RootsTech Connect 2021 – Completely Online and Totally Free

rootstech connect.png

You might have already heard that RootsTech 2021, to be held February 25-27, is going to be all virtual. The original conference was scheduled for February 3-6, so be sure to note the date change in your calendar.

Not only that, RootsTech Connect 2021 will be entirely free, enabling many more people from across the world to enroll and enjoy a mid-winter genealogy pick-me-up.

You can read the official announcement, here and a blog post including a short video by Jen Allen, RootsTech event planner, here, featuring video footage from recent RootsTech conferences. You just might see someone you know!

You do need to register though, even though the event is free. Registration will assure that you receive announcements, schedules and notifications about speakers.

There’s still a lot up in the air, but we do know a few things.

  • Some classes will be presented in multiple languages.
  • All classes will be recorded and will be available for viewing at your convenience.
  • There will be celebrity keynotes, although they have not been announced.
  • There will be a virtual marketplace with your favorite vendors, and maybe more that wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate.
  • Rootstech is no longer constrained by a limit on rooms, so there may be more speakers and sessions than ever.
  • Typically, speakers are already selected and notified by this time, but due to the change to a virtual conference, speaker selection is still ongoing. Speaker candidates have been asked to modify their original class submissions to be no more than 20 minutes, max, so sessions will be shorter than at the in-person conferences of past years.
  • RootsTech will be incorporating cultural experiences in some manner.
  • “Socializing” in some way has been discussed, but plans are still ongoing.

RootsTech staff hosted a RootsTech Connect livestream yesterday, where they shared their vision and answered questions – you can view here on YouTube.

It will be a challenge to host the world’s largest genealogy conference remotely, online, with more attendees than ever before.

I’d say that the “tech” part of RootsTech is really going to get the opportunity to live up to their name. We will all be making history, together, that’s for sure. We won’t miss the lines, but we will miss seeing each other in person. I look back now and cherish those minutes and hours more than ever and so look forward to 2022, hopefully in person once again where we can visit the Family History Library, sit, visit, break bread and hug.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful for this opportunity and will see you “there,” one way or another.

You can register, here.

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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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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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research