Ancestry Rearranged the Furniture

I’ve been reading about recent visual design changes occurring at the Ancestry website and that the changes were being rolled out gradually to groups of users. Yesterday, I experienced it firsthand.

Why is Ancestry making changes? Ancestry said they wanted a new look and feel and to improve standardization across the site and across all ancestry sites around the world.

Colors, fonts, icons, avatars, buttons, and their landing page have changed, but the underlying functionality, for the most part, has not. You can read more about Ancestry’s new look and feel, here.

What’s New?

A week or two ago, I received changes to my tree. I thought all of the changes were rolled out at once, but yesterday, I discovered that wasn’t the case.

When I signed in yesterday morning, I discovered an entirely new look and feel.

Here’s what greeted me.

This looks nothing like the previous night. I had to sit there for a minute to reorient myself. Wow.

Next, a tour popped up. I was glad to see that, but don’t click away because you can’t get the guided tour back again. It looks like there are only three little dots, so maybe I didn’t miss much.

I generally don’t mind the pain of change if there is something good or new to go along with it. For the most part, Ancestry’s changes are cosmetic, meaning they rearranged the furniture, although there are some cool new features, but nothing DNA-related. Let’s see what they did, section by section, and how it affects users.

Make Discoveries

Ancestry shows you what you were doing when you were last signed in and gives you the option to resume where you left off. That’s pretty cool, because if you’re like me, you probably don’t remember, and you might not be done. Are genealogists ever finished?

Ancestry has also customized your hints, discoveries, and photos based on what you were doing.

I quickly discovered that if something is showing that you want to see, click on it, because if you get distracted and do something else, that “hint” won’t be waiting when you return because Ancestry customizes what is offered to you based on what you did last. They display the last three people you worked on at the top, but sometimes the hints aren’t for those people.

If you have multiple trees, selecting a different tree under the “Make discoveries” dropdown box changes what is shown in the “Family photos” section to the selected tree.

The name on the front of the “Family Photos” item displays the name of the person it’s connected to in someone else’s tree.

Normal caveats here:

  • This may not be your ancestor.
  • It may be someone else by the same or a similar name.
  • The item may be incorrectly saved to someone who is supposed to be your ancestor.

If you click on an image, you’re taken to the familiar “Save” screen, with a few modifications.

I like this new feature generally, although I think it makes it more difficult to verify that the item is actually for your ancestor – which means it’s more likely that people will save the wrong thing to the wrong person. This means more errors in trees, especially for new genealogists or people new to the Ancestry interface.

What I’d like to see added is more information displayed from my tree for people Ancestry is suggesting I save an item to. As you can see, Ancestry does not display the birth and death dates of the person in my tree that they are suggesting I save this image to. I may have multiple people in my tree by that name, and often do.

You can see the birth and death dates in the tree of the person the item is currently saved to by mousing over the green bar at right, and you can see their profile by clicking on that green bar.

Clicking on “View all Photos” takes you to an “All Hints” page where you can filter the results any number of ways. I like this feature too.

Keep in mind that these documents aren’t just for your direct ancestors, but for anyone in your tree. I wish “direct ancestors” was a filter option, but it isn’t.

DNA

The next section shows my newest DNA matches, my Ethnicity estimate, and Traits.

Clicking on your matches or ethnicity takes you to the normal locations, respectively.

Don’t expect to have Traits unless you’ve purchased that upgrade, and no, I haven’t.

The good news is that having DNA displayed on the main dashboard page encourages people to check their results and work with their DNA matches. You can still access your results from the DNA tab at the top – like always.

The bad news is that there are no new DNA features☹.

Don’t neglect to check your DNA matches, ThruLines and Communities periodically to see if anything has changed or hints might have developed that could be useful to you.

Search

The Search box location now resides on the right side of the page or you can click on the search tab at the top of the dashboard.

I was unhappy to discover that the box for the US census years is now gone. I used it a lot.

The “Advanced search” link is still there, but that function has changed a bit too. Mostly, it’s just a matter of getting used to the rearranged furniture and experimenting a bit.

