Below is pasted an article appearing in today's WSJ about
Upgraded site. MS Outlook will no doubt convert this to
text and the appearance
Won't be especially attractive but many of you are unable to
receive these when I
Send them as html attachments. (any of you super-geeks got
a fix for this problem
I'm all ears).
September 6, 2006
THE MOSSBERG SOLUTION
By WALTER S. MOSSBERG AND KATHERINE BOEHRET
Building a Family Tree
Using an Upgraded Site
Online Tools Let You Add
Digital Documents to Data;
Display Options Are Limited
September 6, 2006; Page D4
Drawing up a family tree has long been the job of the family
member with the most patience and the steadiest hand. So it
makes sense to look to technology as a means of helping to
alleviate the work. For years, there have been software
programs that helped with the job, such as Family Tree Maker
for Windows and Reunion for the Macintosh. But the
technology of genealogy has been moving to the Web, and now
those Web-based tools have taken another step forward.
This week, we tested a recently revamped Web site,
e+lo+sc+re+st+',true,0,0,true);void('')> 1), which helps you
build a family tree and can integrate your tree's data with
500,000 other family trees and records containing five
billion names. The site has been around for 10 years, but an
overhauled version that intends to be more complete and
intuitive was launched in a prerelease version six weeks
helps you create and enrich your family tree
using records like draft-registration cards (above) and
census records, as well as family trees of other users.
The new Ancestry.com
offers numerous features, the most
important of which is much better integration of the site's
data with your own information. These data include census
records, military draft-registration cards, marriage
certificates and immigration records. Some of this
information has been available before, on CDs and on the
Web, but digging it up has largely been a separate process
from creating a family tree.
You can build a family tree right on the Web site, without
the need for stand-alone software, and you can share that
tree with others. As names are added to the tree, icons that
look like green leaves appear beside those of your family
members to whom data on Ancestry.com
might be linked. You
can "grow" your tree by attaching those data if they're
relevant, further enriching your finished product.
The site has some limitations, and it's expensive. But we
really liked it and were excited to discover things like
handwritten census entries from the early 1900s mentioning
our forebears, or draft-registration cards for our
grandparents and great-grandparents.
can be used free -- as long as you're just
using data that you provide, such as names, dates and
geographic details. But the teasing leaves of information
can be opened only if you pay. A U.S. Deluxe membership
costs $30 a month or $150 a year. And a more expensive $40 a
month or $347 a year World Deluxe membership lets you see
family-history records from outside the U.S. as well.
These prices are hefty, but the information's value can be
huge. And, the prices look smaller if you only need the
research capability for a month or two. A more-limited
version of the service, without the family-tree building
features, is available free at some libraries.
Not everyone we typed into our trees had associated records.
When we did get lucky, however, we grabbed the phone to
share our findings with relatives, or emailed them images of
the records. Your tree and all records attached to those in
your tree can be shared via email with anyone else.
is broken down into four major tabs for
searching: Historical Records, Family Trees, Stories &
Publications and Photos & Maps. We found it best to get
started by creating a family tree, which helped us to get
organized and to find other data using the green-leaf
indicators. If you start out searching for data with only
sketchy information, you might get frustrated.
If you've already created a family tree in a stand-alone
program, you can upload it to Ancestry.com
, as long as it's
in the industry standard "GEDCOM" format. Walt successfully
did so using a tree that he made five years ago.
It didn't take long for us to create a very basic tree with
just a few generations, adding names, birth and death dates
and locations (if we knew them). We named our trees and made
them public, allowing others to use our data and vice versa.
Even if you don't make your tree public, other Ancestry.com
users can still learn the name, birth year and birthplace of
a deceased person in your tree. They can also anonymously
contact you for more information using the Ancestry
Connection Service, if you opt to let them do so.
Things got exciting when we saw shaking green leaves appear
beside the names of certain members of our family. Mousing
over these leaves showed us the number of source records
found on each person, and in some cases showed the number of
other users' family trees that could match with ours. You
can browse through these other trees, and if someone else
lists your relative in their tree, you can automatically
fill in blanks in your family timeline and merge those new
facts into your tree.
In many cases, we could see digital images of a family
member's source records including, in the case of our
relatives' draft cards, an actual signature. If you like,
you can share just the images of these documents with others
via email. You can print a copy of any document, or save it
to your computer's hard drive. You can also order large,
high-quality copies of some documents; prices for these
range from $8 to $25.
Each person on a family tree has his or her own page with a
life-events timeline and the records that you attach to the
profile. This page also has room for an uploaded digital
photo of the person.
You can also search for family information using the other
tabs. If you know what type of document you're looking for,
you can start searching with that type of record, such as
the data on immigration records.
As you continue to research your relatives, interesting
facts show up on the side of the screen every so often. In
Katie's case, one fact about her mother's family said, "Most
Chapman immigrants to the US (1120) came from Liverpool,
England, and Queenstown, Ireland." A corresponding link
showed her a pie chart of the six areas from which Chapmans
There are some important downsides to Ancestry.com
display of family trees and options for laying them out on
the screen is far more rudimentary and limited than in the
stand-alone genealogy programs. Its printing options are
crude. The company is working on better display and output
options, including books that contain your trees and related
document images. Also, immigration records are limited
because Ancestry's database currently omits Ellis Island in
New York. The company says the Ellis Island data are coming
within months. Foreign data also are severely limited.
is a rich site that uses a sensible
layout and encourages learning.