Ancestry news from RootsTech 2024


07 March 2024
“It’s a family thing” is the new rallying cry from Ancestry – as the Ancestry team work to provide genealogists with the tools they need to research alongside other family members. New AI indexing systems that are rapidly increasing the pace and facility with which new family history indexes are being created, and dramatically more precise DNA community areas are further developments to help Ancestry users over the past year.

Ancestry’s Family Groups

“It’s a family thing” is the new rallying cry from Ancestry – as the Ancestry team work to provide genealogists with the tools they need to research alongside other family members. One such tool is the Family Groups. Crista Cowan (the Barefoot Genealogist), Corporate Genealogist for Ancestry, explains:

“Here’s what Family Groups are going to allow you to do. You can create a group of people in your family who are working on a common goal. You get to decide how it looks. You get to decide how you organize that.”

Via the Ancestry Activity Feed you will be able to assign family members tasks, see which of your group members are doing what, and co-ordinate the family history efforts in the family. It’s an ideal way to allow family members to join in with family history in a way that suits them, for instance, harnessing the memories of some family members to label digitized photos, or other members to work together to solve DNA mysteries.

You can give the individual people you invite to your Family Group various levels of access:

  • editor access allows someone to amend your tree (suitable for those you trust to work on and amend your family tree),
  • contributor access allows someone to upload a photo, a story, or an audio file, to your tree, for instance,
  • while guest access gives the person viewer access only.

Crista Cowan suggests: “Think: If you were to create a Family Group today – who in your family would you invite? And what tasks could you invite them to do?”

[Note you can have more than one Family Group – but if you have one family tree, then it makes sense to only have one Family Group]

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Ancestry Family Plan

Ancestry have also introduced a Family Plan: one paid member, who can have up to four members gaining up to full benefits of the paid member’s Ancestry membership (eg you can grant each of the four any of editor, contributor or guest membership). [Note: The Family Plan has not been rolled out to the UK yet.]


Ancestry StoryMaker Studio is rebranded as Memories – with some new features. Memories is “the place to go to uploaded stories and photos”. Plus you may record and/or upload audio, to annotate a photo. In Memories you may also create photo albums – for instance you could create an album of each of your ancestors who served in World War II.

To get going using Memories, Crista Cowan advises that we each ask ourselves: “What stories do I know, that I haven’t told yet? And what stories do I know, and maybe have told, but haven’t recorded yet? … You can do something now, to make sure [your descendants and younger family members] don’t have that regret” – the number one regret that people voice over and again, that they wish they had listened to the stories that their grandparents had told them.

Continuing with the goal of integrating the wider family into the pursuit of family history, Ancestry has introduced a Family Plan: one paid member, who can have up to four members gaining up to full benefits of your Ancestry membership (eg you can grant each of the four editor, contributor or guest membership).

Content & AI

In the 16 year period, 1997 to beginning of 2023, Ancestry had published 41 billion records on the Ancestry website, typically indexing about 2 million records a month. Over the course of the last 5 years, until 2023, Ancestry was indexing an average of 2-3 million records a day. With the launch of the 1950 US Census in 2022, Crista Cowan (Corporate Genealogist at Ancestry) explained, Ancestry developed some proprietary handwriting recognition algorithms and employed the use of Artificial Intelligence for indexing. Today – spring 2024 – there are 60 billion records on Ancestry covering 88 countries!

New index: The Stories & Events Index

Not only is the process faster, but the speed facilitated by the new technology has allowed for the creation of whole new approaches to indexing. AI being used to create indexes & to provide hints, accessible, for instance, via The Stories & Events Index.

Crista Cowan explains: “Ancestry has gone through the entire collection at and created a searchable index for over 16 billion records” – and has accomplished this in just 14 months. AI is being utilized to make connections and suggest hints between people in the newspaper collections and people in your family tree – even when an ancestor in the newspaper may not be mentioned by their own full name, but may instead, be recorded under their husband’s name.

How do you access the Stories & Events Index and associated hints?

  • Index entries and associated hints will be suggested to you in your hints list
  • You may go to a specific collection, such as the Florida newspapers collection on Ancestry
  • is a useful go to hub page.

Notes: The Stories & Events Index results and hints won’t appear in your global search results on Ancestry. The Stories & Events Index currently covers solely the USA, but it will cover Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the UK and Ireland. You will need a subscription to to see the images of the newspapers (without a subscription then you can see the index search results).


The Ancestry DNA database has now tipped the 25 million people milestone. AncestryDNA testing launched in 2012, and in the early years was able to assign your DNA to just a very small number ethnicity regions. As of 2024, Ancestry has 88 ethnicity regions to which you may be assigned – and which show where your family was 500-1,000 years ago. In addition there are 120 million family trees on Ancestry and the Ancestry algorithm can search the trees of your DNA matches and assign you to any of 2,500+ DNA communities. The DNA communities reflect the whereabouts of your family within the last 200 years. There are 203 DNA communities for Ireland alone, and 413 African-American DNA communities – some of which zone in on a 10-mile square area. New DNA communities are launched every 3 or 4 months. Traits by parent and DNA communities by parent are new additions within the past months.

Tip: check back regularly to see whether you have been assigned to any new or more specific DNA communities. If new people have tested and new trees been developed this may happen at any time through the year (not just when Ancestry develop new DNA communities).

To view the Family Tree RootsTech 2024 round-up please see: