Sunday, November 29, 2015

AncestryDNA Frustration Levels Continue to Rise at this Genealogy House

Well here I am again, writing about more troubles and issues with This time we have a mix of issues they may involve the old vs new Ancestry website, as well as the computers that run the DNA matching system.
During the third week of November, I called in two trouble complaints to the tech support people at AncestryDNA. One involved a problem getting back to the match list from a match's page when using the "new Ancestry" webpages with either Internet Explorer 11 or Google Chrome. Switch back to the old Ancestry website pages and the issue goes away.
I don't mind telling you if I keep having issues with AncestryDNA pages crashing my browser after a handful of match views, and me having to restart the browser each time that happens, you won't be hearing nice things after the 15th of December when the old pages go away. You folks need to get this fixed ASAP or delay your implementation. BTW I did confirm that others are having the same issue and they were able to duplicate the issue at AncestryDNA tech support.
But there is a second problem and this second issue is a bit more sinister in nature and it calls into play the entire computer DNA-tree matching system at Ancestry. The first instant I have documented  involves a cousin who is a DNA match at both FTDNA and Ancestry that I have been researching with for decades. Since my early days as a Beta tester for AncestryDNA, my cousin Gerald, my dad and I have been AncestryDNA leaf matches with a strong paper trail that supports it. DNA testing at Ancestry, GEDmatch and FTDNA all show the same thing, we are all cousins, well until now.
Recently while adding in the new shared cM/segment data that Ancestry now has available for each match into my DNA matches spread sheet, I noticed something very odd. My cousin Gerald's tree was no longer showing a leaf match between him, my dad and me. In addition it was showing his tree as private.
Now to some that might not be that big of a thing, but Gerald's tree is not private and I have contributor access to it (both recently confirmed by him). In addition, now when I do a surname search off either my father's DNA match list page or mine, the surname Witt we share in common does not bring his tree up in the DNA match list (he has all sorts of Witt ancestors and so do I). Nothing has changed on either end, we still have him listed as a DNA match, but now he is not a leaf match and we can't see the tree anymore off the DNA match page since it says it is private, yet I do have contributor access.
What makes it even more bizarre, I got an email this week saying that he had added to his tree. When I clicked on the link, I could see his tree via that email link and here is what it showed.
If you look closely at the graphic above it says Your role (that is me) Contributor.
Now the nice lady at AncestryDNA tech support was able to verify that there was an issue and put in a trouble call on November 20 [Incident: 151118-000867] which I also uploaded to screen captures per her instructions. I even received a nice email thanking me (verifying they had received the screen captures) from someone named Christopher.
On November 25, I received the following email from Ancestry.

This email is in reference to your recent inquiry with Ancestry Member Services, number 151118-000867.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to assist you. Now we'd like to know how we did, and what we can do better. Please take a moment to complete the following short survey about the support we provided.

Click here to take this survey.

