Posted by on July 18, 2008 in Ancestry.com Site, Searching for Records

On Wednesday, July 30, at 8:30 pm ET, I will be hosting a public webinar for anyone who is interested in learning more about how to use the new search on Ancestry.com. Geared toward intermediate and advanced researchers, the webinar will focus on how to use the tools in Ancestry.com’s new search:

  • Record Previews
  • Image Snapshots
  • Refined Searches
  • Type-ahead Tools
  • Global Searches
  • Advanced Searches
  • Filters
  • Keyword Searches

Anyone can register to attend the webinar by visiting the New Search Webinar Registration

The webinar is open to everyone; you do not have to be a member of Ancestry.com to register for or attend the webinar.

49 Comments

Valerie 

Not *trying* to be negative here, but my initial thought is: why do I need a webinar to learn how to use a site that I’ve used for 5+ years? Although it’s always nice to learn new search hints, I’m concerned that perhaps this new search requires too much work.

I think the key problem here is that a transition from an old to new search should be relatively seamless – and this change is not.

But, I’ve signed up for the webinar to see what you guys have to say.

July 18, 2008 at 11:37 am
TonyC 

I guess what you are saying is that intermediate and advanced researchers who have most probably been Ancestry subscribers for a few years need training on the new search – I wonder how we’ve managed in the past by just using the ‘old’ search engine that has found thousands of reliable hits that have allowed us to grow our trees.

Here I speak for myself. I started just 8 years ago and with the help from the ‘old’ search have managed to find and document over 10,000 ancestors and living relatives, relatives I didn’t know about.

That wasn’t just Ancestry, I used TheGenealogist, FreeBMD, LDS and a couple of other sites.

Is the ‘new’ search so complicated to use so that it will bring forward relevant hits?

July 18, 2008 at 3:40 pm
TonyC 

I got so carried away I hit submit too soon ;)

Fix the ‘new’ search engine, if I want to research people who died before 1900 I certainly do not want records past that date.

July 18, 2008 at 3:43 pm
Ron 

if Advanced users need training then DO NOT IMPLEMENT New search – nothing should be that complicated – how will New users use such a complex search engine.

PLUS the NEW search needs fixing.

I am a ancestry.co.uk user and looking at UK census results.

Inserting places into Born or Living does not work. Just try with SMITH and Pancras in born or living and you get enormous hit lists. You could put Pancras in Keyword but I can do that with old search.

THIS NEEDS FIXING

The search area being alongside the results is nice BUT the fact that all the search “boxes” are closed and have to be clicked to change the data is annoying.

Drop the NEW search and work on fixing the lousy wildcard limitation of three letters.

AND PROVIDE MORE UK DATA.
I am still waiting for fixes in BMD index

July 18, 2008 at 8:01 pm
Reed 

So here’s the situation: Ancestry has a New Search that is so poorly designed that, months after Beta-testing and full rollout, 90% of users prefer the old search. The vast majority of blog readers deeply dislike it, and have taken the time to post detailed explanations—here and elsewhere—of why New Search does not work well and is, in fact, even more inadequate and less efficient and less ergonomic than the Old Search.

Ancestry’s response? A Webinar, hosted by the Director of Product Management, accompanied by a Senior PR manager and a PR manager. They intend to acquaint us with all the spiffy new features of New Search.

Ancestry seems to think the problem is that users don’t like *change* and don’t adapt to cool new software with lots of pop-ups, click-to-open data fields and spiffy graphics. Hey, Ancestry! Guess what? We’re not a bunch of head-in-the-sand Luddites. We LIKE technology. We LIKE new software, but only as long as it WORKS BETTER than the old stuff. We adapt EASILY to WELL-DESIGNED products! This Webinar sounds like more sizzle and still no steak from the folks at Ancestry.

