Sorry...the title of this post is a little dramatic, I know. I just needed to rant a little bit. I love Ancestry.com. I think it is an invaluable resource to genealogical research, providing access to millions of records, right at your fingertips, that would've been difficult to impossible to access 1, 2, 5, 10, 15 years ago...even six months ago. Ancestry helped mainstream genealogy research. I won't get into how Ancestry's opening genealogy to the general population has also muddled true, accurate research...this post is about how Ancestry.com makes it difficult to foster that interest in genealogy.
Confused yet? I was recently working with a client, and part of what I was hired to do was create an online family tree for this person on Ancestry.com. Now, as recently as a couple of years ago, this was super easy to do, even if you didn't have an Ancestry subscription. While a paid subscription is required to access 95 percent of Ancestry's website, features like its message boards and online family trees (and now AncestryDNA) were always free, and easy to use. It behooved Ancestry to make these features free and easy - if a non-subscriber created a family tree on Ancestry.com for free, and saw all the hints they got, and were able to see other users researching the same people and were able to connect with these people, it got them EXCITED about doing MORE research, serious research...research they would need an Ancestry subscription for. Well, no more. First, the landing page to Ancestry as someone without a subscription is the subscription sign-up page, instead of the homepage. I couldn't even find how to make my client a registered guest (the free version to use Ancestry). I had to google "Ancestry registered guest" which brought me to one of the FAQ pages...frustrating beyond belief. THEN, when I went to start their tree, I input one person, input his wife...and then couldn't input the father. Or the mother. And couldn't click on the person I originally input. When I refreshed the page, all my info was lost. So I input it again. Same deal. Tried something else to get to the individual's page to add some more details, and lost all my info again. 30 minutes later and my client's online tree consisted of ZERO information. I finally had to start his tree on one of my family tree programs on my computer, save it as a GEDCOM file, and then upload that GEDCOM to Ancestry. That FINALLY worked. Created and saved the tree, and 125 individuals later, found out that my client couldn't view any other trees without an invitation from the tree's owner (even PUBLIC trees - so much for being public) and without a subscription, couldn't contact a tree's owner, and therefore couldn't ask for an invitation to view his or her tree. So much for being able to connect with cousins and share information. My client was frustrated, not excited, about his family tree, and to be honest, so was I. A huge part of genealogy for me is the sharing of information, the building of a tree, the merging of trees, with the help of others.
Anyway, this incident has really made me rethink whether or not I'll continue to offer this service. In the future, I might recommend people create online family trees on a completely free website like FamilySeach - I'm not sure the community is as huge as on Ancestry, so there might not be as many other trees to look at and connect with, but at least it'll be easy to share your tree with friends and family, and to build your tree in the first place.
Here endeth the rant. It's Friday, everybody - take it easy and enjoy your weekend!