Unexpected TreeShare Behavior

I just ran into some TreeShare behavior that I found unexpected. It may well known to TreeShare users who make heavy use of Ancestry and TreeShare together to bring data from Ancestry down to RM. But the behavior was unexpected to me.

I created a test Ancestry tree with two real people I used real people so I could get Ancestry hints. I entered the following data and nothing else at all.

Alva Peters, born 1870, died 1942
Alva’s spouse Sallie Cole, born 1870, died 1942

I have copious data on these two people, including marriage date and place, exact birth date and place, exact death date, and place, and much, much more. But I just wanted to get the bare minimum into Ancestry to enable Ancestry hints.

There immediately were 15 hints for Alva Peters. I accepted the hint for the 1900 census. Doing so automatically created a Source for the 1900 census image, a Residence fact for 1900 with the Source attached, and an 1894 Marriage fact for the couple with the Source attached. They were really married in 1893 but the 1900 census reported that they had been married for 6 years. Ancestry did not add any information to the Birth fact for Alva Peters even though the 1900 census reported that he was born Oct 1870 in Tennessee which is more specific than I had typed into Ancestry. Alva’s name was not changed even though the 1900 census reported that his name was Alva E. Peters which is more information than I had typed in. Similar things happened for Sallie Cole’s Ancestry profile, but let’s just focus on Alva.

I used TreeShare to download the tree to a new RM9 database. I’m pretty sure using RM7 would have had the same results. Namely, TreeShare added a second Birth fact for Oct 1870 in Tennessee while also keeping the original Birth fact intact. The new birth fact has the 1900 Census as a Source and the original 1870 birth fact had no source. And there was an Alternate Name of Alva E. Peters with the 1900 census as a Source while leaving the original Alva Peters name in place.

So the TreeShare download added two new facts to the Alva Peters profile in RM even though the same two facts are not explicitly listed as facts in the Alva Peters profile on Ancestry. Therefore, TreeShare says that the two profiles differ in these added fact immediately after the original download. I suppose I could use TreeShare to push the two new facts back up to Ancestry, but I have not yet tried it so see what happens.

Is this an expected behavior that TreeShare will add facts and their sources as a part of the download that aren’t there in Ancestry? If I use TreeShare to compare RM and Ancestry after the download, I can see clearly that RM has the additional facts and Ancestry does not. I can also see directly in Ancestry that Ancestry does not have the additional facts.

Seeing that RM can only receive what Ancestry sends us, it would appear that Ancestry has some phantom facts on its website that they are not showing.

Jerry, a point of clarification - I assume that you accept the hint in Ancestry and then used Treeshare to download the new data in your test ancestry tree. Or did you get a hint in Rootsmagic and accept the hint only in RM?

Also, my ancestry subscription is taking a rest at the moment so I cannot confirm this and may be wrong. I think there is a Treeshare option in the scenario you describe to add the new Birth source to the existing RM fact. As I recall it’s not the default and is easy to miss. I know that in the past I experimented with both methods trying to figure out which was the best way, given my workflow, to deal with duplicate image and source downloads.

In this case, I accepted the hint in Ancestry and then used TreeShare to download the tree to RM. The download was to a totally new RM database. There were no RM WebHints involved at all. The only action taken in RM was to do a full download of the Ancestry tree using TreeShare. No subsequent data was transferred between RM and Ancestry in either direction.

I like Renee’s description. It’s like Ancestry has added phantom facts that you can’t see at all on Ancestry. The phantom facts were created as a part of accepting the 1900 Census hint on Ancestry. Then the Ancestry API is providing the phantom facts to TreeShare as if they were real facts. The behavior would be much less unexpected if the phantom facts were not phantom at all and if I could see them on Ancestry. So maybe there is a way to see the phantom facts on Ancestry and I just don’t know what it is.

If you wish to see what the tree looks like on Ancestry, do a Member Search on thejerrybryan You will see two trees. They are identical except one tree has a photo of Alva Peters and the other tree does not.

Each tree has just the two people I described. I use these trees all the time to do basic TreeShare testing with both RM7 and RM9. The trees are so small I frequently delete them and rebuild them with some slightly different data to see what happens. I have to use real people rather than dummy John Doe type people to be able to test Ancestry’s hints.