Skip the spin! Here’s the Webinar I WOULD attend: Get a panel of experienced amateur and professional genealogists, of varying ages, geographical locations, and areas of research interest, all of whom have used Ancestry for their regular research for at least two years (and make sure to include a few CGs, FASGs and the like while you’re at it), and begin the Webinar with the researchers affirming that:

(1) They now use New Search regularly, and
(2) They get more (and better quality) hits, and
(3) They get fewer meaningless hits, and
(4) They find New Search’s interface more logical, ergonomic, faster, and easier to use, and
(5) They find it easier to sort and resort search results, and
(6) The wildcard (*) function finally works with less than three initial characters, and
(7) Exact searches really give exact answers with easily set (and altered) parameters, and
(8) In general, the time they spend on Ancestry is more productive and more user-friendly than before, and then:
(9) They show us how it works (which, when you think about it is STILL pretty pitiful, because if the New Search was actually WELL-DESIGNED, we wouldn’t need a panel of experts to figure it out!).

Now THAT’S a Webinar I’d like to see.

July 18, 2008 at 10:02 pm
W Gaffney 

I have reported this for the 2nd time today. I find that in looking at the 1846 Drouin marriage record of Thomas Laffan and Mary Ann Croker(I’m thrilled to find) I can’t print it. The image appears on the right hand page and all that is printable is the 1/2 of the left page. WHY??

July 19, 2008 at 12:30 am
Walt 

I agree with most averyone else. The new search program is difficult to use and a waste of time. I’m always reminded of something that someone always told me – KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!

July 19, 2008 at 7:05 am
Athena 

It seems to me that the enhancements of a “new and improved” search should be intuitive and easier to use — i.e. it should not require explicit training to see the improvements.

What good are all the bells and whistles if it is manifestly more difficult to get relevant hits?

July 19, 2008 at 3:51 pm
Jade 

The premise here appears to be that ‘The Prolem’ is that the experienced researchers offering constructive criticism of New Fuzzy Search Skin don’t know how to use it.

Inexperienced researchers may have only a limited understanding of how faulty New Fuzzy is, so their research issues do not need to be addressed.

Ancestry seldom displays any tendency toward the concept that the Customer is Right. Viz., the destructive changes to Message Board formats and the usually silly Tag linking within them (still: the completely idiotic links to items for other counties by the same name, not including links to USGenWeb sites).

Suggestions to make New Fuzzy search results sortable by name, by date and by location have been ignored. This would enable the Customer to filter out erroneous results and put most-likely actual ‘hits’ at the top. The New Fuzzy search engine continues to present results on the premise that number of same-name or similar-name ‘hits’ per database is the primary ordering scheme, regardless of total irrelevance of that database by time and place.

Suggestions to add using boolean exclusionary terms for the same purpose (in both Old Search and New Fuzzy) have been ignored.

I know how to use New Fuzzy. It is difficult to enter specificity as to time, place or even database, nearly impossible to modify without starting over, and returns inexplicable ‘results’ that ignore my search parameters.

Ignoring my search parameters is insulting, plain and simple. When your database contains few truly relevant entries, The customer will not be more satisfied to have to scroll through huge numbers of the completely irrelevant.

July 20, 2008 at 5:32 am
Nancy Rogers 

It is clear that one way or the other we are all going to be made to use the supposely improved new search. It has also become clear to me that since Ancestry is no longer owned by individuals who are involved in day to day genealogical research that their major emphasis is the profit margin. Please, this is looking more and more like the problems that FTM Version 2008 had. They kept trying ti fix it until they realized that it was not financially profitable. What use to be a fairly straight forward search, has not turned into a guessing game. I volunteer at a genealogy library and believe me most of the people at the library would like to take this new search feature out and…and…and. When they talk about their home editions their comments go along the lines of why would I want some one’s family tree coming up on the home page in particular when they can see that the library edition of Ancestry does not have this. I have used Ancestry for many years and have helped others use it. The other group of people that are being left out of this new and improved search are those who are just starting out and have become serious about their search. Please Ancestry don’t waste our time with this new home page, etc. Instead I would suggest that you spend your money on getting the problems fixed before you find your membership reduced beyond repair.

July 20, 2008 at 6:55 am
Jade 

I decided to give New Fuzzy another try, again with a person with an unusual name for whom I know what relevant entries exist in your database.

