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Ancestry’s StoryScout needs some work

Of course, The Legal Genealogist couldn’t resist.

Send me an email telling me about a new Bright Shiny Object, and I’m there.

So when yesterday’s email came in from Ancestry inviting me to go play with its new tool, StoryScout (available under the AncestryDNA tab), well, let’s just say it didn’t take me very long to go give it a workout.

Ancestry's StoryScout

The promise is this: “StoryScout can reveal incredible details from your ancestors’ lives and bring them together in the form of a story—allowing you to share a new side of your history with friends and family.”

The instructions are simple: “Simply enter a grandparent’s name to get started. We’ll show you a list of possible ancestor matches—just choose the one that’s your relative.”

Then, the email says, “StoryScout searches our collections for personal artifacts. The details of your ancestors’ lives are presented as stories that are engaging and easy to understand.”1

And … sigh … not always entirely accurate.

I picked the grandfather I thought would be easiest: my paternal grandfather was born in Germany in 1891, emigrated to the United States in 1925, settled in Chicago, and died there in 1945.2

Now… all of these facts are all over Ancestry. Do a name search for my grandfather and you’ll get — just as a few examples — his German military draft registration, the passenger list for the emigration, the 1930 census, his naturalization records, Social Security info, the 1940 census, his 1942 World War II draft registration, and the 1945 Illinois death index.3

So what does StoryScout want to tell me?

My grandfather — born in 1891, listed on the 1930 census as a coal worker and on the 1940 census as a common laborer in a foundry — was a college student in 1940.

Um… no.

Just… no.

My father, his son, Hugo Hermann Geissler, age 19 at the time — he was a college student in 1940.

But my common laborer grandfather in his late 40s?


The search algorithms are going to need to be tweaked some if it’s going to assign a 49-year-old laborer to a college classroom.

So… not quite ready for prime time, I’m afraid.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Not quite ready…,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 1 Sep 2020).


  1. Email,, 31 August 2020.
  2. For the birth, see Standesamt Köstritz, Geburten, No. 23, 1891, Hugo Ernst Geissler (City Registrar, Births). For the emigration, see Manifest, S.S. George Washington, Jan-Feb 1925, p. 59 (stamped), line 4, Hugo E Geissler; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, ( : accessed 1 Sep 2020); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 3605. For residence, see e.g. 1930 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, Chicago Ward 16, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 16-598, page 223(B) (stamped), sheet 18(B), dwelling 155, family 386, Hugo E. Geissler; digital image, ( : accessed 1 Sep 2020); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 441. For the death, see Illinois Department of Public Health, death certificate no. 1145, Hugo Geissler, 13 Jan 1945; Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield.
  3. See “All results for Hugo Ernst Geissler,” 1 Sep 2020, ( : accessed 1 Sep 2020).
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