Ancestry’s New StoryScout: Be Cautious

This week, Ancestry did three things to users’ accounts:

  • Deleted 6-7.9 (inclusive) cM matches
  • Deleted message folders
  • Added a new feature, StoryScout

What is StoryScout?

StoryScout sniffs out various records and weaves them into a story, supposedly about YOUR ancestor. Some of these records are accurate and some aren’t. As genealogists we are used to hints, but not to unverified information portrayed as a “story” about our ancestor.

Seasoned genealogists understand the need to always be skeptical and require proof that any record actually refers to a specific person. Newer genealogists, perhaps not so much. I’ve already noticed several people thrilled that StoryScout is breaking down brick walls. While that certainly might be the case, StoryScout also might be storying about this – pardon the pun.

If you’re new and learning how to research, you can read about Genealogical Proof Standard, here.

Even more concerning is that there is a social media “share” button at the end of each story, encouraging the sharing of unvetted and unverified information in the form of heartwarming stories. I mean, who doesn’t want to learn that their ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War? Right?

Caution, Please

A HUGE DOSE OF CAUTION is advised, along with additional research and confirmation before accepting any StoryScout stories as factually about your own ancestor.

Ancestry indicates that they begin with the ancestors in your tree. I’ve been building my tree for 40 years now, and ironically, some of the stories that Ancestry has stitched together actually contradict the legitimate information and records in my tree. For example, the identical person can’t be in two places at the same time.

Conversely, the same name, especially a common name, does not mean they are the same ancestor.

storyscout tree.png

For purposes of reference, here are the first 4 generations of my tree, although StoryScout reaches back further in some cases.

Let’s take a look at how StoryScout works.

StoryScout Unrolled

storyscout menu

You’ll find StoryScout under the DNA menu, although it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with DNA. I wonder if StoryScout is on the DNA tab because this is a method that Ancestry is using to encourage DNA-testers to build trees. If so, I hope testers take the hint, but verify these stories first.

storyscout option.png

Since my ancestors are already in my tree and I didn’t need to add grandparents, I clicked on “take me to my stories.” Apparently, if you don’t have a tree, you can utilize these stories to build a tree. (I can’t tell you how much this terrifies me, especially for novices.)

storyscout new

click to enlarge

Ancestry displays the 4 individuals I’ve listed as my grandparents in my tree, and the stories they’ve assembled about their lineage, shown at the top.

I clicked on the first story about my grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda.

storyscout cover.png

Word of caution – many of the images are NOT your ancestors, but representative images.

storyscout hiram.png

For example, I saw this image and was immediately excited, because I initially thought that someone had found a previously unknown photo of my great-grandfather. Ancestry does say this, clearly, but it’s very easy to miss.

Each story has at least three pages, the cover page, above, the referenced record or information, and an invitation to share the story. Some stories include additional historical information about the record selection.

storyscout wwi

The second image for John Whitney Ferverda shows his draft registration. The background image is indeed HIS draft registration card, not a generic record, and clicking on the green search link shows his card in the collection.

storyscout history.png

Ancestry then provides additional historical information.

While the green search box on his draft registration image displays his record, the green search box below simply shows the historical photo, not related to my ancestor, and associated information about the photo. My ancestor is not in this photo which is absolutely fine, so long as people understand what they are seeing.

storyscout draft

The most disappointing aspect of this story is that this draft registration from 1918, along with a corresponding WWII draft registration, was already attached to my tree.

storyscout both.png

This “story,” while accurate, did not provide me with anything I didn’t already know.

Sharing – Beware

The last page on every one of these stories is this invitation to share with family members by copying and pasting a link.

storyscout share

This concerns me greatly, not because I’m opposed in any way to sharing accurate stories, but because many, many inaccurate stories will now be widely shared. It’s a method of advertising for Ancestry as well.

storyscout fb.png

If you copy and paste the link, this is what appears as a Facebook posting.

storyscout fb2

The problem, of course, is that this verbiage doesn’t say a *potential* story about your ancestor, and in this case, the verbiage would lead someone looking at the Facebook posting to immediately presume this photo IS the ancestor.

storyscout fb warning.png

If you click on the social media link, the person viewing the record will see this warning – but they could interpret this to mean literally that this may not be their relative. In other words, maybe they are a friend and not a relative of yours, or maybe they are related on your maternal side and this is a paternal side photo. What it doesn’t say is that this information may be incorrectly identified to the ancestor in question.