Using the regular search so I could separate first name and surname, I entered:

Sarah McShane
born 1750 +/10
in Washington County, Maryland
died 1820 +/10
in Bourbon County, Kentucky

In added information:
parents: Daniel Moore and Mary
husband: Samuel Taylor
resided: Berkeley County, West Virginia
siblings: Daniel Moore, Richard Moore, Nancy Moore Griffith

–The above relationships are known from records not in your database.

–I clicked on search. The first results were 19,000+ Census and Voter List entries, commencing with 1930 Census. Definitely there has been no improvement in the search engine’s paying attention to time frame (1740-1840 outer limits).

–I clicked on order by relevance and took a quick look at the Census and Voter list entries, and of course there was nothing relevant.

–Using my keyboard ‘back’ key I returned to the search form and checked ‘exact’ for both birth date and death date, again clicked ‘search’.

–The results were default-sorted by supposed relevance from my choice regarding looking at the Census/voter lists in the prior search.

Here are the 21 results found. Why did I have to check off ‘exact’ for the date ranges to eliminate the time-irrelevant census/voter results? Or is it supposed to be progress that I could eliminate them at all?

=====================
1) Fayette County, Pennsylvania Vital Records, 1750-1890
Birth, Marriage & Death
Name: Ewalt, John Sr.
Spouse: Elizabeth Bonnett
Other: John, Sophia, Henry, Anna, Richard, Sarah, Isaac, James, Samuel, Robert, Eliza
Birth: 1760 – Bedford co., PA
More: See all information…

*** This terrible book is riddled with errors and speculation (including for some of my ancestors), all from unknown sources because no evidence is cited for any entry. I did not mention any PA connection for my target person. I can’t see any reason for this being returned as the most relevant result, or any relevance at all.

2) Public Member Photos
Photo: 13star flag
Category: Other
Description: The flag on an individual page designates Revolutionary War Service
Attached To: Samuel III Adams (1722-1803)
Robert “Capt” X Cleveland (1744-1812)
Benjamin “Col” Cleveland (1738-1806)
And more…

*** Oh, please. My target Sarah’s possible Rev. War veteran, her possible last husband, is not listed here (I did not give his name). This is irrelevant.

3) Public Member Stories
Stories, Memories & Histories
Title: Sampson Mason The Baptist and Dragoon in Oliver Cromwell’s Army
Description: “The New England Historical and Genealogical Register” Volume XVIII
Attached To: Mary Russell Butterworth (1629-1714)
Dr. Artemas Bullard (1768-1842)
Lucy White (1778-1870)
And more…

*** This item has no relevance that I can see.

4) Public Member Stories
Stories, Memories & Histories
Title: William Burnett and wife Mary Springer early settlers of Gill Township Sullivan Co. Indiana
Description: William Burnett and his wife Mary Springer were among the founding settlers to Gill Township Sullivan…
Attached To: William Burnett (1775-1863)
Mary Springer (1780-1851)
John Springer (1758-1816)
And more…

*** Again no relevance by name and place, possible time relevance is immaterial.

The rest of the entries were keyed to persons with surnames McCarty, Mason, McAfee, McGown, McQueen, etc. The computer assigned 1 or more ‘stars’ to these entries, which are all NO STAR Results.

===================

Re search parameter entry:
*** there was no type-ahead for Washington County, Maryland or Bourbon County, Kentucky.
*** there was type-ahead for Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Re results:
*** The search results did not include the McShane entries for Court and Probate Records abstracts from Bourbon Co, KY, in which several McShanes were witnesses to wills, and which I can retrieve by a database-specific search.
*** The search results did not include the abstract of 1793 will of Samuel Taylor in Berkeley Co, WV, (mentioning among others wife Sarah) from Ross Johnston’s mistitled _West Virginia Estate Settlements . . .to 1850_, which you have recently transferred from genealogy.com. I listed ‘Samuel Taylor’ as my target person’s husband’s name, the will date is within the stipulated time frame, and I specified that my Sarah had resided in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

This time around your search returned nothing relevant as to surnames or places for my target person, and I might as well have saved myself the trouble of entering names of husband, parents, and siblings.