Sincerely, Ancestry Member Services

**Please do not respond to this auto-generated message, as we will not receive it.

When you clicked on the link to take the survey it didn't work. Surprise, surprise.
Regardless, of what this email says the issue isn't fixed, it doesn't work still either. They either don't know what they are doing, didn't look at it or just flat blew me off, none of which makes me a happy camper, uh, customer.
BTW, Ancestry does not show a match between my cousin Gerald and my 1C-1R Jerilyn (GEDmatch shows they share 8.6 cM/1637 SNPs on Chromosome 10 and she is a descendant of the same line as my dad, Gerald and me, but no match at Ancestry.
Now it is getting even worse. I have my four family DNA testers all linked to their spots in our family DNA tree. Those four are me, my dad, my cousin mentioned above (that is also genetically a match to my cousin Gerald) and my mother. It is the tree I use publicly for my AncestryDNA testers (we share the same family).
Since this incident cropped up a new one has just surfaced today. Again keep in mind that my dad and I are using a common tree that I have prepared at Ancestry just for DNA matching purposes. So any leaf match I have, he should also. But not so fast my friend.
Today I discovered that while I have an AncestryDNA leaf match with one of my cousins and her father (see screen grab above click for a zoomed in version), my dad doesn't get the same treatment from the computers at Ancestry (see screen grabs below for the same two cousins shown above for me).
And this plays into what I have been seeing on a regular basis now since the changeover to the v2 last year. I track all my leaf matches for all six of my testers very, very closely. I have seen leaf matches come, go and reappear again; matches themselves come, go and reappear and in some cases disappear; and sometime it happens in a matter of only hours. One match in particular appeared, disappeared, reappeared as a leaf match, disappeared and came back as a leaf match again, all in a matter of two weeks.
I'm sorry Ancestry this is no way to run a railroad. You have some major issues and I bet if others followed their matches as close as I do, they would start discovering some crazy issues as well.
You folks have some problems and instead of investing time, manpower and energy make your site pretty for the masses, how about taking that same energy, time and manpower to make it work properly.
My subscription to your site is up for renewal in two months. I have been a continuous subscriber for nearly 15 years now. But all of this has given me pause to rethink whether this relationship will go on further or not. Something has to give and it isn't going to be my sanity, plus the waste of time and energy I am expending working with your DNA system.
Guess it is time to get back on the phone with tech support again. Just damn!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

News Flash! Digitized Microfilm: From the Drawer to Your Computer

Great new from the FamilySearch Blog at has the complete story,

Exciting news is here explaining how users will access microfilmed records found in the FamilySearch catalog. In the early weeks of November, a new feature called the Thumbnail Gallery will be available to the public. Everywhere that historical record images are visible, users can view a single full-screen image or view a gallery of thumbnail (small) images for all images on a microfilm. Parts of this new viewer can be accessed through the Record Hints on Family Tree.

It is important to note that the thumbnail gallery will respect all record restrictions. Some digitized films will be available to anyone at home with a FamilySearch log-in. Other films will be LDS-only or family history center–only. Logged in users will see the camera icon based on their access rights. Only completely unrestricted images will display the camera icon for users who are not logged in. When you notice a film with the format icons, look at the same film as a logged-in user and nonlogged-in user. View films from home and from your family history center. Becoming familiar with the icons will help you be a better resource for answers from your staff and from visitors.

A complete transition to digitized film will happen over several years.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Another Ancestry DNA change just hit the street

The other night I told Gayle (those of you who do not know that is my lovely spouse) that I knew Ancestry was fixing to make another change/upgrade. And I was right. Must b getting pretty good at predicting these things now.

They have added a new feature (aka another DNA diagnostic tool) to the Ancestry DNA match page.

Now when you open a match you will get the total amount of shared DNA with your matches in centimorgans (cM) and how many segments that DNA occupies. So again they are slowly advancing the ball towards a chromosome browser IMHO.

Below is a screen capture of what I saw for my dad's match with me.

This feature works on every match on your pages including private trees, unlinked trees, no linked trees, leaf matches, etc.

Now how accurate is it, that remains to be seen.  CU you all in class Tuesday night and hope to have more in the pre class show.

Here is the information page from Ancestry on this feature which is tied to the match confidence level.

What does the match confidence score mean?

When we compare your DNA to the DNA of one of your matches, we calculate a confidence score for you. This score lets you know how much DNA evidence there is for you and your match actually being related.
But, just because you and another member have identical DNA doesn’t mean that you both inherited that DNA from a recent genealogical ancestor. (Learn how you can have identical DNA and not be related.) That’s where the confidence score comes in, and how we calculate the likelihood that you and your DNA match are actually related. A high confidence score means that we’re pretty sure that your DNA is identical because it was inherited from a recent ancestor. A lower score means that your identical DNA might be because you’re related, but it might also be because you have similar ethnic or regional backgrounds.