So, if my first cousin who does descend from this great-grandparent looks at the information, and the information is incorrectly attributed to our common ancestor – they are now believing the story to be true because, I, the family genealogist shared it.

Not to mention that a family member immediately thought this was a photo of our ancestor and was asking if I knew which of two farms this was taken on, and when.

Ironically, there’s a photo of my great-grandfather on my own tree that could have been used instead.

Grouping of Stories

After you’ve looked at each new story, they are grouped together by ancestral line. This group includes my grandfather, his parents and wife.

storyscout grouping

Generic Stories

Some stories are rather generic, and you’ll have one for every ancestor in a particular census.

storyscout 1900.png

For example, several of my ancestors listed in the 1900 census have a “Working in America” story. This is fine so long as Ancestry selects the correct ancestor in the census. That doesn’t always happen, and numerous people have reported multiple stories that scatter the same ancestor across the country when in fact incorrect records were selected.

storyscout 19th

Every one of my female ancestors living in 1920 received a story about being alive when the 19th Amendment was ratified. That’s actually quite interesting and while it’s not about my ancestor exercising her right to vote, it does provide historical context of the time and place in which she lived. As it turns out, I had written about Edith Barbara Lore on that exact subject.

The Goal

First and foremost, I’m looking for new, previously unknown, accurate information about my ancestors.

Secondarily, I want to make sure stories about my ancestor ARE actually about MY ancestor. Sharing accurate information is a wonderful way to interest other people in their ancestors, too, but some assurance needs to exist that information is accurate before being presented as a story. There also needs to be some methodology of flagging the information as incorrectly associated with this specific ancestor so Ancestry does not continue to propagate inaccurate information in the format of stories.

Having said that, leaf hints are wonderful, because they don’t infer any certainty.  Ancestry already provides genealogical record hints in the form of leaf hints on trees.

storyscout leaves.png

These record hints are attached to people on my tree, NOT woven into stories, and give me the opportunity to review the hint. I can attach the document to my tree if it’s accurate, and to dismiss or ignore the hint otherwise. This is a responsible research methodology.

These leafy tree hints do NOT encourage me to share them. It would be nice if stories were only harvested from confirmed leaf hints.

StoryScout does NOT allow people to dismiss the story as inaccurate, nor do the stories seem to coordinate with the records already saved to my tree for that ancestor. I don’t know this for a fact, but if I received this story about this ancestor, other people with the same ancestor would probably receive the identical story – and you know that someone is going to share without verifying first.

How accurate are these stories?

I created a chart as I reviewed each story.

Right, Wrong, and FrankenAncestors

I created the following summary of my 14 StoryScout stories:

Ancestor Relationship Story Accurate Yes/No Comments
John Whitney Ferverda Grandfather WWII Draft Yes Document previously attached in my tree
Edith Barbara Lore Grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Barbara Drechsel gg-grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Evaline Louise Miller Great-grandmother Winning Right to Vote Yes, alive in 1920 Generic information
Michael McDowell Gggg-grandfather Revolution Militiaman No, wrong person, wrong place Same name confusion, his correct Rev War information is already attached to my tree
Andrew McKee Gggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses General, not about him Not for him, simply says people can obtain information from old census information
James Mann (they show Robert James Mann) Gggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place Showed him in SC in 1780 (there was no 1780 census) but he was in Virginia.
John R. Estes Ggg-grandfather Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place States that John R. Estes was in the 1820 census in TN, but they selected the wrong John Estes. He was in VA.
Nancy Ann Moore Ggg-grandmother Clues from Lost Censuses No, wrong person, wrong place States that she was in the 1820 census in TN, but she was in Virginia at the time. Only head of household listed in 1820 census, and she was not.
Joseph B. Bolton Great-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Yes Census, previously attached to my tree
Lazarus Estes Great-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Yes Census previously attached to my tree
Jacob Kirsch Gg-grandfather Working in America in 1900 Partly Right person and place, but location recorded incorrectly and occupation was not “salovriest”
Lazarus Estes Ggg-grandfather Working as a postmaster Yes Document previously attached to my tree
William Moore Gggg-grandfather Fighting in the Continental Army Probably wrong, cannot verify Says he was a Lt., but no link or information to confirm. There are many William Moores who fought from VA, but none from Halifax County where he lived. There is no tree leaf record hint.

