Old Family Portrait

Collaborate with NetFam™

Work together with Associates on a single master file

On this page, you can find out all about the exclusive Ancestral Quest Collaboration Feature.

Collaboration Defined

By using the NetFam™ Collaboration capabilities of Ancestral Quest, you can work together with a group of people (typically relatives) on recording your family history.

To work with a Collaboration File, you place a family file on our central server on the Internet. You allow others to access that file. This means that you and your associates, anywhere in the world, can work together on a single, master file. For example, you would place a family database on this server. Then you would alert appropriate members of your family that this file is available, and give them rights to edit or simply view the data. You and the others then take turns updating this master file. When your cousin updates some information that she has found, you will be able to see that information the next time you view that file. When you update the family file with information that you have found, your cousin will have access to that information the next time she works with the file. This can eliminate the need to send GEDCOM files back and forth and Merge the two sets of information.

View the Collaboration System Diagram

Collaboration File Size and File Removal

The Collaboration system was designed to allow teams of people to work together on family lines of mutual interest. It was anticipated that files of up to perhaps 10,000 names might be typical.

If your file contains more than 10,000 records, you should consider whether you need to publish such a large database to accomplish your goals, or whether it might be more appropriate to publish a smaller branch of your file. This is because the Collaboration system has limited resources. Before AQ will allow you to publish larger files, you will need to contact Incline Software to obtain permission to continue.

To keep the collaboration service running well for all users, it is best to remove old files when they are no longer being actively used. However, please be aware that files which appear to be abandoned due to inactivity for extended periods of time, may be removed with or without notice from Incline Software. If such a file is removed from the Collaboration Server, you should still have a copy of your file on your computer, so no data should be lost, if you properly maintain your local working copy of the file.

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The Ancestral Quest “Collaboration” capability has been available for many years. We've always had the intent to charge a nominal fee to host collaborative files, but have not yet done so. We may start charging for this service in the future.

We anticipate that the fee schedule will be:

  • 1st File, up to 20MB in size (this size file typically stores about 15,000 - 20,000 individuals): $29.95 per year (Most users will only pay this fee.)
  • For “power users” who work with multiple or extremely large files, there may be additional fees.

There will be a free trial period. For 90 days, you can set up a collaboration account and publish your file and try it out with your fellow collaborators in an effort to determine if you like the feature and see if it will work out for your situation.

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The Mechanics

Registration. In order to use this feature, you must be registered with the collaboration service — a service provided on the Internet that makes the sharing of this database possible. So the first step is to sign up, or register. In order for others to work with you on this file, they must also register with the service.

Posting a Family File. Somebody in the group needs to place the initial family file on the server. You can do this in two ways.

  • Take an existing family database that you are currently working on with Ancestral Quest and “Publish” it to the server. For example, let's say you have a family database named “Jones.aq” that you want to make available for coordinated, or collaborative work. You would first open this file as you always do in Ancestral Quest. With the file open, use the Publish option to start the Wizard that will guide you through the steps. At the end of the process, you will have 3 files: a) your “Jones.aq” file will still be there on your machine; b) a Master “Collaboration File” will now exist on the collaboration server with all the information copied from your “Jones.aq” file; and c) you will also have a “Jones.ac” file, which is called a “Local Working Copy” of the master file. While you could continue to use the original “Jones.aq” file, this would defeat the purpose of collaboration. You should now work with the “Jones.ac” Local Working Copy in coordination with the Master Collaboration File you have placed on the server.
  • Start a new database on the server, into which you and others can start posting information. For example, since you don't already have a file to start with, or don't want to work with one that you do have, you would use the “New” option in the Collaboration menu to create a new collaboration file. This will start a Wizard that will take you through the steps. At the end of this process, you will have 2 files: a) the new, empty Master Collaboration File on the server; and b) an empty Local Working Copy of the master file on your machine (with a .ac file extension).

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Working with the Master Collaboration File

You need to be aware of the check in/check out status of this file. If the file is NOT checked out to you, you can open the Local Working File to view information, print reports, produce web pages, or do any of the other typical things you can do, except that you can't change any information in the file. If you want to make changes to the file, you must first check the file out. When the file is checked out, no one else in the group will be able to make changes to it except the person who has it checked out. (They WILL be able to open their current Local Working Copy in a checked in mode as described above.) This should not be a big deal. If you start to make changes without going through the Check Out procedure, you will be reminded that the file needs to be checked out, so you use the “Check Out” option on the Collaboration menu to check it out. Most likely, no one else in your group will have the file checked out to them, so this should be a quick step. You can set a preference option to automatically check the file out when you open it, so you don't have to go through an extra step. When you check the file out, Ancestral Quest will verify that your Local Working Copy is up to date with the Master Collaboration File on the server, and download any new data if necessary.

