Posted by Crista Cowan on June 2, 2015 in Site Features, Website

As a genealogist, I love putting the puzzle of the family tree together.  I love the process of reasonably exhaustive searches and analysis and correlation of evidence. I love how one genealogical question leads to another and those questions lead to records that lead to more questions.  It’s exciting to share that “thrill of the hunt” with other genealogists. But, when it comes time to share with my family, they want to know who these people were, what they did for work, how they lived, who they loved.

We often identify people in our family tree by name and then a birth date and a death date.  A grandfather can show up in your online tree and family history reports as Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980).  It’s easy to fill in those blanks and move on.  But, it’s also important to remember that there is a whole life that was lived in the dash between those two dates.  In order to truly honor his memory and to ensure that our living family members (the ones who aren’t all that into genealogy but all love a good story) actually pay attention, we need to take the dry facts about the life of Herbert and weave them into a story that will last.  It’s one of the only ways all of our hard work is likely to have a lasting effect on our family.

There is another benefit of putting together the story of “the life lived in the dash.” The process of taking all those facts and weaving them into a story forces me to look at the same information in a different way.  It causes the holes and inconsistencies in my research to float to the surface and guides me in additional research.  Facts that don’t make sense are easier to spot when you read through the story.

Narratives

With the new Ancestry LifeStory, we take the facts you have collected, let you upload pictures and documents, and weave in historical happenings that may have influenced your ancestors and their life choices.  An automated process gets you started.  There is a summary narrative at the top of the page that summarizes the person’s life in 4-5 sentences.  As you move through the LifeStory page you will also see event narratives.  These short sentences appear for births, marriages, and deaths that occur in the life of the individual.

CSU_HerbetMcLuhanLifestory_png

Now, sometimes these summary narratives or event narratives may seem a little odd.  One reason could be that you have attached the wrong record, the wrong spouse, or the wrong date to a person.  We’ve all done it.  The good news is that this new LifeStory view makes it easier to discover those mistakes and fix them. We’ll talk more about the new Facts View another time. But, all of the information we are using to create this LifeStory come from the facts you have already created, the records you have already attached, and the relationships you have already connected to this person.  So, if you find something in the LifeStory view that isn’t correct, just flip over the Facts View to add the right information, delete the wrong information, or correct the relationship that got confused.

Once you get some of those errors cleaned up, remember that there is more to the story your ancestors’ lives than the bare facts.  There is information in family stories that goes beyond what is documented in records.  Think about that time your dad got that nasty scar at Uncle Bob’s ranch or that one Thanksgiving where the kids got together and planned an impromptu theatrical performance.  LifeStory narratives are a good start.  But, the story can be so much richer.  To that end, we let you edit the narratives to tell your story the way you want – as robust and colorful as your family’s history.

Photos, Maps and Historical Insights

Nothing makes a family history more colorful than great pictures.  LifeStory gives you tools to organize your photos so they support and enrich your family stories. (Watch this blog for more about Media Gallery later.)

Part of the LifeStory is a view into the places that were the backdrop of your ancestors’ lives.  These locations come directly from the places you have entered on your ancestors’ facts and placed on a map.  This is a great way to learn more about the settings that determined the opportunities and challenges they faced.  It will also highlight any errors you may have made while researching.  If a location doesn’t make sense to you, or to our computers, it will become apparent pretty quickly.

CSU_HerbetMcLuhanLifestory_png 2

One of the final touches we’ve added to LifeStory is Historical Insights.  To understand the story of your ancestor it is crucial to know the historical context in which they were living. Based on facts and sources you have for your ancestor, we try to find events in history that might be relevant to tell the ancestor’s story. They work like hints, only instead of having a record or a photo behind the leaf they have a curated page with richer content about that episode in history. They appear on the LifeStory timeline for you to review. We target Historical Insights so they work most of the time, but we realize they don’t always fit. Sometimes insights are irrelevant for the person and sometimes it’s just not an interesting part of their life story. Just click to ignore and it will go away.

CSU_HerbetMcLuhanLifestory_png 3

I’m excited about the opportunities LifeStory opens up for me.  This view helps me find my own errors and correct them so that I’m representing the truth about my ancestors’ lives.  It also helps me recreate the stories of their ancestors’ lives with features not previously available in a way that engages the imaginations and memories of the rest of my family.

I can’t wait to hear what new things you discover and create with the Ancestry LifeStory.