There is a US census link on the advanced page which in another click or two allows you to select specific census years.

Unfortunately, “Quick Links” are going away. You can’t save new ones. Ancestry says the existing ones are remaining, but I don’t know for how long.

Ancestry has been improving searches gradually over the past few weeks, which I do find helpful. Specifically, that already-saved items returned in searches for a specific ancestor are now grouped together as a result of having “Smart filtering” turned on.

What I would really like is for Ancestry to compare photos with items already in my gallery for each person and NOT show me the same photo if I’ve either saved or dismissed it for that individual.

I would love to be able to see if a particular document or image has already been saved to my ancestor’s profile when I’m seeing search results. Not only do I not want to save or dismiss it again, I don’t want to see it again, even if it has been saved to another user’s tree by a different name. If Apple Macs can do image recognition, so can Ancestry.

Why is this important? You can see my ancestor’s photo being offered again, above – 6 times to be exact if you scroll down. Here’s another example.

Yea, I don’t want all of those DNA match icons people save to their trees offered over and over again. Also, those immigrant ships, especially for ancestors who weren’t immigrants. Nor do I want 20 copies of the exact same picture of their tombstone. A picture by any other name is still a thorn!

One of the beneficial updates, especially for new researchers, is that Ancestry Academy is a link under tools and resources. You can check out Ancestry Academy videos here.

Trees

I’ve saved the new trees for last.

I must admit, I’m not fond of the changes, but mostly because they are irritating, although less so now that Ancestry removed their new green text. The actual functionality hasn’t changed.

However, I’ve devised a strategy to deal with the single most irritating change.

Ancestry introduced new avatars. Unfortunately, they look overbalanced to me, or more specifically, like young people that all have dowager’s hump. They look like they are weighted down, struggling to move forward. Now that I’ve seen these, I can’t unsee them and I can’t NOT think of that when I do see them. (You’re welcome.)

What I can do is to save any photo or image to each ancestor’s profile. That’s where those Discovery Photos will come in handy, right?

Ancestry also gave several ancestors angel wings. Hmmm….

Then I realized those weren’t angels at all, but the new ThruLines emblem that indicates that this ancestor has ThruLines. Silly me, I thought maybe something like Find-A-Grave😊.

Ancestry also redesigned the leaf hint to be more stylized, but the hint works just the same as always. That leaf has evolved a lot over time.

I might tongue-in-cheek suggest that Ancestry’s cosmetic development efforts might have been better spent investing in something like, say, a chromosome browser. But hey, that’s just me.

One “improvement” Ancestry rolled out and has already removed, thankfully, is light green text pretty much every place. Trust me, it was worse than light grey, given what we need is black or a dark color on a white background for the highest contrast. I’m glad that green is mostly gone. I realize that green is Ancestry’s corporate color, but it made working with the website difficult. Ancestry does listen to feedback sometimes, in this case, great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Ancestry initially provided a feedback button in the lower right corner, but they’ve since removed that easy communications method. If you want to provide feedback, positive or negative, you can call Ancestry support or provide feedback by scrolling to the bottom of any Ancestry page and click on “Support Center.”

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67 thoughts on “Ancestry Rearranged the Furniture

  1. I agree wholeheartedly about the desired changes as opposed to what has changed, especially the repeated tombstones and ship images.

    I do wish that if you add a spouse that was married before same sex marriages that it is automatically given the opposite sex to the person that they married. Even if a cut off date of 20 years before same sex marriages became legal, it would save a lot of time. Also if one is adding people to a tree from a newspaper or the like, one should be able to click and add the sex too.

    I dislike anything that propagates errors and the “Potential Father” and “Potential Mother” must be to blame for so many errors becoming widespread through trees and becoming almost accepted facts instead of what they can be, wrong! Any handy ways of facilitating tree errors to be spread around are not great.

    I have read that the new colours may not be the best colours for someone who is colour blind. That would not be good.

    • I have a red-green deficiency and prefer the new Ancestry pages because I find them easier to read. I wasn’t crazy about the light green on white but it wasn’t any worse than light blue on light that they have switched back to. Just because I sometimes have trouble recognizing green as green doesn’t mean that I can’t see it. It depends on the shade and what it is backed with.