You get 1/10 point out of 10 for the type-ahead for Berkeley County, West Virginia in the search-parameter form.

July 20, 2008 at 7:44 am
Lisa J 

When you first start your family research the information you’re looking up is usually “very recent.” Most folks probably don’t have a ready made genealogy Aunt Gladys did 50 years ago. This person needs the same thing as a seasoned researcher only more recent, a time place location. The surname probably hasn’t changed in 75 years. The integrity of this data will get great results whereas the “seasoned” researcher probably is researching “several” people at the same time and is much more complex. The seasoned researcher already has the direct ancestor and most of the family line developed back to 1850. Data before 1850 is much more difficult to extract & CONFIRM whereas data after 1900 is readily available once knowing the LOCATION of it.

Understanding this next issue is very important. Look at the top 20 most common surnames. Let’s take Hall & Jones for instance. Given I know my cousins and my parents family for the last 100 years, it’s not too hard to figure out who’s who. But many “new” users will not understand the pitfalls a “seasoned” researcher has already learned when they first started. So limiting the search perimeters for surnames is a BIG PLUS. If you think 500 hits for a surname is OK, then your sadly mistaken. You will loose more “new” researchers by swamping them with data or “fishing” for the correct data. Many will get frustrated and look for an easier more user friendly database or pay someone to find it. Given the amount of immigrants after 1900 is huge! But if you’re still in the US looking for your ancestors back to 1700, this requires more complex research, having to locate other children in the family to try and substantiate the CORRECT family AND location.

The money I pay to Ancestry offsets the cost of going to a library and spending “hours” searching through fiche and films. This is the whole point of making the data available for both “new” and “seasoned” researchers. I’m not talking about eliminating primary sources but “finding the location” of that source. I then have to write or find the website where it can be ordered and pay them to send me the actual certificate. I still make trips to the library but I have better data to go there with thus spending less time “searching.”

Someone THOUGHT that by submitting everyone’s tree it would give information to other researchers. The problem with this thought is that the submitter’s information MAY NOT BE CORRECT. Many of the trees have no source information. I have never uploaded or downloaded someone’s gedcom. The INTEGRITY of my data is based on MY sources. It’s not OK for someone to use my data and connect to their tree without the common courtesy of contacting me. There should be ethics involved here.

All in all, the genealogy process is still SEARCH AND CONFIRM. Once I find the correct family in Ancestry, I still have to go to GenWeb, LDS, etc and look for a local website. Historical and genealogical societies differ greatly in the TYPE OF DATA they keep on-line. There has been a whole reconfiguration of GenWeb. Many GenWeb sites only offer “queries” from other researchers and primary source information submitted by other researchers. Many folks still believe that “public records” should be free for all to use and spend hours making BDM available for everyone. The societies are loosing revenue to stay afloat and the genealogy business has become very competitive and EXPENSIVE passing on the cost to the consumer.

The cost of doing my genealogy still offsets the cost of going to a library in money (gas, parking, tolls, etc) and TIME. It’s still easier to find the surname information I need from Ancestry than WorldVitalRecords. 9/10′s of my research on-line provides “CLUES” to locate the data I need to continue. Occasionally, a stand alone piece of information will provide PRIMARY source documentation. I had 2 brickwalls (at least) that the source information was a one page entry in an old book or leaflet in a library that would never be something that was put on line in Ancestry or Genealogy.com or GenWeb. Research before 1900 tends to be alot like this. We need several pieces of secondary information to confirm the individual or event. Ironically, that one piece of information has been picked up by GoogleBooks as a source but they will never even know where to find it! What good is that??