It’s this last “story” about William Moore that excited me the most. There was no link to a record nor Ancestry leaf hint. I signed on to Fold3.com and, unfortunately, found no Revolutionary War record there for my William Moore who had lived in Halifax County, Virginia. The fact that Ancestry portrayed my William Moore as a Revolutionary War soldier without any type of documentation is both upsetting and provides misinformation that will be propagated for years to come by unsuspecting people to whom this information is provided either by Ancestry, or shared. William Moore had many descendants whom, I presume, are also receiving this “story.”

How Did StoryScout Do?

Of 14 total stories:

  • 4 were accurate, although none provided information I didn’t already have
  • 1 is partly accurate, but information I already had
  • 4 are incorrect
  • 4 are generic, but interesting
  • 1, William Moore, is probably wrong, but since I don’t know what record Ancestry was referencing, I can’t verify or find a similar record

Here’s the bottom line – enjoy, and I hope you receive some useful hints that you can work with.

However, unless you confirm that this information is about YOUR ANCESTOR and is accurate, please, do NOT share. I know from unfortunate personal experience that information released into the wild can never actually be recalled and resurfaces again and again – the genealogical equivalent of whack-a-mole.

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49 thoughts on “Ancestry’s New StoryScout: Be Cautious

  1. My first view of Ancestry’s new StoryScout said my gr grandfather was a post master. No, he was not. Did not apply at all. When I read another story, it referenced my gr grandfather’s WW1 registration and implied he served. He did not. His card clearly states he only had ONE LEG! Considering how many mistakes, incorrect information and sloppy research I find from other people’s site that reference my family, I do not feel StoryScout will help. Ancestry needs to emphasize accuracy and good research methods, not throw out bait to people not verifying their work.

    • I looked at Story Scout one time and will never look at it again. It was hogwash. How I wish Ancestry had spent their resources to make more facts available, instead of fanciful and mostly false stories.

  2. Yeah. The Story Scout leaves a lot to be desired doesn’t it? I’m….not about to share any of it because some of it is just flat out wrong especially when it comes to the Italian side of the tree. Check this out.

    They said Antonio Tedesco (My 2x great-grandfather) came to America. He did not. He lived and died in Italy. The same was said for Felice Forgione, another 2x great-grandfather. I get the feeling they’re using very common Italian last names for a base. Tedesco is a very common last name. Forgione, too, to an extent.

    Some things are a little accurate like my great-grandparents, WW I draft. But, the 2xs on the Italian side didn’t leave Italy. At all. So, I take what they say about them with a grain of salt.

  3. I tried this out the other day and found it to be really useless. If I was just a beginner at genealogy I’d turn around and leave and be much the poorer for it. There are a lot of wonderful stories in the family line I picked out for them to take a look at. They didn’t find a single one.

  4. The StoryScout concept is stupid, unnecessary and misleading. Its name sounds like a horse from a 1950s TV show. Thanks for explaining (exposing) it. StoryScout is Ancestry’s second worse idea of the week. The first is the removal (assassination) of tens of thousands of our distant cousins in the ethnic cleansing that killed off everyone under 8cM. I was able to save many important relatives but others went down with the ship. I mourn their loss.

  5. Glad to know that it is not just me to think that this feature is mostly useless. Really just advertising for Ancestry and not good advertising at that.

