Ancestry has released a new paid add-on to their popular online family tree. Ancestry Pro Tools, which also requires an active paid family history membership to purchase, is $10 a month and includes error checking, advanced filtering in your tree, reports and a map view of your ancestors’ locations. In this article we’re going to take a look at this new add-on to see if the monthly cost is worth it.
A Review of Ancestry Pro Tools
There are four features included in the new Pro Tools add-on to your family tree. First, we’ll look at how to add Pro Tools, if you choose to subscribe, and then we’ll look at each of the included features to see if they are worth the additional monthly charge.
How to Add Ancestry Pro Tools to Your Family Tree
If, after reading through this guide, you decide to give Ancestry Pro Tools a try you can easily add them by clicking on the Upgrade to Pro Tools button in the top menu bar above your tree.
Pro Tools is $10 per month and renews automatically at that rate until cancelled. Ancestry states on the checkout page that they reserve the right to change this price at any time, without notice, so always keep an eye on your account.
This package is an add-on to a paid membership so it requires you to be a paid Ancestry subscriber (or be part of a family account) to take part. This means that you must be subscribed to one of their packages – U.S. Discovery, World Explorer or All Access – first. If you do not have a current membership you may be prompted to subscribe first before adding the tools.
Once you click on the upgrade button you’ll be presented with a series of pages to click through before you reach the checkout page, where you can choose your payment method. Once you have done so, and selected “Start Membership,” you will be brought to a confirmation page. You will need to click back over to your tree to begin accessing the features.
To cancel this membership, roll over your profile icon in the upper right hand corner of any screen on Ancestry, select Account Settings and scroll down to the Membership section. You will see your subscription to Pro Tools underneath your family history membership, as well as a cancellation button.
If you cancel, Ancestry will not refund the price you paid. You will retain access to the features until the end of your subscription month and it will not auto renew.
The current process to cancel Pro Tools is very confusing. If you click on the Cancel Membership link for this feature Ancestry’s warning messages make it seem as if you are canceling your record subscription as well.
This is deceiving, as long as you select the cancel link next to the add-on, this is the only subscription that will be removed (despite the warnings that you will lose record and hint access). Let’s hope they clear this up in the future.
Now, let’s take a look at where to find these tools, how they work and whether or not they are worth the additional cost.
Ancestry Pro Tools Error Report Feature
Ancestry has long needed an error reporting feature in their family trees. It is standard option on a number of other sites (including MyHeritage) and most family tree programs. We highly encourage everyone to run an error report at least a few times a year as it can be a great way to avoid a number of inaccuracies and pitfalls that can lead to roadblocks and missed records.
However, we do wish Ancestry had simply added error reporting as a free option to their trees, or included it along with an active paid membership, rather than requiring yet another upgrade. It seems a bit much to ask paid memberships to tack on another $10 a month for this and other basic tools.
If you are only thinking about subscribing to Pro Tools for this feature, know that there are several ways to run one on your tree if you are already using another record site, have your tree in a downloadable program (such as RootsMagic) or are willing to upload/download it somewhere else (even temporarily). You can see your options (free and paid) in our article How to Run an Error Report on Your Family Tree.
If you don’t want to use another site, however, access to the error reporting could make the price of an occasional subscription to Pro Tools worth it, especially if you have a large tree (or several trees).
To access the error reporting after you subscribe, you can do so in two places. The first is through the dropdown menu under Trees. Look for the Tree Checker link as seen below.
The second is in your tree itself. If Ancestry finds errors it will show an exclamation point in the menu bar.
Clicking on either will bring you to the All People page on Ancestry (which is where all of the individuals in your tree are listed), automatically filtered by errors.
Here is what this looks like for one of my trees. You can see that the two error options, Possible Duplicates and Other Possible Issues filters are both applied. These can be turned on and off along with other filters at any time.