The confidence score is based on the amount and location of the DNA that you share with your match. We show the shared amount using centimorgans (cM), a unit used to measure the length of DNA. The higher the number, the higher the confidence, and in general, the closer the relationship. Since you can share DNA with your match on one or more segments in different locations in the genome, we show you how many. Note that the number of segments and number of centimorgans that we show reflects only those segments that we believe were inherited from a recent common ancestor (in other words, segments that are likely to be identical by descent).

When you’re exploring your list of DNA matches, look for these confidence scores and let them help you focus your research.

Confidence Score / Details

Extremely High  - Approximate amount of sharing: More than 30 centimorgans
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  Virtually 100%
You and your match share enough DNA to prove that you’re both descendants of a common ancestor (or couple)--and the connection is recent enough to be conclusive.

Very High  - Approximate amount of sharing: 20—30 centimorgans
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  99%
You and your match share enough DNA that we are almost certain you’re both descendants of a recent common ancestor (or couple).

High  - Approximate amount of sharing: 12—20 centimorgans
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  95%
You and your match share enough DNA that it is likely you’re both descendants of the same common ancestor or couple, but there’s a small chance the common ancestor(s) are quite distant and difficult to identify.

Good  - Approximate amount of sharing: 6—12 centimorgans
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  More than 50%
You and your match share some DNA, probably from a recent common ancestor or couple, but the DNA may be from distant ancestors that are difficult to identify.

Moderate  - Approximate amount of sharing: 6 centimorgans or less
Likelihood you and your match share a single recent common ancestor (within 5 or 6 generations):  20—50%
You and your match might share DNA because of a recent common ancestor or couple, share DNA from very distant ancestors, or you may not be related.

It’s important to note that the confidence score is related only to your match and not to the relationship range we’ve assigned. The confidence score should not be interpreted as our confidence that you are specifically 4th cousins, for example. Instead, it lets you know how confident you should be that you and your DNA match are related through a recent common ancestor.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Setting the Record Straight on Province and Colony Names

While entering states into your genealogy databases - have you ever wondered what the correct name for Georgia or the other twelve, before they became a state ? While most researchers opt for listing these as they are now known, during colonial days, Delaware, Maryland and the others were not states, but instead were known as  a colony or a province. Virginia during colonial days was known as Colony and Dominion of Virginia. The following list can assist your research as well as keeping a concise and correct name for those once known as the Thirteen Colonies.

Thirteen Colonies
The chart below lists the 13 original colonies in alphabetical order, along with information about when each colony was founded and when each colony became a state:

January 9, 1788
December 7, 1787
January 2, 1788
April 28, 1788
February 6, 1788
New Hampshire
June 21, 1788
New Jersey
December 18, 1787
New York
July 26, 1788
North Carolina
November 21, 1789
December 12, 1787
Rhode Island
May 29, 1790
South Carolina
May 23, 1788
June 25, 1788

Contemporary documents usually list the thirteen colonies of British North America in geographical order, from the north to the south.

·         Province of New Hampshire, later New Hampshire, a crown colony

·         Province of Massachusetts Bay, later Massachusetts and Maine, a crown colony

·         Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, later Rhode Island, a crown colony

·         Connecticut Colony, later Connecticut, a crown colony

·         Province of New York, later New York and Vermont,[3] a crown colony

·         Province of New Jersey, later New Jersey, a crown colony

·         Province of Pennsylvania, later Pennsylvania, a proprietary colony

·         Delaware Colony (before 1776, the Lower Counties on Delaware), later Delaware, a proprietary colony

(Virginia and Maryland comprised the Chesapeake Colonies)

·        Province of Maryland, later Maryland, a proprietary colony

·        Colony and Dominion of Virginia, later Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia, a crown colony

·        Province of North Carolina, later North Carolina and Tennessee, a crown colony

·        Province of South Carolina, later South Carolina, a crown colony

·        Province of Georgia, later Georgia, northern sections of Alabama and Mississippi, a crown colony