  6. At ancestry.co.uk the DNA menu does not have a dropdown list to pick from. Therefore StoryScout is not available. To enable the DNA dropdown list either change ancestry.co.uk to ancestry.com in the URL, or switch to United States in “View our other sites:” bottom right on most Ancestry pages.

  7. My naysaying-self considered the new feature as just a gimmick.

    When they “imposed” Life Story upon us a few years ago, in my profile, I put the following:

    Disclaimer: Life story is an Ancestry.com computer generated page which is often inaccurate; and it was not added by me.

    Seems, they later gave us the option to turn this off. Cannot remember.

  8. I noticed that at least one of my ‘stories’ was completely wrong… but I can see someone new to family history…thinking it was correct. Up in the right hand corner you can report an issue..which I did in this case.

    I was able to save my 7.5-7.9 matches… I tried the workaround you posted…but I could not get that to work. My frustration is that accurate or not some of these small matches have come in handy. In one case there was a researcher that I had worked with a few decades ago.. I knew we were related…but way way back in the 1600s… so I did not expect him to show up in my match list…but there he was. In another case I had researched a branch of my European mother’s tree… and again decades ago I reached out to people who were descendants of the person I was researching… again they showed up as a <8cM match. Finally, in trying to break down a wall I built a tree for a surname based on matches who had that surname..but not my relative.. I had severl <8cM matches that when taken together helped me identify the likely parents of my ancestor… luckily I was then able to find documentation to confirm what DNA helped me identify. I am disappointed at the loss of these bits of info.

  9. The sharing is a huge problem. Once it is shared several times it will show up on non-Ancestry trees. I once put in a nickname for an uncle and before long it was showing up everywhere.

  10. Hi Roberta,

    Since some of my green leaf hints are nonsense – like suggesting that someone born in 1650 was somehow in the Civil War 200 years later, I have not bothered to look at the “stories” yet.

    The green leaf hints are based on records added to trees by members of people with similar names and birthdays, but if someone has added a whole bunch of silly records that they have not analyzed you seem to get a lot of them, as well.

    Some people on my tree have “apparently” since arriving in 1634, been in every major conflict from the Revolution to WWII – yes I am exaggerating – but it sometimes astonishes me what others have attached and what they attach becomes a hint for you.

    I love the green leaves and ancestry’s algorithms, but they need to make it very clear that these are “suggestions” coming from other imperfect hobbyists like myself. So a grain of salt is needed.

    I ended up putting over 15,000 people into my reserve group with cm less than 7.9. I used common names like Smith and Jones (that I do have on my tree) as well as many others and I seem to have captured most anyone with a tree that had names on it. Towards the end, it was hard to find someone I had not grouped.

    I also ended up putting about 350 people on my tree from ThruLines who were less than 7.9 cm. I had more than I thought and some were of my own making older than 6 generations.

    How can ancestry think that 7.9 is a good cut off when they had generated so many good ThruLines matches? It makes no sense. I was able to verify most of them. Only a few I had to attach to a potential alternate parent and only a couple more I could not place, but found an alternate ThruLines type connection missed by ancestry’s algorithm program, so in the end they were still related to me.

    That is a lot of good matches that will no longer be made again.

    It is not DNA that is causing some of the tree messes (and yes I’m sure I have a lot of messes to clean up as well.

    The messes are caused by people simply being in a hurry and having a lot of fun and this is OK, but ancestry needs to make it clear to people to beware – the hints are not originating from any experts but simply from other novices who have created trees.

    It is sad to loose all these potential matches. Ancestry’s own ThruLines suggested that 7.9 – 6.0 were often quite good.

    Too much nonsense in the world these days.

    • In addition to my above post, I would like to make it clear that in many cases, that at least 90 percent or more of my hints for an ancestor will be good and on other cases, less often, it may be less than 1/2 accurate especially if they have a common name and few have been able to identify them.

      Don;t get me wrong, the hints are extremely useful and a big time saver !

      However, people simply need to be aware of where they come from and to verify them.

      Sometimes a lot of people will have subscribed to the same suggestion, but on further analysis, perhaps X could not have been the wife of Y (John Smith) since further digging finds her birthday was actually after his death.