You’re part of the problem if we can’t locate the information at all or where we need to go to confirm it. Leave no stone unturned. Every little bit of information helps to provide a better idea of CONFIRMING who, what, where, when and why. Dig deeper, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Before technology, it used to be the location was the haystack, now sometimes it’s Ancestry. I’m sure you’re aware of many of these obstacles already and it’s just a matter of time to come up with better solutions. How much longer I can afford to be an Ancestry subscriber depends on how much it costs me for all research combined. If you can save me time and money, I can afford to stay in the game and feed my hobby. I’ve already cut all the corners I can on expenses this coming year given the economy. There are 3 websites I won’t be continuing.

Hope this helps.

July 20, 2008 at 8:05 am
Tim Agazio 

Just try the Webinar…everyone may learn some new tricks. I’ve been using Google since it first came out and thought I knew quite a bit. Then I found a tutorial that explained about 20 tricks for searching and discovered I only knew about a third of them. Give the Webinar a chance before you slam it…

Tim

July 20, 2008 at 11:01 am
Elaine 

I am so in agreement with the other comments regarding the poorly executed Search Engine. It is actually worse than it was before — if I have an ancestor who died in 1868 in a given county and state, I DO NOT need any social security or death or any other information from a different country or state in the 1900′s. My subscription is due to be renewed and I am very seriously considering not renewing.

July 20, 2008 at 11:07 am
Jerry Bryan 

I have signed up for the Webinar on New Search. I look forward to it, and I intend to be engaged as positively as possible in the Webinar to see if there is something I’ve missed about New Search.

But I tend to agree with the sentiment of others who have suggested that ancestry believes the problem is us. If only we understood how wonderful New Search really is, we would embrace it with pleasure. And because we don’t embrace New Search with pleasure, it must be the case that we don’t know how to use it.

I’m beginning to feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. Every time I decide to be positive and to give New Search one last chance, Lucy jerks the football away and I fall on my face again. I even prepared a message that was going to talk about the good features in New Search, and how a little tweak here and there could make it into a fairly decent system. Then I had about three straight nights in a row where New Search was so dysfunctional for me that I had to escape back into the safety of Old Search. So I never posted my positive message.

Instead, I have reluctantly concluded that the only rational approach would be for ancestry to completely throw away the current version of New Search and start all over again. It’s really so dysfunctional that it can’t be fixed. But that approach doesn’t seem to be in ancestry’s mindset, so I’ll be Charlie Brown and watch the Webinar.

I appreciate the invitation for volunteers that Kendall extended in one of the blog posts. He was asking for volunteers with whom to share some of ancestry’s ideas on improvements to the search engine itself (as opposed to the search interface). I tried several time to volunteer at new-search@ancestry.com. But all my messages bounced. I apologize for having to make my offer in this public forum, but I would very much like to volunteer. I have some ideas about the search engine, and I would very much enjoy the opportunity to compare my ideas with ancestry’s.

July 20, 2008 at 11:18 am
Robert 

The connection has timed out

The server at event.on24.com is taking too long to respond.

* The site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few
moments.

* If you are unable to load any pages, check your computer’s network
connection.

* If your computer or network is protected by a firewall or proxy, make sure
that Navigator is permitted to access the Web.

Must Be one of those Anccetry things

July 20, 2008 at 12:35 pm
KenP 

jjbdd1 is a total fraud. He includes people in his family tree who are not related to him at all. Why is this condoned???

July 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm
Jade 

KenP,

There are no genealogical-accuracy standards for any Trees at Ancestry.

This includes OneWorldTree, which has untold thousands of erroneous cross-connections and has incorporated untold thousands of Trees based on really no evidence but perhaps a bit here or there.

Practically no one who has posted a tree has based it on evidentiary research. Most of the trees are repetitions of gedcoms lifted from somewhere else.

In many cases it is obvious from illogical or impossible assertions that the person posting the data has not read much of it. Some are rather funny, such as the person alleged to have been born 1609 at Plymouth Colony who went on to have children born in the 1720s and died around 1754. Or the widely copied one that commences with a New England couple, omits most of their documented children except one who has the same first name as a person in Kent Co, DE; her parents are inexplicably jumped there to have a quite different family . . . .