You can see that Ancestry has presented me with a list of 19 potential errors it has located, organized alphabetically. Typically, family tree programs error reports focus on date inconsistencies (someone born too early or late for certain events, such as a marriage or the birth of a child) and possible duplicates of individuals. This report is no different. 16 of the errors showing here are possible duplicates and the other 3 involve one person with a date inconsistency.
To access the error for a person, click on the exclamation point to the far right of their name. The leaf next to it is intended to remind you that there are hints about this person (if any exist).
Clicking on an error exclamation point will bring you to the profile page for that ancestor and the error will show up in a sidebar. Here is one showing a date inconsistency in my tree. Clicking on the More link simply brings up some tips from Ancestry about how to solve this issue. You can also see here that you can pull up the errors for a person using either the exclamation point at the top or by clicking the Check Facts links.
With this particular error, it is pretty easy to see what went wrong. Wesley and Lois’s daughter is listed as having been born in 1899, when the parents were born well after.
I went ahead and checked the record for her birth and found it came from the 1940 census, where Bette was listed as having been 4/12 months.
I took a moment to head over and make a correction to the transcription on Ancestry (so others would not have the same issue) but found I had already done so in the past.
Clearly, I recognized the error when I added the record originally but forgot to change it in my own tree. This is where error reports can be very useful since this issue was no doubt limiting hints about Bette, and perhaps her parents. Had I actively been researching this part of my tree I likely would have noticed this earlier, without the need for an error report, but you can see how easy it is to miss these things when we are not taking the time to be as cautious as we should.
This was a nice catch by Ancestry’s system, but it is the only issue it found other than the 16 potential duplicates it presented me with.
A brief look through the duplicate error suggestions uncovered that most of them were not, in fact, duplicates – just similarly named individuals born in similar time periods. Because almost all of these occurred with siblings on lines that had only been briefly researched (with only a couple of records or family connections) it is easy to see how the system may have tagged these as potential cross overs.
However, it did turn up several where there is a chance that duplicates do exist and I will now have a chance to explore these and merge if needed.
If you do get a duplicate suggestion the error sidebar will show up with a Review button and a place to mark as Not a Duplicate if you find the suggestion is not correct.
Clicking the review button will show a page where you can compare the two people involved. Take your time on each of these to make sure that they are not two separate individuals before merging.
Overall, I did not find the error report on Ancestry to be as detailed or useful as some of the others I have run in the past, but it did pick up some problems so it wasn’t a waste of time either. If you have a large tree that you have never ran an error report on, and don’t care to use another service, it is worth your time.
However, this is certainly not a service you will need to use every month so, if you do sign up for Ancestry Pro Tools to try it out, perhaps consider a temporary subscription.
Of course, error checking of your tree is not the only feature included in Ancestry’s new add-on. You will also receive advanced filtering, map views and reports. Let’s take a brief look at what each of these include.
Pro Tools Advanced Filtering
The advanced filtering feature included in Pro Tools is designed to help you better organize and locate individuals in your family tree. It is used in conjunction with the search feature and filters can be applied on the All People page.
To access advanced filtering, view your tree and click on the find button seen in the screenshot below.
This will open a side panel where you can search for an individual and filter by MyTreeTags (a free tagging feature you do not need Pro Tools for). You will also see a link to List of All People. This will bring you to a full list of individuals in your tree and where you can apply the filtering options you have access to with the add-on.
Once on this page, click on the More Filters button to open a sidebar where you can access all filters.
You can now choose to sort by direct ancestors on your paternal and maternal side, find end of line ancestors (the last person entered in a family line), sort ancestors by dates and locations (such as everyone that was born in a certain town, or all those that died in a certain decade), and view all ancestors with Hints.
If you visit the All People page without having the Pro Tools add-on you will not see any filters at all, only a name search. The only pro filter that can be accessed without this subscription (through another page) is view all ancestors with hints. We explain this in our Ancestry Crash Course.