Once you have made your changes, and are ready to close the file or exit the program, you will usually want to check the file back in. This process will post your changes from your Local Working Copy to the Master Collaboration File. You can set a preference option that will automatically do this for you as you close the file.

There are times when you may not want to use the Check-Out/Check-In process in the simple manner described above. For example, you may want to get the latest changes that others in the group have posted, but have no need to check it out. Use the “Get Latest” option on the Collaboration menu to have Ancestral Quest update your Local Working Copy to match the Master Collaboration File. You may also be in the middle of making changes with the file checked out to you, but you want to save those changes to the collaboration server without checking the file in. Use the “Update” option on the Collaboration menu to post any changes you have made to the server, but keeping the file checked out to you. Finally, you may decide that you have made some mistakes, and wish to start a session over. Use the “Undo Checkout” option of the Collaboration menu to set your Local Working Copy back to the state of the Master Collaboration File, thus abandoning all changes you have made since the most recent Check Out or Update operation.

If you, as the owner of the file, decide that some recent changes to the file should be undone, you can use the Roll Back function to reset the Master Collaboration File to the way it was before a recent update from you or another member of your group.

You may find that another user in the group is monopolizing the file. After sending some e-mails or other communication to have them check the file in, if they won't or can't (perhaps because they left on vacation), the Owner of the group can force them off by using the Unlock option in the Owner/Admin sub-menu. Use this option with care, as it will force the changes made by the monopolizing user to be lost.

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Group Administration

If you are the owner of the file, you also control the nature of the group. No one can see this Collaboration File unless you give them rights to do so. And no one can make changes to this file unless you give them rights to do so. Go to the “Admin/Owner” sub-menu, and use the Rights option to give or remove rights to others for this file. You can set a fellow collaborator up with view only rights to this file, with edit rights to this file, or with administrator rights to this file. If you give administrator rights to this file to another user, that user can in turn adjust the rights of others in the group. As the owner, you can also terminate the group by removing this file from the Collaboration server.

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To use the collaboration service, each participant must use the appropriate version of Ancestral Quest 2002 or later, or one of the other products on the market licensed by Incline Software to work with this service. Some fellow collaborators, who only want to view the data rather than participate in updating the data, may use the AQ demo program as a viewer.

Collaborators sharing a file do not have to all be using the same version of the program, but they do need to use the same database format. Ancestral Quest version 16 uses the current database format. Ancestral Quest versions 15, 14 and 12.x all used a common version 12-15 database format. Older versions of AQ: 11, 2002 (version 10), and 3, all use the older version 3-11 database.

Initially, the collaboration service will be available without charge. Incline Software may decide, with appropriate notice, to charge for this service in the future. Current information will be available when you sign up for this service.

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Breaking Away

If you want to leave the group, and not be tied to the constraints of the check-in/check-out procedures, you can convert a copy of the Master Collaboration File to a standard Ancestral Quest (.aq) file. Use the “Convert to Local” option of the Collaboration menu to do this. At this point, you will be able to make changes to the file without worrying about the other group members or coordination with the server. But you will also no longer be able to receive the changes that the other members make without resorting to the older methods of exchanging GEDCOM files and performing merges.

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Scrapbook Issues

In the initial release of this feature, the main family data file is placed on the server, including any links to scrapbook items, but the scrapbook items themselves are not placed on the server. Fellow collaborators can do one of two things with scrapbook items: 1) disable the display of scrapbook items, or 2) have the database owner send them copies of the scrapbook items. If items are sent, they must be placed in the same folders on the recipient's system as on the database owner's system in order for the links to be valid.

Any of the collaborators can add additional scrapbook items to the master file, but if they don't then distribute copies of these files to the other team members, the other members will get warnings about missing items when they try to view or play these items.

Beginning with version 12 of Ancestral Quest, there is a feature that allows you to add scrapbook items that are being stored using an online media storage service. So, if you have an account with sites like flickr or shutterfly or similar services, you can link to those photos from within Ancestral Quest. If you are using FamilySearch Family Tree and have purchased AQ 15 or later, you also have the ability to use the Memories Manager to transfer your images to FamilySearch. You could then link to that online resource, instead. With either of these methods, anyone collaborating with you can also see the images, as is possible by the sharing capabilities you have set up on such media services websites or FamilySearch. (Be aware, if you use the FamilySearch Memories, that FamilySearch may rename their photos, so it may be necessary from time to time to re-establish links to their images using changed names. Historically, they don't rename these files often, but once every few years.)

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Privacy and Service Usage Policy

Ancestral Quest NetFam™ Collaboration is a service provided by Incline Software. Any and all data uploaded to this service belongs to the user who uploads it. The only other people in the world who will ever know about that data are those that are personally invited to have access to the data by the owner of the database. The only time that any Incline Software employees might access your data is when there is a technical issue, and may need to correct such technical issues. We would never, in any way, claim any ownership of the data or make it public or even use it internally for any other purpose than technical troubleshooting of the Collaboration service.

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