Save it to your hard disk.
and maybe Use a personal genealogy program.
Randy Seaver has recently posted on his blog, Genea-Musings, about Ancestry.com and 567 databases that are no longer available to subscribers. (See his two excellent posts for details.) He did finally get an answer from Ancestry that is not very satisfactory to those serious genealogists who pay up to $300 per year for access to Ancestry’s databases. Ancestry says the databases were old and similar to newer databases, but won’t divulge which databases were removed. Good genealogists know that similar databases may be indexed differently, presented differently, and may actually contain some unique elements, helping someone to find that elusive ancestor or record. This loss from Ancestry also really messes up those who have sources cited for these old databases- where is that same information in the new? More junk genealogy… so who needs accurate citations anyway??
Find important sources for your ancestors? Want to be able to access it at a later date? If so, then:
1. Download it.
2. Save it to your hard drive, and buy an external drive if you need more space, or for a backup.
3. Maintain your data in a personal genealogy program that is backed up in multiple places. You could, even in this digital age, make one of your copies paper. What a concept- what’s old is new again.
Of course, there are copyright restrictions related to downloading, so check Terms of Service. Websites like Find A Grave (FAG) are an example. When saving an image from FAG after contacting the person who posted it and getting permission, an extension can be added to the file name, such as “_permission” so that it is obvious that it was legal to download.
Our Broida family learned about saving important information the hard way too. If you have been a long-time Heritage Ramblings reader, you might remember the posts about Sarah Gitel Frank Broida who died in Denver, Colorado, in 1901. Colorado death certificates were online at one point, and the URL was saved. Unfortunately the state of Colorado decided that death certificates, including those that were over 100 years old did not need to be online, or else they wanted more revenue, and the death certificates were removed. We sent them the money and a pedigree of Gitel’s great-great-grandson- even a copy of his driver’s license!- in order to get a copy. They took our $25 (“research fee”) but did not send the certificate, saying that the certificates could only be provided to family within 1-2 generations. (It did not say that online at the time.) So, 114 years after a death, they are expecting children or grandchildren to still be alive- most likely not going to happen. That death certificate will now remain locked in their archives, useless to anyone. In the future they might use ‘non-use’ as an excuse to destroy the old documents, like some facilities have done; that non-use would be because of their own regulations. No family member has a copy that we know of, and never will. Sad.
This Ancestry removal of databases is bad timing too- Ancestry’s change to their “New Ancestry” has caused a lot of flack in the genealogy community, and many are trying to decide if they are going to stop subscribing once the new version which has missing functions, some horrendous location glitches (it changes some locations to wrong places!) and other problems, is forced on us. They have already changed the Canadian version of Ancestry overnight, without warning- maybe they expect Canadians to be too polite to fuss like those in the US. Ancestry is firm in telling US subscribers that the “new Ancestry will soon be the only Ancestry.” So users will need to make a decision as to their subscription, but unless you delete it, they will always have your tree to show to their subscribers.
I must say that I am not one of the Ancestry.com haters. I understand it is very expensive to purchase rights to such materials, maintain the databases, pay programmers, etc. Ancestry has added value to records by indexing them (not always the best but we’ll take it anyway), providing a nice, useable front end (in “Old Ancestry”), and designing ways to link records and people and places and time- pretty complex, really. I have been a long-time subscriber and have found wonderful things that have thrilled my family, and that have allowed me to tell the stories I put up on the blog. I just wish Ancestry would put more thought into projects before releasing them, would implement suggestions from actual users, not just coders, and spend less money on advertising and programming for new, young subscribers to automagically hear all their family stories. That is not how genealogy works, but I suppose their current course does make business sense.
I also hope that organizations that have partnered with Ancestry will carefully review their decisions and restrictions. I have heard that FamilySearch has deleted their free probate records now that they have shared them with Ancestry. Don’t know how to check out that claim, since I did not see those items previously, but it is a concern if true.
Thinking about leaving Ancestry? Sadly, the GEDCOM standard which is used to transfer data between genealogy programs is very old and does not copy over images or many tagged items, puts sources in the wrong place, adds duplicate people, etc. If you have Family Tree Maker, you can sync it to only one of your Ancestry trees, but it is also an Ancestry program that has gotten so much worse over the years, and likely will continue to do so since Ancestry is not very responsive to consumers. (I used their very first version and on up until I could no longer stand the problems, especially when using with a Mac. The Mac version was not fully functional and not good either in my experience.)
Keeping another tree in personal software is very time-consuming, but will help if Ancestry, which is currently for sale, makes more changes that users are not happy with, or even goes away. A new focus is their DNA and health products- another item to be wary of. Will they spend less money and time on family history while promoting these newer products? Many are not happy with their DNA products either. In our family, four DNA tests that have only one connection to a known relative (other than immediate family) is not very useful, especially when I know cousins have also taken the tests. Also, having Ancestry change ethnicity percentages a year later makes one wonder about accuracy. (They told us that the unexpectedly high Scandinavian ethnicity of many very-English users indicates Viking ancestors who settled in England or Scotland. Sorry, Ancestry- autosomal DNA is not that old.) Ancestry also dumped a lot of Y-DNA and mtDNA samples when they decided to get out of that business; they refused to let descendants have the data. So we don’t know what will happen to our Ancestry trees, and all the work that has gone into them. It might be a good plan to download a current GEDCOM of your tree from Ancestry and put it in another program, adding documents and images as you can. Download your raw DNA data as well, as it can be transferred to other companies (for a fee).
Sorry if this post sounds like an anti-Ancestry rant, but really it was more to drive home the point that protecting your work and family history is up to YOU. Don’t let the internet lose it. Don’t let companies have total control over it. So download it, save it, and put it all in another program on your hard drive where you have a bit more control. (Yes, the other program can go out of business, but what else can we do?)
And do backups. regularly, and in multiple places/formats.
Even on paper.
Notes, Sources, and References:
- Randy Seaver’s blog: http://www.geneamusings.com/2015/10/where-did-567-databases-n-ancestrycom.html
- See also Dear Myrtle’s Blog on this subject: http://blog.dearmyrtle.com/2015/10/seriously-ancestry-im-not-buying-this.html
- Sarah Gitel (Frank) Broida and Denver resources: http://heritageramblings.net/2015/01/27/tuesdays-tip-broida-family-research-in-denver-colorado-repositories/
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