Recently, I've found myself in an interesting situation in which I have to defend my recent post where I talked about how misleading the new Ancestry ad campaign is, including one commercial in particular. First of all, I do not have an "anti-Ancestry agenda" nor did I accuse Ancestry of "stealing credit for member submitted photos." I said the commercial was misleading because that, in my opinion (as an AMATEUR genealogist who makes no claims of knowing everything there is to know about genealogy), is the truth. First of all, the commercial in question makes it sound like there is some sort of connection between census records and photographs, that simply by searching a census you will be led to find pictures of your ancestors. While it would be great if this were the case, it is simply not. For another thing, the commercial makes no mention of the fact that the vast majority of the pictures of people on the site are user-submitted and that finding a picture of your ancestor on the site is far from guaranteed and contingent on a user submitting the photo. And in case you're wondering, I recently re watched the commercial to see if there was any kind of fine print stating my points and there isn't.
As for my so called "anti-Ancestry agenda," I don't have one and never have. When I first got into genealogy in the late 1990's, Ancestry.com was one of the first places I went to and a decade later, it is still my first stop for any genealogy related questions and my overall, favorite website. I have been a happy member since 2001 and as of 2009, I am thinking about upgrading my membership to the World Deluxe level. I also receive their magazine, regularly read their blogs, and am considering getting their Family Tree Maker program again. But you know what? There is room for improvement at Ancestry (as there is with anything else, including myself and this blog) and I'm not going to pretend it is a perfect place and not say something when, in my opinion, they need to improve.
First of all, the new search stinks. It stinks to high heaven and the majority of the cursing I do in a day is due to how horrible it is. Second of all, I'd like to see Ancestry make free the databases which are free on other sites. This is just a personal thing with me, a quirk if you will, and not something I expect anyone else to agree with. I just think, from a marketing standpoint, it would look better for your company to offer the same books and records for free that are listed as free on other, competitive sites such as Google Books and FamilySearch. I also think doing that would keep more people on the site because I can't tell you how many times I've been on Ancestry working on a line when I have to go open a new tab or leave the site entirely to go find the record that I want to see for free on FamilySearch but is inaccessible to me on Ancestry. Thirdly, I think the new marketing campaign is misleading. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has never even done genealogy before, who probably only knows the names of their grandparents at best. How do you think they'd feel if they were first getting into genealogy, knew absolutely nothing about it and the Ancestry commercial I discussed earlier comes on TV? They'd probably be elated and excited and go on Ancestry and then be tremendously disappointed because they didn't find a picture of their great-grandfather when they were going through the 1880 census. While Ancestry has a lot to offer, it doesn't have all the answers like it, in my opinion, claims in its new commercial(s). I have names and lines that I have never found a scrap of information on at Ancestry and the majority of pictures I've found on the site are of coats of arms and family crests, which anyone worth their salt in the genealogy world can tell you are bogus (these are individually granted, not "given" to families and surnames).
I know they present Ancestry as the place with all the answers for a reason. Honestly, if I worked for Ancestry, I'd be tempted to do the same campaign because it is very seductive and I'm sure, very successful for them. I just think they need to re-work their spots to mention (or at least include in fine print) that information isn't guaranteed and you shouldn't get your hopes up too much. Bottom line is that I'm worried these spots will get people into genealogy, get their hopes up and make them walk away from it because it didn't pan out like the commercials made it look.
FYI, here is the commercial so you can judge for yourself:
Now, please don't send me hate mail/comments! Thank you.