancestor’s life.
Over the coming weeks we plan to share a series of blog posts that go into more detail on the exciting changes in the New Ancestry. If you’d like a chance to see it for yourself, sign up on a waitlist to get early access. We hope you’ll find that it gives you a more intuitive, better curated, more natural way to tell stories than can to live up to the remarkable lives your ancestors lived. Then, rather than overwhelming our loved ones with details like a wet dog, we can tell them truly meaningful, engaging stories about their family.