Genealogical accuracy is not what Ancestry is about. OneWorldTree has become such a laughingstock, I believe they plan to dump it.

July 20, 2008 at 6:00 pm
womanbird 

I like all the new additions that have been made. But one addition to every thing was eliminated and that is the ability to move through numerous pages at a time. Now it is just next. I am working on over 30 trees and when there are thousand of items to go through and you can’t do it in one sitting. You have to start the next day on the first page and it waste a lot of time.

The othe enhancement that could be made is the choice of dates. All of mine were ex- Jan 19 1900. New program put it to 19 Jan 1900. I am in the process of changing thousands of dates to the way I want it to read. One site has over 55,000 names. I now have to much work cut out for me because of a new program that is forced upon us. If the option for us to choose is on the home page for site being done, it becomes more personal instead of being like all of the Jones.

Could not find a place to send this too, It is too much trouble trying to find the right avenues to follow when you press contact us. So Here it is.

Birdie

July 21, 2008 at 8:23 am
Jade 

Birdie,

The ddMMMyyyy format is standard genealogical format. It works well when interpreting the European style of abbreviating by use of numbers and dashes only, such as 19-1-1900. You don’t have to stop and think which number stands for month/day, unlike the American style used on so many abbreviated cemetery readings.

In truth the most efficient way would be yyyyMMMddd with no spaces, as proposed around 20 years ago. Think how many terabytes would be saved with this approach! But genealogy programs don’t know how to read dates such as 1900Jan01, and neither do Mic******t software programs (which have enough trouble with dates as it is).

It is too bad that you were not aware of this sort of formatting issue when you started. There should have been something about it in whatever your ‘home’ genealogy program has been, but such crucial items are often buried within lots of other stuff.

Good luck,
Jade

July 21, 2008 at 12:27 pm
Jade 

What are you thinking?

I used my bookmark to Birth, Marriage and Death records and by *default* got your loony New Fuzzy version of (*not*) getting access to BMD collection.

Instead of getting the handy concise list of titles under a brief and usually useless ‘keyword’-date search box . . . I got a big individual search box in the middle, and on the left 1) and abbreviated keyword search box and 2) a useless list of a half-dozen ‘featured’ databases plus the option to go to the card file.

Okay, I went to the card file. But instead of getting a way to choose my specific wanted database, even with the alphabetical search routine, there were two options: a list of countries I could filter by, or ‘collection’ in the small box on the left. Taking up the middle was a list of databases which I could sort by:
–popularity
–title
–added most recently
–updated
–record count

Hunh? No way to sort by STATE. Even if I could sort by State, there were 22,149 choices, and who knows where Missouri would be in the list?

I had already started on the BMD page, now I am supposed to choose “collection” again????

As it stood, the first page of the list began with sensus enumerations, and included NY passenger lists, the SSDI, and whatnot.

If one were seeking the true BMD database, one could go around in circles forever being unable to find a specific location’s items.

The first time around, the top item was “Trees”. Hunh? TREES ARE NOT BIRTH, MARRIAGE AND DEATH RECORDS. MOST OF THEM ARE FICTION BECAUSE NOT BASED ON EVIDENCE.

Please stop making Fuzzy Search approaches the default method for the card file, or for searching any of the general databases.

Please.

July 21, 2008 at 1:07 pm
Jen 

I cannot stand the program. The information is fantasic, but the organization program is the WORST! I have had an entire tree up and dissappear while the names remained in the person’s list. No help or answers to inqueries, of course. When I try to trace uncles or cousins and go up or down their trees, it does not combine with the original tree, but instead creates alternate trees and creates duplicates in the name list. HORRIBLE!!!

July 21, 2008 at 7:28 pm
Leana 

I have only been using ancestry since March but have found records on more than 500 people using the old search. I switched to the new search and got so depressed at the vast multitude of hits that I wouln’t evem turn on my computer for a week. One day it dawned on me: the new search-looks very pretty but is a vast waste of my time. I don’t want pretty I want facts. Now I am back to using the old search and working away like crazy. Please don’t take it away permanently.

