Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Running Around in Circles


Best laid plans sometimes get the run-around. I was hoping Ancestry's latest offering, dubbed Circles, would open doors for much-needed collaboration on a family history mystery. Granted, Ancestry's Circles was still marked as a beta version, so naturally the early adaptors might become the guinea pigs who help work out the bugs. I might not care for bugs much, but you know me: always up for being the genealogy guinea pig, so I couldn't wait to give Circles a try.

Give it a try, that is, if I could find the front door to enter this new world of opportunity. That wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.

When I'm stumped with tech issues, I've learned to poke around and click on possibilities until a virtual door opens up and lets me in. I found the first door in my hunt for Circles when I clicked on those three little dots next to an Ancestry subscriber's name in the message center. Just the other day, I noticed the choices offered there had expanded to include "Create a Circle" and "Invite to Circle."

Great. Hurdle One overcome. I set up a Circle so I could invite the Ancestry members and DNA matches who had been working with me on figuring out the connection between my father-in-law's Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery and that other Dennis Tully couple.

Enter Hurdle Number Two: I sent out the invitations, then separately messaged each invitee to give him or her a heads-up that I had figured out how to get the process started.

And waited.

Eventually, I got an email from one of my contacts, who informed me that he hadn't gotten any such message from me. That's when I discovered I couldn't even figure out how to find the Circle that I had set up, myself. This beta offering might have been a great idea at the start, but it was becoming a well-kept secret.

While a Google search didn't locate previous Ancestry announcements that I know I had received, I was positive I had seen something. At a loss as to how to retrace my steps, I tried talking to the chatbot at Ancestry, which gave a few links to help articles. Those, however, were mostly about how to set up a new Circle. I, on the other hand, was seeking how to troubleshoot what had obviously gone wrong about a Circle I had already set up. Likewise, an attempt at a chat with a real person—and a nice one, at that—didn't produce the hoped for answers.

In the meantime, here are a few details I gleaned from the material I did find. The good thing was that, once having been sent to those links with information, I could save them for future reference. I have no idea how I would have found them otherwise—my first problem with Circles. Ancestry Circles seems to be a great idea and I'm glad the company has launched this opportunity, but finding the front door to access the tool seems to be Ancestry's best-kept secret.

Apparently, the key to finding information on the Circles is to begin with one's own Ancestry account. I wouldn't have thought to click on my photo in the top righthand corner of the Ancestry website landing page, but that is where "Your Profile" provides a drop-down menu which includes the choice, "Circles"—with a green button proclaiming, "New." 

If you've already set up a Circle at Ancestry, clicking on that choice leads to that specific Circle—or, if none has already been set up, where you can start the process. Creating the Circle was easy. On my end, the process indicated that my notices were sent out, just as I had set them up to go through Ancestry's own messaging system—though you can also send emailed invitations, even to people who are not currently Ancestry subscribers (as long as they are willing to set up a free account with Ancestry, called a Registered Guest account).

From there, all the receiver had to do when receiving my message was to click the very obvious button to accept.

After that point, it seemed I could merrily continue adding more of my fellow Tully researchers with this handy addition:

The only drawback: my invitees didn't think it was all that easy to follow through. One subscriber said he didn't even receive my invitation, despite my sending it out a second time after receiving his email. Another subscriber—the one who suggested the idea to me in the first place—couldn't find any way to actually accept the offer.

One other drawback was that, having set up the Circle, even I couldn't find a way to access it afterwards. It took a lot of poking around—I can't even tell you how I got there—before I found my way back home to my Circle.

And there it sits, freshly etched in the ether, my virtual Circle, full of promise as a research tool to help all of us invited Tully DNA matches and puzzled descendants—of either Denis Tully and Margaret Flannery or Dennis Tully and Margaret Hurley—figure out just how we are connected.

If only someone could find the way to answer the invitation. 

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