      Common names can simply cause a problem, esp if John Smith and his sons all named a family member John Smith Jr, etc and they all lived in the same county. In this case, the wife X was married to a son and another to a grandson, etc and not to the original Y

  11. They must be rolling this out bit by bit as I can’t ‘see’ this yet at all!
    Not that I’m that bothered as it doesn’t sound very good!

  12. Oh my, Ancestry often has me puzzled.. this one is scary to me. I’ve not logged in on purpose for the last 5 days, so thank you, Roberta, for the detailed explanation and example – I will try not to tear what is left of my hair out!

  13. Another thing that concerns me about the less than 7.9 cm purge, is the complaint that once you get down to small percentages of DNA you may simply be looking at regional differences.

    I have seen some documentaries recently on PBS, where regional differences in DNA were used to make assumptions about long ago invasions into the British Isles. These regional differences have origins – they are not meaningless.

    Just because we may not always have the corresponding records going that far back does not make this DNA meaningless and it is actually very important as a result. It may not always lead to proof of a common ancestor, but it can still rule someone to be somewhat more likely in or out as a candidate and if you have records and common trees, it simply adds more assurances.

    These regional differences were created by our ancestors – they did not come from nowhere – and although more general, it can still be a very useful tool.

  14. Roberta…
    In your listing of your 4grandparents, I believe, is Joel Vannoy and Phoebe Crumley. My maiden name is Crumley and I’m wondering what info you have on Phoebe’s father, if any. My Crumley ancestor goes back to James Crumley, born about 1712 in possibly County Monaghan, Ireland, and died Aug. 9 1734 in Berkeley, Frederick, Virginia. He married Catherine Gilkey about 1732 in Chester County, Virginia. I’m wondering if we might be related.
    Faustene Crumley Heilman

    • Yes, that’s the same family line. We’ve had a problem documenting his birth in Ireland. Do you have anything on that? Have you seen the article I wrote about him? I visited his house.

      • Yes, I’m aware of the documented problem of where James (Cromley) Crumley was born. Regarding place of birth for him, here’s all I have….
        According to Irmal Crumley Haunschild, in her book, ‘The Crumleys of Frederick Co. Virginia and Greene Co. Tenn’, James was born in Yorkshire Co., England, about 1712, to John and Mary (Cromley) Crumley. This statement by Irmal is substantiated by other records and researchers. However, Microfilm 873435 of the Genealogical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) of Salt Lake City, Utah, indicates that the James (Cromley) Crumley parents were friends to the Quakers. This film indicates that they (the Cromleys) could have emigrated to England from the county of Monaghan, Ireland. Yorkshire Co. is near Scotland on the North Sea Coast.
        No, I have not seen the article you wrote about James Crumley. Would you send me the link for that article, please?

  15. It’s utter nonsense. And so americocentric that it makes me want to unsubscribe Ancestry. Every ancestor they want to place in the States, when none have ever been there!

  16. Roberta,
    Awesome article and yes totally agree with you on this story scout. I did find one story but I already have it in my tree. Like you said why put some back in when already have. Yes definitely very leary about this new feature. I myself would rather have some form of chromosome browser instead.
    Yes honestly take this new feature with a grain of salt for right now. Thanks for the heads up on this and going into detail about it. Thanks again.

    Regards,

    Cindy Carrasco

  17. On my Story Scout there were three horizontal dots on the right side of the page that allowed me to report the error they made on my great grandfather. They had two different men named Charles Adams in the 1930 and 1940 censuses, neither was my ancestor. My great grandfather was an evangelist who spent the 30s and most of the 1940s in Israel.

  18. To me, this is just another company/corporation who doesn’t give a hoot about publishing accurate information – like so many others these days. Aren’t our lives difficult enough now, just trying to sift through all the ‘garbage’ that is currently in Ancestry trees, without piling on even more garbage? It takes so much time to try and ferret out the truth. Have been dissatisfied with Ancestry’s changes over the years, and have sent them feedback. No reply – no one interested.