Other divisions prior to 1730

Dominion of New England
Created in 1685 by a decree from King James II that consolidated Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Rhode Island, Connecticut,Province of New York, East Jersey, and West Jersey into a single larger colony. The experiment collapsed afterthe Glorious Revolution of 1688–89, and the nine former colonies re-established their separate identities in 1689.
Settled in 1630 by Puritans from England. The colonial charter was revoked in 1684, and a new charter establishing an enlarged Province of Massachusetts Bay was issued in 1691.
Settled in 1622 (An earlier attempt to settle the Popham Colony in Sagadahoc, Maine (near present-day Phippsburg and Popham Beach State Park) in 1607 was abandoned after only one year). The Massachusetts Bay Colony claimed the Maine territory (then limited to present-day southernmost Maine) in the 1650s. Parts of Maine east of the Kennebec River were also part of New York in the second half of the 17th century. These areas were formally made part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in the charter of 1691.
Settled in 1620 by the Pilgrims. Plymouth was merged into the Province of Massachusetts Bay in the charter of 1691.
Founded in 1635 and merged with Connecticut Colony in 1644.
Settled in late 1637. New Haven was absorbed by Connecticut Colony with the issuance of the Connecticut Charter in 1662, partly as royal punishment by King Charles II for harboring the regicide judges who sentenced King Charles I to death.
Settled as part of New Netherland in the 1610s, New Jersey was captured (along with New York) by English forces in 1664. New Jersey was divided into two separate colonies in 1674, which were reunited in 1702.
Founded in 1663. Carolina colony was divided into two colonies, North Carolina and South Carolina, in 1712. Both colonies became royal colonies in 1729.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ancestry Launches Largest Online Collection of Wills and Probate Records in United States

Just remember where you heard about this first, here on the Family Roots and Branches blog on Monday. ;-) Operations Inc Press Release. 8:30 am EDT

PROVO, UT--(Marketwired - September 02, 2015) - More than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the United States is now available online exclusively on Ancestry. With searchable records included from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005), this unprecedented collection launches a new category of records for family history research never before available online at this scale the United States.
Until now, these records have only been available offline. Ancestry spent more than two years bringing this collection online, working with hundreds of different archives from individual state and local courts across the country and making a $10M investment to license and digitize the records. The documents cover well over 100 million people, including the deceased as well as their family, friends and others involved in the probate process. Ancestry expects to continue to grow the collection, with additional records available over the next several years.

"Ancestry has worked hard over the past decade, to make available a variety of collections that can help the most seasoned family history expert and novices alike learn more about their ancestors," said Todd Godfrey, Vice President of Global Content. "Ancestry's vast collection of billions of unique historic records makes it the only place online that can give people such a comprehensive view into their family's unique history."

Today, state and federal census records are the most commonly searched collections in family history research, offering a variety of information that is important for building out your family tree. Wills however are one of the most desired types of records, as they can be a treasure trove of information that provides insight into your ancestors' lives, loves, land, and possessions.

"Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors, going beyond names and dates, and providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more," said Godfrey. "Reading these records you will find a deeper level of understanding about who your ancestors were, who they cared about, what they treasured, and how they lived."

There is something for everyone in the new U.S. Wills and Probate collection on Ancestry, whether you are an experienced family historian or new to the pursuit. Some examples of what can be found in the collection include:
  • Rich Stories -- A deeper level of understanding is possible when you learn about the more intricate details of your ancestors' lives through their eyes; details that can tell new or more compelling stories of their everyday existence, and perhaps, shed light on their character and personality, as well as important subtext that can reflect the type of lifestyle, education, and status an ancestor may have had through language or possessions.
  • New Discoveries -- Whether valuable heirlooms, sizable estates, or meager but treasured belongings to pass down, the riches of your ancestor's lives can be found in a will. Family research can be fun when you "follow the money" and see who wound up with what or even, to which charities or organizations a person's estate was entrusted.
  • Friends and Family Members -- Many additional names can be found in a will in addition to the deceased. Wills can reveal new family members you didn't know about, and identify new connections, and tell more about the relationships between people mentioned in the will. Intriguing controversies can be seen as you read about those close to them who were included in the will, and those who were cut out.
With a collection that begins with wills from the mid 17th century running through the early 21st, last wishes and estates of notables citizens that helped shape the nation over the past three hundred years can be found in this new collection of Wills and Probates, including past Presidents, businessmen, entrepreneurs, sports legends, famous entertainers, artists and writers, scientists, and much, much more.