  2. Excellent email – The number of family tree errors continue to grow — people are just copying info from one tree to the next without paying attention to sources and facts. Ancestry could fix this by flagging entries that are not sourced from original facts. So many trees are just copied from other trees. And it’s getting worse – for example – My Heritage flags “smart matches” and with one click all of the so called matches are copied into the tree. I think that is the direction Ancestry is going.

  3. Ancestry cosmetic changes should have been spent on making several features more user friendly – and they have gobs of problems in user friendliness.

  4. I was surprised by the new look as well this morning. On the tour… the first item they show is the new discoveries, as you mentioned. The second was that you can switch between trees there on the homepage. And the third was that the homepage now includes your newest matches. So you covered everything the tour covered.

  5. I absoulutly hate the new home page. I do not what to see people from my tree at the top. When I go to Ancestry it is primarily to search not to view my tree I do that on my computer. Family Photos are not a priority. I want the search box front and center not off to the side as an after thought.

  6. I believe if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And I am not impressed with furniture rearranging. And absolutely YES to black not grey text!

    The two things I would love to have fixed are the lack of a Chromosome Browser and their inept indexing. Too often I end up going to FamilySearch, where they do know how to index, and referencing back to my tree.

    I also admit I haven’t looked at “Not-so-trueLines” for a year or two since finding way too many mistakes. I’d rather spend the time on MyHeritage’s Theory of Family Relativity which uses – GASP – DNA matching.

  7. Roberta, I totally agree about those male and female “images”. MY BACK ACHES when I see them populating the trees I work on — for myself and for others. I hope Ancestry staff reads YOUR blog and pays attention.

    Carol

  8. Great !? More garbage in/ garbage out – but now even easier with photos that people copy willy-nilly from other trees, without thinking. My favorite is of an 8th-greatgrandmother who died in 1692. Copied from tree to tree until I added my own snarky comment about the development of photography.

    As one person who is now getting up in years, and who has a cluttered house knowing exactly where I left things, I never, EVER rearrange furniture. I’d be lost. Now if Ancestry actually improved data search, that would be different. Oh well.

      • It’s now even worse than before. I’m researching the Saint-Martin family of Louisiana, a well-known family since the 1750s. While six months ago, I could easily find records, now I get every name but that, no matter how I spell it, and no matter whether I check off “Exactly” or not. Try it, either checked or not one gets the same list of people and names unrelated to the search. It’s very, very frustrating.

  9. The only thing I disagree with is the comment to filter out duplicate photos, etc., in the Hints. I may not want the actual item in the Hint, but the “owner” of the Hint may be a cousin/aunt, etc. I always look at their Profile to see if it’s someone related. Or maybe I’m just nosy….

  10. As of last night, I still had the feedback button. I used it. A LOT.

    I am a visual person. I’m a Visual Learner, and when I was teaching, my powerpoints for lecture had very little text … mostly images. I expected them to take notes! So visual appearance is very important to me. I have been known to customise the snot out of things like that because … visual.

    I loathe the new avatars. I loathe the color choices– be glad you didn’t see them when the man was puke green. The woman looks like a wild, wild west spinster school marm. Like you, for the most part, I despise icon pictures because they show up as hints over and over and over and over and … I will admit, that with the work I’m doing with a friend on unknown parentage, they are coming in handy. But … that’s a private tree, so no sharing. But I despise the new avatars so very much, I’m thinking of swapping them out for Pinkie and Blue Boy … or Cosimo and Eleanora di Medici! Or some other thing even if it’s just pink and blue squares! Maybe if everybody overloaded the system with Direct-Line-Only replacement avatars, they’d get the message! At least the teardrop shape went away in tree-view. I’m not crazy about it, but I can … mostly … live with it. I mean, it’s not like we upload SQUARE photos or anything ….