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at Ancestry.com since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Google Twitter

14 Comments

  1. douggrf

    Are the comments being moved off-site display for each days entries. I noticed that June 1, 2015 no longer appears.
    I am currently a long-time member, but in registered guest status I would like to PREVIEW Beta without paying more money upfront.

  2. David

    Most of the facts relating to “Custom event” do not appear on my Life story pages. In particular ” media” (letters home) that were attached to a particular date/ battle of the civil war..
    Other example being wounded at the Battle of New Hope Church Dallas GA( shot in the face) this date and media are in the Facts page but do not appear in his life story.. Rather important part of his life… Suggestions?

    • Crista Cowan

      David – If you click over to the Facts View, you will see those custom events there. Click EDIT on any one of them and you will see LifeStory Options. From there you can decide what and how it will show up in the LifeStory view.

  3. Ancestry site have always provide accurate information concerning family tree. Lifestory seems to be another success to come.

  4. Jeff Jahn

    For some reason the new look is causing duplicate facts to appear for me. I dont remember this being a issue till yesterday. I work in ftm and sync up. Their not alternate facts showing either. I do have one alternate fact i know of that did show it was for a birth with year 1900, primary was 1901 and notice the alternate appears after the primary so in this case 1901 appears then 1900.

  5. Gloria

    Crista, I really like the story view, it’s clear and I adore timelines. As you said I get a fresh look at that person and spot where I need to research more, or see missing media items and facts. Will it be possible in the future to create “patterns” for custom facts like we do in FTM so that they are going to “write themselves” as if they were standard facts? I just love the narrative, but writing so many one by one is going to be time consuming 🙂

  6. Rhonda

    I edited the “life story options” on a fact, however the box “show on life story” is greyed out and I can’t select it. Nothing that I add under the Life Story Option shows up on life story.

  7. Martha

    Creating Life Stories for subscribers with a computer program violates their right to write their own stories. For one, the computer can’t differentiate between cities and towns in different states with the same name. The fact that your system has already embedded a photo of Hitler in someone’s tree b/c there was a German ancestor proves software programs have no sense of decorum and can be incredibly offensive. It becomes apparent from these facts and a reading of the badly written text above that subscribers are going to spend all their time correcting mistakes made by your “new” software. All your young employees who attended K-6 after 1966 just can’t write well. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following: The text above says “all the info come from facts you created.” It should be “info comes from…” and we don’t create facts, we “record” them. You write “locations come from…places you have entered on your ancestors’ facts.” One might enter data on a fact sheet or page or info might be “recorded among or with” an ancestor’s facts, but one DOES NOT enter on… facts. You write it’s a “great way to learn…about the settings that determined the…challenges they faced.” Their environment, living conditions, and circumstances are all better adjectives for describing what determined their challenges than the term “settings.” Lastly, you write about when “a location does not make sense to you, or to our computers…” Seriously? Makes sense to your computers? Excuse me, but we, the users of the site, are the ones with the computers; you have the software. In addition, nothing will ever make sense to a computer b/c it’s dead hardware. It should say “makes sense to you, or to our program or software,” NOT “our computers.” Then there’s all the missed words b/c proofreading wasn’t done or was done carelessly.

    As you can see, even your best writers aren’t very good. Smart businesses and smart employees are able to recognize their weaknesses and act accordingly. Your weaknesses are use of English and software programming. You have an excellent product in the Classic program that could be even better with some tweaking. Why in the world wouldn’t you focus your efforts on that? NEW DOES NOT EQUAL BETTER. When-o-when will human beings get it that through their thick skulls? American education leaders have destroyed our educ. system by believing that new is better. Please…acknowledge your error in judgment, apologize for putting all of us through this nightmare, and get on with the business of improving Classic to make a really good product even better through your users’ suggestions. Shame on all of you for wasting such a grand opportunity. Shame on all of you for not caring about all the damage your “new” program does to countless decades of work by your paying users. That your Terms & Conditions permits you this latitude is a joke. Every clause in that document is a unilateral clause, i.e. it grants only you the option to do the act addressed and does not give the other party any options at all. It’s also a joke, b/c, according to a study, if internet users took the time to read the Terms & Conditions of every site they use, that’s all they’d be doing for several years. That’s how long it takes to read each of those documents, so let’s not pretend that you’ve entered into contracts with your subscribers at arm’s length and in the spirit of fair dealing, because you have not. Now, it’s time to do right by your subscribers by responding to their needs in an ethical and fair manner. In case you haven’t noticed, most are literally screaming at you to please drop the “new” or at least keep the Classic so they have a fair and reasonable option that meets their particular needs. Most say they will leave if you don’t. To the principals of this company: That you are each no doubt paid millions in salary and benefits doesn’t excuse bad character, unfair dealing and fraudulent acts. In the end, this is about the quality of your character and whether you have any integrity at all.