Here are the records available as of today:

Alabama, Wills and Probate Records, 1753-1999
Alaska, Wills and Probate Records, 1883-1978
Arizona, Wills and Probate Records, 1803-1995
Arkansas, Wills and Probate Records, 1783-1998
California, Wills and Probate Records, 1782-1999
Colorado, Wills and Probate Records, 1875-1974
Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999 
Delaware, Wills and Probate Records, 1676-1971  
Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1974
Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992  
Hawaii, Wills and Probate Records, 1822-1962  
Idaho, Wills and Probate Records, 1857-1989
Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999
Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999
Iowa, Wills and Probate Records, 1758-1997
Kansas, Wills and Probate Records, 1803-1987
Kentucky, Wills and Probate Records, 1774-1989
Louisiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1756-1984
Maine, Wills and Probate Records, 1584-1999
Maryland, Wills and Probate Records, 1604-1878
Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991
Michigan, Wills and Probate Records, 1784-1980
Minnesota, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-1999
Mississippi, Wills and Probate Records, 1780-1982
Missouri, Wills and Probate Records, 1766-1988
Montana, Wills and Probate Records, 1831-1952
Nebraska, Wills and Probate Records, 1806-1989
Nevada, Wills and Probate Records, 1906-1925
New Hampshire, Wills and Probate Records, 1643-1982
New Jersey, Wills and Probate Records, 1656-1999
New Mexico, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-1993
New York County, New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1658-1880 (NYSA) 
New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999
North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998
North Dakota and South Dakota, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1985
Oklahoma, Wills and Probate Records, 1801-2008
Oregon, Wills and Probate Records, 1833-1963
Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993
Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932
South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1670-1980
Tennessee, Wills and Probate Records, 1727-2008
Texas, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-2000
Utah, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1985
Vermont, Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999
Washington, D.C., Wills and Probate Records, 1737-1952
Washington, Wills and Probate Records, 1807-1997
West Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1978
Wisconsin, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1987
To celebrate the launch of the new U.S. Wills and Probates collection on Ancestry, the collection along with all U.S. birth, marriage and death records, will be available to explore for FREE, September 2 (12pm MT) through September 7 (10pm MT).

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ancestry Releasing a Treasure Trove of Probate Records This Week


At the 2013 Rootstech in Salt Lake, Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan announced that and FamilySearch will work together to capture 140 million pages of U.S. probate records. That would include images and indexes. It would create a national registry of wills, letters of administration and other probate records that would span from 1800-1930. It was announced that it would be a 3 year project.

Fast forward to this morning and I heard a commercial on the news-talk radio station in Washington DC - WMAL, for a free availability starting Wednesday of Ancestry's new probate collection.

I am reporting on this all that I can find on the subject (nothing yet on any of the Ancestry websites I can find) indicates that they will be releasing more than 170 million name-searchable images of probate and wills records. The most comprehensive collections of its kind, these records will provide access to almost all wills probated in the United States from the mid 19th century to 2000 – an unprecedented treasure trove of information.

I have been waiting for this release for a long time. Those of you who have taken my beginner classes know the emphasis I place on finding and using these important genealogical records, especially when you are researching in "dark territory" (you would have to attend a class to get the full meaning of that Larry-ism term). This is some pretty exciting stuff.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

AncestryDNA FINALLY introduces new "In Common With" feature, SHARED MATCHES

I opened up my AncestryDNA pages this morning and found a new feature that I have not seen before -- Shared Matches Tool.

