5 Most Important Ancestry.com Updates

By Andrew Koch

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you’ll know that things are always changing. Whole websites come and go, and even the most visited domains get a face-lift every now and then. Ancestry.com is certainly no exception. The no. 1 genealogy website continues to evolve, and it can be hard to keep track of all these Ancestry.com updates.

Back in 2014, we published the Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com, a comprehensive guide to using the site. This book shows you how to find and use all kinds of genealogy records on Ancestry.com, plus how to create and manage Ancestry.com family trees.

Discover your family on Ancestry.com with this amazing Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com

We’ve worked hard to keep this guide up-to-date. And that’s why we’re excited to launch a new, updated version of the book. This second edition includes all the first edition’s helpful, step-by-step information, plus new screenshots and an expanded, detailed section on how to use AncestryDNA.

So what exactly has changed on Ancestry.com since the first edition was published? Let’s take a step back and look at some of the major Ancestry.com updates since 2014.

Family tree upgrades

Even casual Ancestry.com users will have noticed the extensive changes to the family tree interface over the last few years. Check out the side-by-side screenshots for a comparison.

Sleeker family tree views were among the Ancestry.com updates that have taken place over the past few years.
Ancestry.com updated its family tree interfaces, making them sleeker and more modern-looking. This is the Family view; the Pedigree view has similarly changed, but isn’t shown here.
As part of Ancestry.com updates, profile pages were overhauled.
Ancestry.com also significantly updated its ancestor profile pages, consolidating tabs and making content information more visually accessible.

As you can see, Ancestry.com has updated the design of its family tree display, as well as the layout and details on profile pages. The family tree views are sleeker, and the individual profile page visualizes vital data in a whole different way. One notable change to the latter is the LifeStory feature, which places your ancestor’s life events in historical context, featuring important “flashbulb” events like floods or military engagements. Other important family details, such as family relationships and source information, are also more easily accessible on the new profile page.

More records

As you might expect, Ancestry.com continues to add new records collections to its already massive database. Notably, Ancestry.com launched an extensive wills and probates database that offers detailed records from all fifty US states. The site has also added a collection of more than 250 million Mexican birth, marriage and death records, plus more than 100 million vital records from the Netherlands.

Follow along with other new and recently updated collections by visiting Ancestry.com’s landing page. That page also features records collections that will soon be added to Ancestry.com, helping you identify future areas of research.

AncestryDNA expansion

Still in its infancy in 2014, AncestryDNA has exploded in popularity over the last few years. The site, firmly established as one of the leaders in the field, boasts more than 7 million DNA kits in its database.

And as the service continues to expand, AncestryDNA has developed new tools to attract users and help them find matches. In addition to ethnicity estimates and DNA matches, AncestryDNA now also provides DNA Circles (groups of matches who all share a common ancestor) and New Ancestor Discoveries (AncestryDNA’s attempt to tie your ancestry to important historical figures). Your ethnicity estimates may now also include Migration groups, which identify and track historical populations that immigrated to the United States in droves.

Even the results page navigation has changed. Your results are now organized into three columns on your DNA home page: DNA Story (including your ethnicity estimates), DNA Matches and DNA Circles. Beneath these, you will also see the New Ancestor Discoveries (if AncestryDNA has assigned some to you).

Our expanded second edition of the Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com includes three chapters on how to use AncestryDNA results in your research.

Sister site updates

Ancestry.com has a long history of acquiring other genealogy websites and services, from Archives.com to ProGenealogists to 1000Memories.com. These services often become incorporated into the Ancestry.com experience. In other cases, you can purchase a subscription that gives you access to these additional subscriptions sites. For example, the rebranded All Access pass (formerly “World Explorer Plus”) gives you access to all the Ancestry.com records, plus Newspapers.com and Fold3.com.

While it hasn’t made any large purchases since 2014, Ancestry.com has still overseen updates to its sister sites. Newspapers.com and Fold3.com continue to add new records to their already-impressive collections. Check out the brand-new chapter 16 of the second edition of the Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com for more on using these two sites.

Find A Grave, another of Ancestry.com’s subsidiaries, also received a face-lift. Find A Grave streamlined its search forms, and memorial pages now more closely resemble Ancestry.com profiles. The changes have been met with some resistance by some users, but it seems the updates are here to stay.

In addition, RootsWeb, the long-running, Ancestry.com-owned forum that has hosted free user-submitted content for decades, has been out of commission for several months. Ancestry.com initially closed the site after a potential data breach, and technical problems have continued to plague the site.

Software shuffling

Ancestry.com once owned its own genealogy desktop software program: Family Tree Maker (FTM). The program, arguably the most popular amongst genealogists, allowed users to sync their FTM files with Ancestry.com family trees. But in late 2015, Ancestry.com announced it would discontinue FTM. FTM users voiced their disapproval, and Ancestry.com agreed to sell the program to Software MacKiev instead. Months later, Software MacKiev released Family Tree Maker 2017, a new and improved version that is compatible with Ancestry.com. (Unfortunately, older versions of FTM can no longer sync with Ancestry.com.)

In addition, Ancestry.com has also developed a partnership with RootsMagic, another popular software program. After much anticipation, RootsMagic released an update allowing its users to also sync their files with Ancestry.com family trees.

Keep an eye on FamilyTreeMagazine.com for more coverage on Ancestry.com updates. You can also stay up-to-date with the latest Ancestry.com news by visiting the Ancestry.com blog.

Discover your family on Ancestry.com with this amazing Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com

For even deeper dives into how to use the new and improved Ancestry.com, check out the second edition of the Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com by Nancy Hendrickson. For a limited time, you can get this book and its companion workbook (an almost $50 value) for just $29.38. You can also check out our list of 10 easy tips for using Ancestry.com.