I found the option you are talking about. To get to the option, hover over the Source in Ancestry and click View. Then click on Associated Facts. There are big blue + signs that you can use to link the source to the facts for which Ancestry itself has not already created links.

But Renee’s mysterious phantom facts are still not there, even on Ancestry’s Associated Facts screen. The only way I know of to see the phantom facts is to download the the person with the phantom facts to RM using TreeShare. I haven’t tested yet to see if Ancestry includes them with GEDCOM that it creates directly.

I wonder if this is a recent change or new feature in Ancestry, or if it’s long been there and nobody noticed. It would be impossible to notice in Ancestry because the phantom facts are invisible in Ancestry. You would have to do a very careful manual comparison between Ancestry and RM to notice them. I only noticed them because I was working with a two-person tree.

Added: Ancestry does not include the phantom facts in a GEDCOM. So the only place they seem to appear is in the Ancestry API. Therefore I would suspect that any software other than RM that supports the Ancestry API would also see the phantom facts.

I decided to include a screenshot from RM9 after downloading the phantom facts from Ancestry

. The first Birth fact is the real one that I typed into Ancestry before doing the TreeShare. The second birth fact is the phantom one. The Alt Name fact is also a phantom.

Have not seen anything like this in FTM 2019 but it may use a different API than RM since synching has been disabled (orange warning) for the last 6 weeks.

My understanding is that there is only one API and it is used both by FTM and TreeShare.

Back when FTM was owned and supported by Ancestry, there was a private API. When Ancestry ceased supporting FTM and sold it, a new and public API was created. That enabled RM to develop TreeShare.

I tried twice to replicate your observation without success.

The first time I ignored the Review option of applying the change of Birth date or any other changes to existing facts, just accepting the new Residence and Marriage events. There were no ‘phantom’ events if the TreeShare download.

The second time I accepted all the changes and the addition of children. Again, no mysteries other than on Sallie, Compare says that the two ends have different sources to be updated to the other even though both are the same.

Your comment that Alva’s Name and Birth Date did not change suggests you did not allow it to be changed.

BTW, I’m on Ancestry.ca but that does not necessarily mean there would be any differences in the underlying system.

They are not actually ‘Phantom’ facts on Ancestry. When you save a record to your tree in Ancestry, that has different information to the facts in your tree, for example the variance in names, Ancestry will create a new name fact. However, it may not be visible on Ancestry because the filter to display Alternative Facts has not been selected in the Filter tab. Click on the Filter tab above Facts, on the right and tick the box. Alternative facts are still transferred in Treeshare.


Thank you for the extra detail and, my apologies, I reread your original post and you clearly stated that you treeshared to a new RM file. Anyway, a very interesting thread; I was totally unaware of an Alternate Facts filter option.

Bingo! That’s the answer. When I enable the filter for Alternate Facts and also the filter for Name and Gender, then I see all my “phantom facts” in Ancestry.

I feel like a bit of a dunce, but I had no idea that these Alternate Facts could come into existence in Ancestry as a part of attaching a source to a different fact. I had no idea that these Alternate Facts have a filter that is off by default. And I had no idea that TreeShare will download these Alternate Facts whether the Ancestry filter for them is on or off. This is all very excellent information.

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I originally created the “phantom record problem” accidentally in one Ancestry tree that I was setting up for a totally different purpose. Then I replicated it two more times in two more Ancestry trees before initiating this thread. I carefully wrote down my steps in order to compose the first message in this thread. But now I can’t replicate it, either (I was trying to make a video of the steps the most recent time I tried to replicate the problem and failed). But newly armed with the knowledge that the records are not phantom and are not a problem, I’ll try again to replicate the situation that creates the Alternate Facts in Ancestry.

I don’t think I’ve ever had Alternate Facts turned off. The option appears only if there is an Alternate Fact for someone in the tree and, in my experience, is checked by default. I have to deliberately uncheck it to hide them. Checking/Unchecking in one person sets the filter for all. So maybe you unchecked it at some point.