    And I hate their color choices. I want my teal background back! I know it’s sacrilege for a country girl to say it, but I don’t like milk gravy … never have. The “light” color way? Cold milk gravy. You don’t even have to gag me with a spoon thankyouverymuch. I don’t like the dark background … but it isn’t as utterly revolting as cold milk gravy. Somebody in the Ancestry FB group posted a 3rd party work-around for changing background colors. Hmmmm … haven’t tried it on the avatar colors.

    As far as hints go, I’d like to see unDATED City Directory hints go away. They are pretty useless. While dated ones have proven useful, I still ignore most of them. IME, they come in handy when trying to figure out putative marriage dates for women who married 157 times … or for folks that moved every 6 weeks. But, based on my personal experience with the folks that collect the information … they’re fairly low down on the “reliability” list.

    And yes. Every time I get the opportunity to give feedback I do. And now that I have the feedback link bookmarked, they get feedback when I’m a tad peckish simply becayse I’m a visual learner.

      • Previous changes have had the feedback button. I gave them positive suggestions based on responses to me from many friends who had not given feedback themselves. Many of my suggestions ended up as positive improvements. So I did not need to vent elsewhere.
        They did not offer me a feedback button this time.
        I need to vent and I will.
        And hey, on the first day I vented about them using grey for DNA match names rather than black and they fixed it really quickly.
        Positive reinforcement for venting to the community!?

  11. No improvements, nothing they have done makes searching or research easier or simpler. I renewed for 6 months only, have been a member for 30 years and may not renew, if I could be sure my tree and contents could be recovered or saved elsewhere. Any tree without sources or proofs is useless.

  12. I just spent an hour making a separate list of all my quick links (more than 50) in case Ancestry eliminates them. I use the Quick Links feature all the time. It helps remind me of collections I should check when doing a search. I also include bookmarks to related collections on FamilySearch and other sites. It saves time spent looking for the collection link in the catalog, especially when I can’t remember the exact title.

    Why does Ancestry continue to use such an antiquated name as Card Catalog? It’s odd to use the term for a manual system of indexing in the age of automation. Probably most people under the age of 50 have never used a card catalog. List of Collections might be better.

    It would be nice if the user could have a dashboard where the features could be arranged according to what’s most important to them.

  13. You have more iterations to go….

    Maybe minor but the Green Leaf/Common Ancestor has been changing weekly for me.

    Solid Green Leaf (originally)
    Green Dot/White outline as on the Family Trees
    Gray Leaf Outline
    Gray Angel Wings as of yesterday. I thought they were a paw print, but angel wings is better. 🙂

    I think there was also a Green Leaf outline for a short time, but I might have that wrong.

    The tour was minimal. A promise of great new changes. No details or dates.

  14. I don’t use Ancestry for DNA or my family tree — I use it for research. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that it would appear they are now using a different search facility and attempting to relocate a census record that I have already downloaded a copy of took a lot of trial and error. It was correctly transcribed, but would not come up on a search. I had to go to the village and scroll through the images to find it. Has anyone else had these sorts of problems?

    • Yes. And I knew I had not lost my mind as I was holding the printed census in my hand and also the transcribed page with all the information on it. I finally went to familysearch and got it there.

  15. My biggest gripe right now is that the Back button on the DNA Match details page no longer works. Clicking it once shows the DNA Match list very briefly, and then it goes back to the details of the DNA match you were viewing. Clicking it again seems to go back to whatever you were viewing before the Match List (e.g., the dashboard or the DNA Summary page). The browser Back button does the same thing. So after viewing a match detail page, the only way apparently to get back to the Match List is from the DNA > DNA Matches menu — and then you have to reset any filters, scroll down again, etc.

    And yes, the avatars are ugly.

    • Kathy, I’ve been having this problem with the back button for months especially when I have searched a name in my DNA matches and then I try to work through the list that shows up. My work around is this: click on your match’s “shared matches” then click on “trees”. then when you click on the back button, you should end up back on the dna match list you were working on.

  16. Why is Ancestry making changes? Because they can. No other reason. As if the new profile place holders weren’t ugly enough, now instead of zipping through my list of “do this ASAP” I can allot twice as long to “do this ASAP”. Why does ancestry do this every 3 years? No reason. They just like to annoy their subscribers. Do they made any changes we request? That was a rhetorical question. No need to answer.

