Sunday, March 8, 2009

1940 U.S. Federal Census Substitute and Much More

It's always interesting to get a sneak peek at what we can look forward to in new records and services coming online. Here's the latests from

1940 U.S. Federal Census Substitute
Expected Launch Date: March
Est. Name Count: 100m
Est. Image Count: 2m
Over 2,000 city directories for 1940 and surrounding years. 45+ states represented. These 1940 city directories will be grouped with other 1940 content on already existing on the site in a 1940 Census Substitute search group. City directories are the forerunners of phone books. The head of household is usually listed, often with address and occupation. These can also serve as off-year census substitutes.

1880 U.S. Federal Census Improved - New Images
Expected Launch Date: March
Est. Name Count: 50.4m
Est. Image Count: 1.1m
New higher quality images, in many cases, fixing completely illegible images. 50 million individuals were enumerated in the 1880 United States Federal Census. 1880 is the second of the U.S. censuses we'll be improving over the coming months with improved images and indexes (1900 was the first, released late last year).

U.S. Historical Newspapers Collection - Update
Expected Launch Date: April
Est. Name Count: 500m
Est. Image Count: 10m
Papers from hundreds of new cities and small towns will be added. Read history as it was happening in papers dating back to the 1700's. The full-text index and Advanced Image Viewer deliver highlighted search hits on every page.

U.S. Public Records Index - New Data/New Format
Expected Launch Date: April
525 million new records from the 1950s to the 1990s with a new format, including address of residence and birth date.

In addition…
In addition to these four huge additions, each with millions and millions of names (1880, 1940, Newspapers and USPRI) over the next few months, we will be launching a steady stream of high value projects. These include vital records from Maine, Utah, Montana, Vermont and New York and unique additions to military and immigration collections.

Site Performance & Scalability: Ancestry continues to work on their site performance and site scalability. They have had a dedicated Development team working on site performance over the last couple of months. In the last month, they have implemented a number of additional improvements to how the Web pages are constructed to reduce their load time. Also, they have also been reaching out to customer volunteers to install performance monitoring software on their machines to analyze exactly what they are seeing. This kind of focus will be critical for going forward given the growing number of factors in the site performance equation on both the and user sides: browsers, plug-ins, virus protection, PC resources, complexity of site pages, richness of experience, etc. The company says they are not yet where they want to be but they are making progress. On the infrastructure side of things, they recently upgraded the servers that house the member tree system.

New Features Rolling-out:
Lifespan filtering: They will be making a number of search algorithm improvements over the coming months to address customer comments. The first one is rolling out next week. They call it “lifespan filtering” internally. Today, their searches return records that are clearly outside the date ranges entered by the user. Lifespan filtering will stop this practice.

Member-to-member messaging: Ancestry will be making improvements to member-to-member messaging system to bring it all online. This way members don’t have to worry about losing emails in their email boxes. They will all be available for use on You can read and reply to messages and create folders for saving and organizing messages. Like with their current member-to-member messaging system, your actual email address will remain private unless you choose to share it. Also, by having the messages online, Ancestry is able to provide a recipient more info about the person sending the email such as their research interests and contributions. This is supposed to make for a richer experience for members communicating with each other on This feature also launches next week.

RE: Message threads between two members. Messages back and forth are captured as a conversation such that you can refer back to the entire discussion thread after the fact. Also note on the right side how Ancestry will show the senders profile if one exists on

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