This is certainly a nice addition to your tree if you are trying to find a specific piece of information, understand your family connections in new ways or get more organized. You can read more about the filtering options in the Pro Tools package here.
Using the Map View
The map view is another element of the Pro Tools add-on and, admittedly, is a lot of fun. To find it, view your tree and roll over the tree icon in the small left toolbar. Then select Map.
This will bring you to a page showing your where the people in your tree were born. You can apply filters to instead show distribution of your ancestors by where they died, were buried or lived – as well as filter only for direct ancestors and more.
Zooming in and out will provide more or less detail and clicking on a number will list the people relevant to that location in the sidebar.
Like the advanced filters, this is just another way to view, find and understand the people in your tree, but can be a nice addition for those who prefer to analyze their data visually. To use all of the features for the map view you will need to have “set who you are” in your tree. This is different than setting a home person and you can find out how to do it here.
Charts and Reports in Ancestry Pro Tools
The final feature included in this add-on is a collection of downloadable and printable charts and reports for your tree. To find this feature, roll over the same tiny tree icon in the left tool menu or find it in the dropdown under Trees in the main menu.
Once you follow this link you will be presented with a page where you can create one of four reports for any person in your tree. These include Descendancy (list of descendants), Ahnentafel (list of ancestors), Register (numbered list of descendants by family group and generational order) or Family Group Sheet (shows only one family group of parents and children).
You can change the focus person for these reports on the lower part of the sidebar, as well as find download and print buttons.
These reports are text-only and pretty basic. They are something we would expect to see included in nearly any family tree program. However, if you are not using another program and need or want access to these charts and reports, this can be a useful feature to have.
Do know that you can already create a visual family group sheet (without the Pro Tools add-on) by visiting the profile page of any person in your tree, clicking on the tree name in the upper left and selecting Family Group Sheet. This is what it looks like.
While this is, perhaps, not as printer friendly as the one provided by Pro Tools it displays the same information. To have access to other reports you will need to pay for the add-on. Or, as mentioned, you can add your tree to another site or program like RootsMagic, MyHeritage, RootsFinder or Family Tree Maker that also provide these. Read about family tree options here.
Are Ancestry Pro Tools Worth Your Money?
Ancestry’s Pro Tools add-on does provide a number of useful features to help you make the most of the information in your family tree. The error reporting and advanced filtering options are especially helpful. But the cost may not be worth it. The tools they are providing are very common and can be found in a number of other programs at a lower cost.
Because these standard tree tools are often already included in the price of a paid membership (such as seen with MyHeritage) or in the cost of a downloadable program (such as with RootsMagic), we are a bit disappointed that Ancestry has chosen to charge extra for these. It would, perhaps, make sense to charge unpaid members who are using the family tree at no cost, but we would have liked to have seen those with paid subscriptions being able to access the features as part of their subscriptions.
We also noticed that those who are taking advantage of the family plan (4 additional accounts included with an All Access subscription) will not be able to share Pro Tools with their family members’ accounts. Each family account would need its own separate subscription to these tree features.
There are a number of other sites and programs doing a better job of providing similar tools, and certainly for less. RootsMagic, for instance, costs just $39.95, syncs with your Ancestry tree, and provides comparable tools (many of which are more advanced) without a monthly subscription. We cover the syncing feature in RootsMagic here.
MyHeritage also has similar tools (and more advanced error reporting and charts) for a great deal less than Ancestry. Of course, they fall short in other ways, like the number of records offered. Still, if you have subscriptions to both companies we suggest simply using the tools on MyHeritage.
If you prefer to work on Ancestry only, and do not feel comfortable downloading or syncing your tree with another program or site, than the $10 price tag may very well be worth it to you. If you are a bit more budget conscious you can choose a variety of other options for less or just pay for the Pro Tools for a month or two to get what you need.
We hope this review helps you decide whether Ancestry’s newest add-on is worth your time, and money. For more help using Ancestry, check out our Crash Course in the Family History Daily Course Center.