    Had all my Hints cleaned out at one time – now my ‘shakey leaves’ are almost useless. Was very excited to see 52 new hints on one of my ancestors, only to find out that most were my own original documents and records I had found earlier and attached, along with a myriad of generic icons, like ‘dna ancestor,’ ‘religious depictions,’ ‘war representations,’ ‘coats of armes,’ ad infinitum. Guess all these icons make a tree more colorful? Oh, and they are listed as ‘photos.’ even though they definitely are not photographs.

    Made my tree private some years back. While poking around another member’s tree to which I had been invited, I found a quite old ‘record’ of mine that was listed as being ‘originally submitted’ by someone other than myself. I did a ‘comment’ about the record being submitted by me back in the past, and the person who ‘took’ it and re-submitted it under her own name, owned up to it but said she thought it would be a compliment to me. She accused me of not including the ‘source’ but she failed to even include the info I had next to the record, and definitely did not even look at my ‘Facts’ tab to see my source info. Other members who saw my comment called me selfish and immature because I didn’t like people ‘taking’ my stuff! Many said I should just make my tree private. So I did. I was a newbie when I first posted that ‘record.’ I even emailed the original source to get her permission to use her ‘notes’ but never received a reply.

    Very sad – no society will last long when no one verifies information as true or false, when folks just take whatever they want. That’s why some rules and regulations are useful in a civilized society. Everyone digging through a mountain of garbage is such a waste of precious time. Ancestry trees are so filled with garbage now, I never even look at them. Wish I hadn’t looked at them from the very beginning, because all I did was to import garbage into my own tree! Now I have my own messes to clean up, too. Am about to just delete my entire tree and dna test from Ancestry.

    Is MyHeritage any better? I like the convenience of working outside my FTM software but don’t know if MyHeritage is basically the same thing as Ancestry. Any advice?

  19. This has got to be the absolutely stupidest dumbing down “feature” on Ancestry. Every woman who was alive in 1920 gets the “right to vote” story with “probably voted for Cox depending on her view on alcohol” or whatever. They have a load of stuff on my grandfather and couldn’t come up with anything better than “he belonged to the Masonic lodge that included Paul Revere.” Geez . . . pablum for the masses.

  20. Thanks again for your vigilance in spotting this.
    I was looking through some matches over the past few days, and wondered why they went straight to this Story stuff instead of the usual “Facts” I am used to.
    It has been available for ages for me – I have just been ignoring it and sticking to the Facts page which is far easier to be discerning about.
    So, they have taken away my tiny matches for the future. (I kept as many present ones as I thought were interesting, but have undoubtedly lost many links to lines that went to USA and Canada.)
    And they fill the space with this rubbish.
    Oh well, if you are going to trash the brand, why not!

  21. At least they’ve done their best to save us from those pesky 6 and 7 cM matches, which were leading us down the path to ruin and incorrect assumptions! Yes, I managed to save 48,766 of mine!

  22. This is what happens when a company is run by the marketing department looking at the bottom line rather than by genealogists. So they throw away valuable data, and create this silliness rather than a chromosome browser. Kind of reminds me of the bad NADs.

    Just an FYI, I find that maybe 50% of the shakey leaves are accurate and none of the little green people.

    The sad thing is that they own so much valuable data and use it so poorly.

    Roberta, have you looked for your possible patriot in the DAR database? They include wife and any of the children who have used that line to join. Really helps to sort out the common names.

  23. Just a Disneyfication of our ancestors’ lives who were mostly peasant farmers or city dwellers, barely surviving after the government and church taxed them into proverty and stole their sons and lives to fight some senseless war. Lol

    Reminds me of those useless “Family” books that were generic and pretty much useless.

  24. Ancestry constantly takes away things we want to keep to replace them with things we don’t want. When was the last time ancestry gave us anything we asked for? Never? I don’t know of any other genealogy related company that does that. I guess when you make 9 billion dollars a year you can do anything you want.

