Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Only Constant is Change


For those of you who like your family tree "just so"—and kept that way—don't look now, but there's another change afoot at 

I'll have to admit: most of the changes coming our way from the various genealogical giants on the for-profit side of the equation have been, at the very least, benign. Many are outright helpful. Not so, this latest addition to the toolbox.

I happen to prefer viewing a document and deciding for myself whether the person featured is indeed my ancestor—not just taking someone else's word for it. When building my tree on Ancestry, I always look at the document in question before clicking to make it part of my "footnote" column on an ancestor's profile.

It used to be such a simple process. View hint. Click through to view document. Examine evidence. Choose yes. Or no. And move on to the next hint.

Now? It takes a tango with a jungle of transcribed information sliding into view from yet another page before I can get to that small, hyperlinked "View Record Page" key to access the stuff I wanted to see in the first place. Tedious.

I'm sure someone means well. It's quite obvious with another recent addition—the "tour" of the 1940 census—that Ancestry takes their calling as educators to heart. They want their product to be usable, and with so many newcomers taking delight in discovering their roots, the company surely understands their responsibility to enable customers to benefit from their product.

But it would be helpful for customers to have a way to decide whether an upgraded option is helpful—or simply more clutter standing in the way of attaining our research goals. After all, so many ancestors, so little time.

Why call for yet another step to coax me into doing what I already do without fail, anyhow? If I could find the switch to turn that option to "off" and dispatch this new feature to the ignored hints bin, I'd gladly do so.

Perhaps for some, options like this are necessary training wheels. I appreciate the "app" feeling shaping the research behavior of new subscribers. But when we're ready to start pedaling on our own, it's nice to not have to lug around those extra wheels as baggage.


  1. My sentiments EXACTLY. I waste so much time instinctively clicking on "Review," then having to back out of that useless right-hand column. I want to see the record and then use it or not. Often, even when I add it, names need to be adjusted, etc. Right on, Jacqi!

    1. I've had to retrain my habitual process, too, Lisa. I guess we'll get adjusted to hopping through those extra hoops.

      Putting things in perspective, an extra click to access a world of digitized documentation still means we can more quickly access a world of records than we ever could find, before Ancestry.

  2. I absolutely HATE the changes ancestry just did that you mentioned! At least if you're just doing a search and not utilizing the hints you don't have to go through this!

    1. I feel another post coming on about this situation, Lara, especially about what you mentioned. There are work-arounds, as you've discovered. It's unfortunate to have to jump through extra hoops, but I've noticed there are ways to get (almost) straight to the document to do the comparisons for ourselves. And it seems not every document is locked into that two-step dance.

  3. You're right Jacqi! Totally annoying and distracting.

    1. In a way, I guess it is the change to the process that seems annoying, Kat. And we've come to expect that process to be streamlined, seamless, nearly invisible, as it enables us to quickly access the documents we're seeking, without calling attention to itself. It would have been nice, however, to find one of those "feedback" buttons requesting our input, as Ancestry has done in the recent past. I like to think of the researcher/ relationship as a partnership, and their past openness to feedback certainly has encouraged customers to feel that way.

  4. Before, you would (in your own words above) click to "View hint. Click through to view document. Examine evidence. Choose yes. Or no. And move on to the next hint."

    Now, you do the same. Click to view the hint (the side panel slides out instead of a whole new web page loading, which to me is a huge time saver). You click on the image of the document at the top of the side panel (if an image exists for that particular record). Examine the evidence. Go through the same record merge process as before (except now you can do it while right on the profile page of the person so you can compare the information in the record that you are saving to the information you already have in your tree).

    Can you help me understand where you are seeing "extra hoops?"

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Crista. I would love to have the opportunity to discuss changes to what has been my go-to research companion for decades now. Ancestry has made it possible for so many researchers to learn more about their family history than anyone could have accomplished with their research, prior to the advent of this company.

      Among the tools Ancestry brings to the table, the most valuable to me has been the ability to view actual documents and examine whether the details enclosed in the visual apply to my ancestor, and whether there are additional details embedded in the document which are not included in any transcription offered. Sometimes, the viewing makes an enormous difference, especially for the person already familiar with that family line. That's why I head first to the digitized version of the document, rather than simply accepting an indexed version of the record without taking a look.

      I certainly can concede that I am not the average customer. My brain works differently than most...I am pretty much an outlier, looking right when others look left, and tending to find stuff by poking around. However, I find the new feature, while meaning well and likely helpful to many, to be distracting. It is not a matter of whether it is two clicks or three, but the visual clutter of the new side panel screen when it slips into place.

      For instance, clicking on a hint, prompting the entrance from the right of the new panel, my eyes are drawn to the words, "Step 1: Evaluate record." That implies to me there are other step(s) to follow (i.e. at least another click).

      Then, scrolling down, the button "Compare details" invites another click, but still does not produce the document I am seeking, but only more transcription. The amount of verbiage--particularly for a readout on, say, the 1840 census--adds further to the visual distraction. And yet, still no document to view.

      It is only when I finally scroll down to the bottom of that panel and answer the question, "Would you like to save this information to your tree," by committing to "Yes," that the system brings me to the long-expected "Step 2: Add facts." Even then, the process is not over.

      Instead, my usual habit (as I said, I'm not like most people) would have been to right click on the document itself (in the old system) so that I could look at the two, side by side, under my own control. I would not want to add that document to my ancestor's profile without being able to first view it for myself.

      While it is true that one can see the typewritten text from the document at one glance (and, I suppose, one click), that does not attain my own habitual research purpose of being able to view the document (not a transcription) for myself before answering "Yes" to a question that simply leads to step two of a process.

      While I appreciate your input--especially considering your longstanding role as educator for a much-appreciated company--I still would prefer the ability to clearly see how to go straight to a view of the document in question, or at least have the opportunity to bypass or opt out of the newer tutorial-style features. I believe I've found work-arounds to achieve that purpose, but wish that wasn't necessary. To have to seek a work-around, to me, is the "extra hoop" I am referring to.


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