    • The sorts of changes they are making are those generally currently recommended for small devices. While most make sense in that context, some of their initial manifestation here, like pale text against sandpaper-the-eyeballs strong white background were just weird. So they have backed away from those. Somewhat..

      • INTERESTING. I do some “instructing” by phone — with others I’m helping with their match lists. The other person is able to do something on their phone that I can no longer do on my comuter — AND I surmised that it was for the very reason you mentioned (catering to newer devices). I’m still unable to change the NAME of a color-coded group of matches, have the other person do it, then continue helping him/her. Frustrating.

  17. Why does ancestry insist that any current U.S. state always be suggested as United States of America or United States? If the location was before 1776 I change EVERY one in my tree. For U.S. locations after 1776 I delete the USA/United States of America/US.

    Saving more family from a findagrave should be able to be edited. Such a simple little thing to be able to have a male or female check box right there rather than going back to each person after they are saved and designating their sex.

    • They also insist on using modern names for Canadian locations, such as Cape Breton Island for Île Royale from before 1758 when the English conquered Louisbourg. I use Family Tree Maker software and create my own locations when one is not listed in their program, and then sync to Ancestry. It shows correctly on my tree, but NOT when searching trees for the same person. So others will see the wrong location in the family tree summary list. If it’s on my tree correctly spelled, why can’t they show it correctly on the tree search? Just one of many, many issues with the new and not-improved Ancestry.com.

  18. I got the new home page yesterday, too. One thing I noticed is that a search defaults to All Collections, as I see in your screenshot. I only subscribe to US records and now I have to change that to US. Every.single.time. Ugh.

  19. On SEARCH …. if I use name only, even if it’s fairly unusual, I still have to click thru at least three steps when they tell me that my “name is too broad”. But that’s what I want to do …. look across the spectrum of name options. And I can NOT find an EDIT function to update my search to add in the DOB or LOCATION or anything. Not likely the SEARCH function as much as the old one for sure yet.

  20. I think, the new features aren’t good. I wish
    Ancestry would stop fixing a wheel that wasn’t broken. The old features was what
    I liked ,ex- the original veterans page for one,
    They took the ability to edit completely away
    Or add to that feature. Ancestry please stop and go back to the original format.

    • Dale … Tish Gannon set me straight on the EDIT issue in the SEARCH function. They added a little icon PENCIL in the upper right that is apparently not labeled as such yet but when you click on it you move to an EDIT functionality.

  21. Agree with you and everyone else. On that note, thank you for letting me know I am not crazy. I opened Ancestry yesterday, like all of you, and there was a different site. To be hit with that many changes in the morning before even finishing my coffee was, well, TO MUCH. I still hate the change to reviewing the hints, that was made last year. I did figure out the way to go back to the old way, but that’s another “click” away. AND I really do not like all those high school photos of people with the same name. How am I suppose to know for sure if that is my person and not someone else with the same name (and this has happened). Just yesterday there was 6 photos of ancestor’s grave by 6 different people!!! Why do I need 6? Specially since I already had saved this same photo from Find A Grave, possibly years ago? You would think with the funds Ancestry has – programs could be written that catch all of this. One more thing, dislike the avatars, but really do not like the hints leaf. Why? Only way I knew what they were hints, because they are in the same place, too small. And LOL the little, what I thought was a Paw Print – now I know it’s for Thrulines. I was mistrustful of Thrulines at first, because like all of you, I found huge errors. But, I have found, now, that they can be helpful with locating what lines Shared DNA matches belong. I say “LINES” – if you notice on your Shared DNA matches that have common ancestor hints, now it is not just one set, but will show you possibly different lines. When you go to the Thrulines it will show you how these share matches connect to your ancestor. Even if you do not trust this, think at least most people know who are their parents and in most cases know who their grandparents were. But it will be up to you to prove through your shared DNA and documentation (as always) that these people do really connect to this ancestor. If you look at FamilySearch, they connect you to people and I cannot even prove through DNA or documentation that FamilySeach is correct. Ancestry at least gives you the DNA to work with. Thank you for your newsletter, Roberta Estes

  22. Straight from the ancestry blog: “New Visual Design Providing a More Modern Look and Feel ” Newsflash ancestry. One thing we are not interested in is modern. Why do you think we’re looking for dead people?

