Ancestry Launches StoryScout™

On July 1st launched StoryScout, and I had a chance to work with it, and I thought I’d share. (Currently, it’s available in the U.S., but I understand that it will expand to other counties later.)

StoryScout is included in your Ancestry DNA purchases, and that’s not only good news for people testing their DNA, but it might be good news for the seasoned genealogist or genetic genealogist. Why do I say that? Well, I think once you see what StoryScout does, you might agree.

So to begin with, you have to enter one of your grandparent’s names and identify where they came from and then click Explore Now.

In this case, I choose my grandmother, Gladys Mabel Oliver, who was born in Sussex, England. The system then asked me to tell it a little bit more information or switch to another grandparent. So I identified that Gladys had also lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

This time the system gave me three possible people. My grandmother was Mabel Gladys Oliver on the right. (It even figured out that although I’d entered Gladys because that’s what she went by, her correct name was Mabel Gladys.

The next step is to click on the “This my grandparent,” and the system takes me to the next screen where it’s searching for records.

The next screen shows that my grandmother is in Canada in 1921, which she was.

The next record I see is telling me about my great grandmother, Alice Oliver, Gladys’ mother, and providing information from the census. Again the information is correct, and this information comes from the 1921 census.

I’ve gone through this same process for two of my other grandparents, and it interesting how StoryScout starts finding records that are not only for my grandparents but starts to delve into the lives of my great grandparents.

Below is an overview of my StoryScout page. As you can see, it’s given me some information about my great grandfather’s, and it’s also given me information about my 4th Great-Grandmother, Ann Stott.

One of the last stories StoryScout found for me was quite intriguing and still relating to my grandmother Glayds’ line. It said that Abraham Baldwin is my 4th cousin 7x removed. That would be quite something if that’s correct, as I am only vaguely aware of some family lines that went to the US.

When I clicked on the “Why am I getting this story” this is what popped up.

So it is telling me that this has been researched but that it is also using public trees and as you know that can be dangerous. But I’m thinking if that was acknowledged and noted, then people could then be taught how to go about researching this possibility to validate the information.

What’s interesting about the Abraham Baldwin connection is it even gave me a chart showing how Ancestry thinks we are connected. I’m not taking it as gospel, but I’ve done part of my tree and the part I recognize I feel confident about. Do you think I’ll be checking the rest out? You bet I will.

I’ve already confirmed most of the genealogy back to William Harman, so it would be interesting to learn more. I do see some significant gaps in years between generations, so I’d have to see if a few generations are missing. But still, don’t you think if you were a new person testing their DNA that you might be intrigued and get interested in genealogy?

One of the complaints of those of us that use DNA is that there are so many missing trees when you get a new cousin match. This might change that.

Right now, StoryScout has been launched on the US dot com site only, but even with my very English family, I was able to find things. I think that had I seen something like this 20 years ago, I would have gotten interested in genealogy.

I recall that something similar happened to me when I got started in family history. I’d signed up for a basic genealogy course at the Alberta Genealogical Society, and I thought I’d just check on the internet and see what I could find out about my family.

You know how it goes when you are searching, and you go here and there and really don’t know how you go where you are. I finally came across a UK 1901 census for my great grandfather Jesse Oliver. He was 19 years of age, and he was living with his mother, who was a widow, and his brother Arthur and his sister Beatrice. Jesse was a plumber, and his brother Arthur was a lithographer and their mother a dressmaker.

1901 England Census

It was at that moment that they all became real to me, and it’s probably the moment that I became a genealogist. I wanted to learn more about them, and I wanted to learn how to do it right. I later learned that the website I’d stumbled upon was; the National Archives UK.

StoryScout has the potential to do that exact same thing for a person taking a DNA test for the first time or someone that just wants to see what “genealogy” is all about. StoryScout has the potential to show people how to research and share the story of their ancestors. For those of us that have been doing genealogy for a while, this is good news.

