Nine bloggers spent the day at the Ancestry.com facilities on Friday. Most of those in attendance had visited Ancestry.com in January 2009. However, I didn’t because I was just getting back into blogging at that time, after having lost my blog for a few months. So the experience this year was all new to me.

ancestrycom We met at the Little America Hotel in downtown SLC and first went to the data center, which is located in Salt Lake. Needless to say, I was impressed. There we saw row upon row of servers, all feeding data to over a million Ancestry.com members.

The group then traveled to the Ancestry.com Corporate offices in Provo where we spent the day touring the facility, and attending power-point presentations, each given by by the the Ancestry.com VPs and directors.

Ancestry.com CEO Tim Sullivan joined us for lunch, and spent an hour asking questions and looking for input from the bloggers. That evening we went to dinner at the Market Street Grill, and spent a couple more hours getting to know the Ancestry.com executives a bit better. PR Manager, Anastasia Tyler, coordinated the whole thing and made all of us feel very welcome.

On the way to the restaurant last evening, Myrt asked me what I was most impressed with at Ancestry.com. Without hesitation, I replied that I found the Membership Services operations to be the most revealing. Prior to the visit, I imagined that Membership Services was probably where you called if you wanted to cancel your subscription or find out why your Family Tree Maker 2010 wouldn’t work on your old computer (or visa versa). Boy, oh, boy – did I have that wrong. Sure – they do those things, but they now also do little things like making a call to all new members on day 4 or 5 after someone signs up, asking what they can do to help. They have 160 employees who answer the phones, and emails, taking about 110,000 calls per month, as well as answering 40 to 50 thousand monthly emails from Ancestry.com members. Every email is to be answered within 24 hours. Many of the membership services employees are skilled genealogists, who actually have the capability of helping members with their genealogy problems. They can not only help members with getting the most out of Ancestry.com, but can help with their research. Ancestry.com currently has 1,066,000 paying subscribers, and they figure that the best way to keep those members – and get many more – is to do everything in their power to make sure that their members have success in their hobby. To have that success, content is still king, but a great membership services program is right up there alongside it. I agree.

Ancestry.com has changed a lot – just in the last year of so. Not only is it a public company, but this emphasis on customer success and satisfaction is a marked change over the “old” Ancestry. I, like many other bloggers, have made negative comments about the company’s past seeming ineptitude when it came to doing dumb things that just ticked folks off. The management being human, I’m sure that at some point in the future, they’ll do something once again that all of us can pile onto. But, saying that, I’m willing to bet that it won’t happen often, since I firmly believe that they’re doing the right things.

This blog is just the first of a number that I plan to make, based on my time spent at Ancestry.com, as well as my own use of the Internet site. And yes, there’s some pretty exciting stuff to blog – much dealing with new data at Ancestry.com, as well as new indexes and ways to view data… There’s a lot to tell.

TEASERS FOR 2010…

  • The 1920 U.S. Federal Census (all 2.2 million images) will see improved & enhanced images posted online.
  • Ancestry.com will be KEYING THE FIELDS found within the 1790 through 1840 censuses (all 91,000 images). Previously only the heads-of-household were keyed and indexed.
  • The Deaf, Dumb, and Defective (DDDs) U.S. Census Schedules for CA, SC, NY, IL, NJ, WA, NE, KS, MA, IA, ME, VA, and TX (all 30,000 images with 146,000 names) will be indexed and posted.
  • A 1950 Census Substitute, made up of 2500 – 1946 though 1960 City Directories will be posted.
  • and maybe most exciting of all! U.S. land ownership maps 1860-1920 (plat maps) will be posted complete with indexes for the seven million names found thereon. Over 100,000 images will be involved.

Bloggers attending the Bloggers’ Day 2010 event were:
Dick Eastman – Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter
Thomas MacEntee – Geneabloggers.com
Leland K. Meitzler – GenealogyBlog.com
The unknown blogger – The Ancestry Insider
Craig Manson – Geneablogie.com
Diane Haddad – The Genealogy Insider
Lisa Cooke – Genealogy Gems Podcast
Pat Richley-Erickson – DearMyrtle.com
Kimberly Powell – About.com Genealogy

Following is a group photo taken near the end of the day in Provo. The bloggers are in the same order as I’ve listed them above. Starting with Dick in the upper left hand corner (back row) and going left to right.
Ancestry.com Bloggers Day 2010 group

In order to keep the FCC happy, I need to state that Ancestry.com paid for the bloggers’ transportation to SLC, hotels, and our meals. They even offered to pay my airfare. However, I declined, as the flight from Bountiful to SLC would have only been about 5 miles, and I don’t believe that Salt Lake International accepts private aircraft.