Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ancestry's Member Connect

I've been seeing a lot of negative comments about Ancestry's new Member Connect feature. Randy Seaver wrote about it at GeneaMusings and wasn't happy with it. Be sure to read all of the comments too. Laura wrote about it at Root Seek and wasn't finding it helpful either. This post, at Uncommon Roots was very negative. There have been other comments made on various blogs and on Facebook but you get the idea.

I am very happy with the new Member Connect feature. I have connected my trees to many others, including other trees of mine. If something is added to a person that I've made a connection for I know about it right away. Two quick examples: First, when my Uncle died I found his obituary in the local paper right away. A day later another obituary from another paper I would not have checked was added to another tree. Second, a distant cousin added a death record to their tree for an individual that I am also interested in and had made a connection for. The record came from outside of Ancestry. Now I knew where to look for it. As for connecting to my other trees, I'll get a reminder to add the record to all the trees an individual appears in so that all the trees stay consistent :-)

Ancestry has a Webinar that you can watch to learn more, it runs about an hour. Lisa Louse Cook also has a couple of videos up that you should watch - part 1, part 2. Here is my condensed version.

I think where most people are getting frustrated is with the new Member Connect box on their home page. Here is my home page with just a few items showing in the Member Connect box.

Here is the view after I click, See More Activity. The little green men are simply notice that I've connected to another tree. I agree that they are unhelpful, after all I know I added them. Over time they will drop off the page. The first item is a record for Hazel Cox and the name doesn't ring any bells. By running my cursor over to the far right of that line I see a ? and click on it. It's a record for someone in a tree that I've been invited to, however I'm not interested in this person and it took only a second to see that. The rest of the items I am interested in.

If I click on the 1900 census link it will take me to the census page and there I am told I have already saved that record. So maybe this is not terribly helpful but only took a second to check. On the right hand side I see that I have saved the record for Philena Bovee and also who else has saved the record. I can now view their trees to see if they have other information that I do not. If the record had been attached to a private member tree I could contact the tree owner.

Now we're coming to the part that I really like. This is the profile view for Philena Myers in my tree. If I scroll down and look on the right side I see the Member Connect box for an individual. There is a picture of Philena that I don't have and also the death certificate I mentioned above.

When I click on more activity and then "Connections" I get this screen where I can compare my information to the information in the other trees. I can choose to accept their information and add it to my tree - or not. Nothing is added or changed unless I click to change/add it. Many have complained that people can "steal" their photos this way. To them I respond, read the terms of service and don't post any pictures you do not want to share freely. Understand that if you add pictures to your tree, others are going to take them and probably not give you credit.

Here I clicked on the link for hints for George Hall Ashley. I love this feature too! (I do not like the option of just adding the record without checking it first.) I'll review the census records later but for now I'll click on Ancestry Family Trees > view the trees individually.

There are two other trees with George, shown on the left. My information is on the right for easy comparison. The first one doesn't have much information so I unchecked the box (I'd much rather it be an opt in rather than opt out system) and leave the box for the second tree checked. Click connect and now if anything is added to that tree for George I will know. I can also now go back to George's profile page and this tree will now be available for comparison to my tree and I can see more information about the son Carlyle he has listed. Yeah! A new cousin to research.

Is the Member Connect feature perfect? Nope. But overall I am finding it helpful. I'm going to log in one day and see that one of my cousins has beaten me to finding that very elusive 1870 census record!


Jennifer said...

I totally agree with you. I've found at least 3-4 cousins so far who added pictures and documents from my tree to their trees. Without member connect, I probably would have never noticed their trees, as they are distant cousins. I'm really not offended that they "stole" my pics or documents.

Ronny Boucher said...

I have already read your uncle's story. The way you have memorised it, is remarkable. And any negative comments about our ancestors are very painful.

Randy Seaver said...

Excellent post, Apple. Thanks. I'll give it another try when I get home.

David said...

I have mixed feelings. There are too many irrelevant updates, yet I have found some cousins with this feature.

My biggest problem, and this may just be my perception, is that there are more and more people just collecting info with no interest in making a connection. Worse yet, there are many doing this who have no relation to the people they're adding to their tree. I don't get that.

And don't get me started on the "quality" of some of these additions or the unattributed content. What I see people doing with attached records is pretty disturbing when it comes to simple logic or plausibility.

Amy Coffin said...

I'm pretty satisfied with Member Connect. I've had several instances of not being able to connect due to the other person not updating an email address, but when I di make the connection, it's been great!

Thanks for sharing your experiences with the service.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Jennifer - Thanks! I was beginning to think I was a minority of one.

Ronny - Not interested in your site, sorry.

Randy - Try ignoring the connections on your home page and focus on the people you're working on. I think you'll like the feature better that way.

David - I totally agree and I do not connect to those types of trees. As I said above, the option of just adding a record without evaluating it is not a good idea and too many people do it. I do like being able to connect a relevant record to my tree without doing all the typing :-) As for adding unrelated people, I do that sometimes to follow or untangle relationships or migration groups but not just to collect names for the sake of having a huge tree as some seem to.

Amy - I think you'll have better luck using this service because if you see something new added you know that person is active.

Tina said...

I don't have a paid subscription to Ancestry anymore, so I can't use the member connect. When I did have a paid subscription, I could link to other public trees through hints. I also found pictures that way. I have actually had a couple of cousins contact me through messages. I've exchanged photos and information with them that way. It sounds like Member Connect makes these things a little easier.

Thanks for your post Apple. It's nice to hear something positive. :-)

GeneaDiva said...

I've found myself checking this feature every night. I'm finding most of the records I already have connected to an ancestor. I think I did find a picture of someone I added to my tree.

I'm finding people are just haphazardly adding records to their ancestors. I leave comments, but when I go back I don't see them changing their records, so more erronous information is being created when someone else just connects this record to their tree too.

I'm going to continue to work with it and see what shakes out. I see some potential benefits.

Craig Manson said...

I'm with you on this one, Apple. I like it and it's been very useful. I do agree that I see a lot of unsourced stuff, but I use that stuff as a clue and find the records myself.