  25. StoryScout perpetuates a mistake made long ago by a conventional genealogist. My gg-grandfather was put into the wrong family. Y-DNA testing did two things for me: It put me into a different family, though exact relationships are not known; and it allowed me to compare with a descendant of the wrong ggg-grandfather showing no direct male line relationship. When I enter my gg-grandfather in SS it comes back with the wrong connection.

  26. Roberta, thank you for the cautionary story. I’m laughing because the first story Ancestry posted for me to read was about my maternal grandfather registering for the World War I draft. That is true. He registered, but Ancestry neglected to show that he became a draft dodger and laid out the war bootlegging on Hoggle’s Ridge. I have documents to prove what I am saying and my deceased Aunt (his daughter) has a copy of his dishonorable discharge which her family refuses to share with me. The Veteran’s Administration states that this discharge document is among the missing in their files. Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying. Papa was young, his mother (who was mentally unstable) kept begging him to come home and he did. He was the youngest of at least 19 children. With that many children, I would have been mentally unstable too. I knew this man all my life and loved him dearly. He spoiled all 10 of his grandchildren. When he died, each of us expressed the fact that he convinced each of us that we were his favorite grandchild. He eventually expressed his regret for dodging the draft to his children. I never add another person’s information to my tree unless it can be verified.

  27. I don’t know if it was rolled out slowly but I had access to StoryScout earlier this summer. Not terribly helpful for eastern European ancestors. 😁

  28. I won’t have it because I haven’t done DNA…at first I was annoyed, but now it seems I’m missing absolutely nothing. Thanks for the detailed run-down. Between you and July Russell, I can now let anyone who asks me (I run the genealogy program at the library where I work) that this feature should be used with extreme caution.

  29. I looked for “my stories” expecting the horrors reported here … and did not find them. What I got after entering a grandparents’ name and residence was several possibilities from which to choose the one who was my grandfather. Once I did, I was presented with a census entry and a statement of the kinds of information I could typically expect to find in a census entry from that year.

    It was not of use to me because I’ve been doing research more-than-full-time since 1985. But had I been a newbie, one whose only contact with genealogy, so far, was a cheek swab, it was a friendly and easy way to introduce me to research in primary sources by giving me a place to start, and to see my grandpa’s name in a real record.

    It’s nothing more nor less than you find at ANY database website. “Here are some places in our database where that name appears. Are any of them relevant to you? Would you like to see more?” Y’all are condemning something for not being what YOU need instead of recognizing it for what it is.

    • I was not given any choices, just presented with incorrect information. My concern is that a new person won’t understand that this isn’t gospel and will believe it because it was presented to them. I wonder if they have already made changes in terms of presenting choices.

      • Several of the names I tried were common enough (Homer Taylor, Daniel Stephenson) that there could easily be multiples in their database. But even the uncommon one (Zada Parshall) with only one option offered did ask me if she was the one I wanted.

        This feature is new to me from reading this post — I have no ties to Ancestry.com other than using their primary sources from time to time — I haven’t even posted a tree there, although I think a niece has. But I do work with a lot of people who are brand new to family history and recognize this as an automated version of what I do when I help someone start — I explain what might be on the most recent census relevant to whoever we’re starting with, help them find the one we’re looking for, pointing out how we find the right one if there are multiple possibilities, and also teach them how to notice and resolve discrepancies in information from what we thought we already knew. An automated system can’t do that last, and Ancestry.com would doubtless be rendering a service to note prominently that no one record is guaranteed to be 100% correct — but it’s a place to start, which all newbies need. You’d laugh if I told you my first experience at trying to find an ancestor on microfilm before I even knew that the census was indexed! But there was nothing like the rush of seeing an ancestor’s name on a record for the very first time — and if people use this StoryScout thing to look for a recent relative (a grandparent, not a Revolutionary War-era ancestor) where a census listing is apt to display other familiar names and facts to spot the correct family, they’ll likely have the same experience.

  30. I’ve been informed that those of us outside the USA (Australia) will probably get Story Scout next year. You may have already mentioned it, but is there an option to edit the story?

    • Some people have reported that they can select an ancestor if they enter their grandparents by hand. But I haven’t found a way to modify the story or reject information.

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