Instead of wasting some time here typing something up (I have to teach tonight and work up my weekly genealogy columns today). I will defer to the Ancestry blog announcement at

There is a secondary article on this by TL Dixon on the Roots and Recombination blog at I have also posted the introductory video by Anne Gillespie Mitchell to a post below this one on this blog.

Introducing AncestryDNA New 'Shared Matches' Feature

Monday, August 24, 2015

What is wrong with all these pictures?

Oh boy, He is at it again. Picking on those poor people at Ancestry and FamilySearch. Ah heck, why not. Need to do a good rant every now and then. Besides I start my Fall genealogy classes tomorrow night and I want my students to have something to talk about before I arrive in class.

First, let me say I have over the years discovered trees at that have some darn good stuff -- well put together and well sourced. Then there are . . . well let me illustrate.

This is a test. What is wrong with the screen capture below? Unfortunately over half of the trees at Ancestry for the family below had this configuration.

Unfortunately, IMHO opinion, trees are even worse. In the case of FamilySearch not only are the participants doing this type of stuff, but the computers at FamilySearch make these types of changes all on their own, no prompting, they just do it.

At least at Ancestry, I have the option to ignore this insanity and I control my own tree. At FamilySearch, not only do some of the "genealogists" think they are smarter than me and my research, the computer thinks it is smarter than all of us and just makes changes even after I put correct sourced information into "MY TREE."

For the folks at FamilySearch, that is why I refuse to spend even one more millisecond messing around within your trees, and I refuse to teach my genealogy students your tree system.

And when you approach these people in Salt Lake about these issues, they say they do not have a problem or when confronted with evidence they ignore you and will not answer queries. I get an airdale salute (you Navy guys know what that is)!

This new trees system is every bit the mess you had with the Ancestral File and other tree ventures you have tried in the past. When is someone at FS going to figure out that the computer can't be trusted to take control and link up people in these online trees.

But enough of my ramblings I just pulled just three examples from my "tree" at FamilySearch. There are many, many more I assure you.

In each of these examples these are entries to "MY TREE" I did not even make. I do not have the time to sit here and go through their convoluted menu system to get this stuff out. Even if I did have then, it still continues to come back unannounced anyway.

In this first case, when the computer inserted Mary Mason I took her out of my tree as it has been positive proven she was not Elizabeth Dancy's mother (child birth at age 9) and the computer came back and inserted her back in again this time without a date of her birth. (click on image to enlarge).

In the screen shot below, I put none of these people in my tree. Didn't ask for them to be put in there. In fact, I have not even gotten that far out in the tree. Again the computer decided what was best for my tree, not me. (click on image to enlarge)

In another random act of genealogy this third example shows why this system is no better than the trees at Ancestry (at least I have control over that one).

Please notice the families on the far left and compare then closely with the rest of the chart. Again I wasn't this far out in building the tree, didn't enter these people and the computer system at FS has messed this tree up entirely.

I could keep this up for the rest of the day but to what point? They won't listen to legitimate concerns out at Salt Lake and I don't have time to keep correcting the record only to have some computer system come back and make more changes I did not ask for or want.

Genealogy trees you either love'em or hate them. But I would suggest a third alternative and you can do what I do. Nothing goes to my online tree unless the preponderance of the evidence says I am right. You can use trees but verify the information.

Bottom line, once that genie is out of the bottle, if it isn't right, good luck getting it back in the bottle.

To bad I can't get some of these Ancestry tree people, including the FamilySearch tree people in Salt Lake in some of my classes. We would have to spend some time realigning their thinking. ;-)

I'm posting this piece to my main genealogy blog as well, maybe this will get some attention, especially out at FamilySearch. Are you folks listening or will this fall on deaf ears like everything relating to this computerized tree system. Only time will tell.