  8. Martha

    Creating Life Stories for subscribers with a computer program violates their right to write their own stories. For one, the computer can’t differentiate between cities and towns in different states with the same name. The fact that your system has already embedded a photo of Hitler in someone’s tree b/c there was a German ancestor proves software programs have no sense of decorum and can be incredibly offensive. It becomes apparent from these facts and a reading of the badly written text above that subscribers are going to spend all their time correcting mistakes made by your “new” software. All your young employees who attended K-6 after 1966 just can’t write well. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following: The text above says “all the info come from facts you created.” It should be “info comes from…” and we don’t create facts, we “record” them. You write “locations come from…places you have entered on your ancestors’ facts.” One might enter data on a fact sheet or page or info might be “recorded among or with” an ancestor’s facts, but one DOES NOT enter on… facts. You write it’s a “great way to learn…about the settings that determined the…challenges they faced.” Their environment, living conditions, and circumstances are all better adjectives for describing what determined their challenges than the term “settings.” Lastly, you write about when “a location does not make sense to you, or to our computers…” Seriously? Makes sense to your computers? Excuse me, but we, the users of the site, are the ones with the computers; you have the software. In addition, nothing will ever make sense to a computer b/c it’s dead hardware. It should say “makes sense to you, or to our program or software,” NOT “(caps for emphasis only) our computers.” Then there’s all the missed words b/c proofreading wasn’t done or was done carelessly.

    As you can see, even your best writers aren’t very good. Smart businesses and smart employees are able to recognize their weaknesses and act accordingly. Your weaknesses are use of English and software programming. You have an excellent product in the Classic program that could be even better with some tweaking. Why in the world wouldn’t you focus your efforts on that? NEW DOES NOT EQUAL BETTER. When-o-when will human beings get that through their thick skulls? American education leaders have destroyed our educ. system by believing that new is better.

    Please…acknowledge your error in judgment, apologize for putting all of us through this nightmare, and get on with the business of improving Classic to make a really good product even better through your users’ suggestions. Shame on all of you for wasting such a grand opportunity. Shame on all of you for not caring about all the damage your “new” program does to countless decades of work by your paying users.

    That your Terms & Conditions permits you this latitude is a joke. Every clause in that document is a unilateral clause, i.e. it grants only you the option to do the act described and does not give the other party the right of refusal, the right to negotiate nor any other option. It’s also a joke, because, according to a study, if internet users read the Terms & Conditions of every site they use, that’s all they’d be doing for an excessively unreasonable period of time, like several years, so let’s not pretend that you’ve entered into contracts with your subscribers at arm’s length and in the spirit of fair dealing, because YOU HAVE NOT.

    Now, it’s time to do right by your subscribers by responding to their needs in an ethical and fair manner. In case you haven’t noticed, most are literally screaming at you to please drop the “new” or at least keep the Classic so they have a fair and reasonable option that meets their particular needs. Most say they will leave if you don’t.

    To the principals of this company: That each of you is no doubt paid millions in salary and benefits doesn’t excuse bad character, unfair dealing and fraudulent acts. In the end, this is about the quality of your character and whether you have any integrity at all.

  9. mary

    Here are 3 examples of the offensive, juvenile, incorrect nonsense being added by Ancestry to MY carefully constructed historical display: My grandmother was born in India to American citizen missionaries. The way Ancestry tells it she “moved from India to the US at a time when immigrants were expected to quickly assimilate into American society,” This insightful gem is accompanied by a helpful photo of “huddled masses.”

    Uncle Henry went to “Bleeding Kansas” in 1855 because he was a Quaker and abolitionist. He rode with John Brown, was charged with treason, and eventually became a major in the Union Army. Ancestry implies, photo and all, that he was a homesteader in a covered wagon. They even added the now infamous HUGE shot of the #^$& grasshoppers!

    “James was one of many Irish living in NYC at a time when the Big Apple was experiencing a boom in Irish immigrants.” I suspect even many 12-year-olds would know that nobody called NYC the Big Apple in 1871. Who writes this crap?

    For Ancestry to respond that I may feel free to delete it is beyond the pale. Ancestry makes a mess and hands US a mop?

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