Because now there might be even the tiniest of twigs attached to that new DNA cousin account, and that’s all I need. A few names and dates, and then I can work to fit them into my tree.


  • Meredith says:

    What about putting names in further back? Are we able to ask it for info, say on a 2x great-grandparent? Since 3 of my 4 grandparents are still living I’m able to get quite a bit of info from them directly as well as having found numerous records elsewhere.

  • Found it! I had to go to the DNA Summary page and then it showed up in the drop down!

  • Interesting but is it in Beta? I had my DNA done on Ancestry several years ago. On the dropdown menu under DNA I only have Your DNA Results Summary, DNA Story, DNA Matches, ThruLines, Traits, Personal Discoveries Project, Activate A Test and Buy Another Test. No StoryScout? Is that where it would be, the drop down menu?

  • Oh great – one more thing ONLY for people who’ve done their DNA…Honestly, there are more ways to do your family tree than spit in a tube. I think this would be a great way to get EVERYONE involved (with the appropriate cautions given)…I’m so tired of DNA this and DNA that – all of Ancestry’s improvements lately have been for those who pay extra to spit in the tube. Very annoying.

    • Yes this is true but DNA is a way to validate your tree. If you think about it with 18 Million people who have tested we want those people to become interesting in genealogy so we can learn what they might know about our families. There are things that are going on to improve the researching experience as well. I know I’ve seen the new BETA blue boxes on an ancestor profile page showing you hints that can be looked at right on the page and I know there are other projects in the works to provide more discoveries..

    • Edward Black says:

      You can’t fake DNA. Using records, you can mistakenly connect a child to an incorrect parentage and the family trees on Ancestry offer plenty of proof of that.

      • No, you can’t fake DNA. But StoryScout is a way to get people interested enough that they can create trees that can help you discover how you are connected. If your match or the people that you have in common with your match never create trees how will we discover how we connect? I only need a name and a few dates and then I can do their research but I do need a starting point. I understand what you’re saying.. incorrect parentage isn’t the answer if done with bad research but we also know that autosomal DNA only really works with DNA and trees…

  • Kristy Ostergard says:

    I’m definitely going to check this out. I didn’t know it was out there and I think I’ve worked on my tree long enough and diligently enough to be able to discount some of the “junk” stuff that might come up. Sure hope to find out some interesting info like you did.

  • Edward Black says:

    Its description does not sound promising, sourcing from … ” public and searchable trees” … most of which is junk.

  • Larry Turner says:

    StoryScout sounds like a great tool. I could not figure out how to access it. I have a World Explorer membership. Is it only available if you have just a U. S. membership? Any suggestions? (might apply to others also)

    • Larry, If you have a dot com membership you should see it under DNA if you have done a DNA test. I believe that’s where it’s being offered but I’m thinking Ancestry might expand to all users at some point. For now I believe the idea is to get people that are testing their DNA interested in genealogy.

  • Kathryn says:

    Thanks for posting this! I hadn’t noticed it yet, so just gave it a try. It showed a link to a Quaker record for one of my 4x great-grandfathers that I’ll have to investigate more, so that’s interesting. I hope they add some edit capabilities to it. It has one of my grandfather’s names spelled wrong as it appeared in one of the census records. There doesn’t seem to be any way to accept his name from other correct records yet, but maybe that’s something they’ll add.

    • Kathryn,
      You’ll have to let me know if the info from the Quaker record turns out to be something for you. Please offer feedback about the spelling issue to Ancestry. You never know what can be done.

  • Marianne says:

    Doesn’t work well with immigrants from Eastern Europe, even in the U.S. Names seem to confuse it, even when they’re in my tree. It came up with a WWI draft card for my paternal grandfather, who was born and lived in Cleveland. I already had that information since 2009, but not an image. The record and image were indexed incorrectly with his name not spelled at all right (his entire name, first, middle and last). I thought I might be able to download the image, but was not able to do so. Not impressed.

  • ncrane1126 says:

    Thomas Dudley is my 9th great grandfather!