    Was this heading their idea of a joke? Who asked for this? Nobody.

    You Asked, We Listened.

    Our community shared positive feedback about similar changes already implemented in our mobile app and in response we implemented these improvements to our desktop experience.

    This update builds the foundation for other planned enhancements, allowing us to deliver more improvements, even faster. Be on the lookout for an updated homepage, a better family view in trees, improvements to search, and additional DNA communities – with even more updates coming soon.

  23. I wish I had been as industrious as donnameszaros – I should have stayed up and gotten all my Quick Links recorded – they seem to be gone this morning. I hope they reappear. I came up with a cool system under Bookmarks on my browser, with folders for family names (I’ve saved links to surnames, etc), so I could actually have the links organized. Praying they come back!!!

  24. I got my second major update today. Little leaf for a Thruline match went to a three toed paw print. Those new avatars are (no I want say that here).

    When looking a a match list why does Ancestry say there is a tree when EVERY ‘person’ on the tree is private.

    When looking at shared matches Ancestry tells us how we are related to the shared match but they don’t tell how the match is related to the shared match. Why not? They have the information. Oh yes, that might be helpful.

  25. I don’t like everything about it but I prefer the new Ancestry design because it is easier for me to read.

  26. Wishing the money had been instead spent on a chromosome browser, that’s not just you Roberta, that’s a great deal of us!

    I suspect they are modernizing to draw in a younger audience with more disposable income.

    And as for the avatars, maybe they made them ugly on purpose so you will upload a photo to replace them, which they will then have the right to use for perpetuity.

    • If it weren’t so much work I’d make avatars to replace theirs and upload them for everyone. I’m 75… would I get done before I die? I wouldn’t need to upload and assign one for everyone because I do have profile pics for some.

    • Maybe a little image if a skeleton in a cluster? Would have the exact opposite effect on genealogists of course. 😂

  27. Roberta,
    Thank you for the detailed tour.
    Like so many others, it was to my surprise that Ancestry changed their website.
    For the life of me I do not know who does their indexing of records, it is horrible.
    Being a customer of Ancestry for 8 years, I would like to move my family tree off of Ancestry.
    Any suggestions?
    I do not agree with their changes or the CEO. We pay them, they don’t pay us.
    Thank you

    • Be careful because if you download your tree you have to save the documents to your computer one at a time. Some applications sync but I don’t use them so can’t vouch. I also use MyHeritage for research. I keep my tree on my computer too.

  28. Hi,

    I have a problem with Ancestry.ca and its new DNA summary page. The ThruLines box on my summary page does not show up. Ancestry support brushed me off twice and hasn’t replied to my latest reply sent to them. When I log into Ancestry.com and the U.K. site their DNA main menu bar items have a submenu that drops down and has a submenu item for ThruLines. Ancestry.ca does not have that submenu system. I have requested to Ancestry.ca support to install the same submenu system that the other sites do because it gives me access to ThruLines and it would be consistent with other sites. I have not received any answers yet.

  29. Hi,

    I use to be able to access my Ancestry ThruLines results from the DNA summary page on Ancestry.ca. Since July 26, 2022 the pane for ThruLines has not shown up on my summary page. I’ve contacted Ancestry.ca support and have been brushed off twice. When I login to Ancestry.com and the U.K. site and click on the DNA menu bar item I get a submenu list that lets me cannect to my ThruLines results. Ancestry.ca does not have that submenu list. I sent them a message requesting a submenu system be established but have not reseived a reply yet. I’m a retired computer support professional with over 22 years experience. The new Ancestry.ca web site layout is terrible and their support is almost non-existent. More of us Ancestry.ca users should send in their complaints to the Ancestry.ca support staff. Then they just might wake up and start correcting their mistakes.

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