July 22, 2008 at 3:39 pm
Carol A. H. 

Hey Tim, where can we find that tutorial on Google with the 20 new tricks? I’ve had good luck with Google.

I am registered for the Webinar. I dug out the speakers that came with my computer, installed them and updated the software. I never liked talking computers, but now I have a good reason to want them. Anyway… they work ok.

I have been silent because I’m busy using the old search, trying to get more done before Ancestry pulls the rug out from under my chair!

I have tried again and again the new search and each time get so furious and frustrated, I want to scream or cry or both!

I’m NOT getting what I need. I get totally irrelevent hits or no hits at all.

It sounds like all the people who are blogging here are experienced in genealogy and not technically stupid. Why are we having so much trouble? Why are we the only ones blogging? We want to have Ancestry because we have used it for years and have had good results. We just don’t want to be clicking and clicking and clicking…..

July 22, 2008 at 11:41 pm
Tim Agazio 

Hey Carol A.H.! I’ve just written a post on my blog with links to Google search tips. Come on over for a visit.

Tim Agazio

July 23, 2008 at 5:48 am
Donna Dallman 

Tim = = =
Where is your blog?

July 23, 2008 at 8:30 am
Donna Dallman 

Never mind! Found it!

July 23, 2008 at 8:44 am
Carol A. H. 

Thanks, Tim. I will go there.

July 23, 2008 at 4:22 pm
Jerry Bryan 

Tonight’s frustration with New Search. (a specific example, perhaps some fodder for the Webinar?)

Gary Roger Slaton was married to Claudia Kay Christain on 9 Sep 1972. I have both their birth dates, but because they are living let’s just say the birth dates were late 40′s, early 50′s.

The information on them is from a handwritten family history of the Slaton family kept by one of my father’s first cousins. The family history has much the look and feel of a family bible. I’m sure that each birth, marriage, and death was recorded when it happened rather than being researched after the fact. But the family history is in a bound notebook rather than in a family bible. No places are recorded in the Slaton family history, just dates. This couple was from Tennessee, and I know that their children were born in Florida.

The task at hand was to find their marriage record. The record would tell me where they were married, and with a little luck it might tell me the names of Claudia’s parents. By the way, I didn’t use the birth dates for the couple in my searches even though I have the exact dates. If I had, it would have basically made it impossible to find them in a marriage index with New Search.

I use a program called GenSmarts to make research suggestions. In this case, GenSmarts recommended looking in the Florida Marriage Index at ancestry.com. Left to my own devices, I probably would have started with the Tennessee Marriage Index, and I would have tried the Florida Marriage Index second. Be that as it may, I decided to start with a generic search to see if the search process could find the proper database for me.

First attempt with New Search:

I went to the Home Page of New Search, specified Advanced Search and then Exact Search. The box where you can click on Exact Search is not even there to be clicked on until you first click on Advanced Search. The display technology used by New Search does not make it very clear whether you are in Advanced Search mode or not. And Advanced Search mode seems periodically to turn itself off for no apparent reason. Oftentimes I feel like I have to have a fight with New Search to get it even to display the Exact Search box. It doesn’t really want to show it. That’s a poor design choice because the Exact Search box should never go away, no matter what. But there clearly is a strong design bias against Exact Search if it’s that hard to get the Exact Search box even to appear so you can check it.

At this point, you can enter one of the spouses but you cannot enter the other one. So even though you are in Advanced Search, you still have to fool around with the search box to make it bigger before you can enter the second spouse. To wit, you have to click on “Tell us more to get better results”.

The search box was now so big I couldn’t even see the place to enter the second spouse, so I had to scroll down to it. New Search is theoretically designed to have less scrolling than Old Search, but in practice it requires a lot more scrolling. I entered Slaton as the last name of the first spouse up at the top of screen. I entered Christain as the name of the spouse down at the bottom of the screen (there is no distinction between first name and last name for the second spouse – a BAD THING). I deliberately did not enter any dates nor any first names in hopes of increasing the chances of a hit. After entering the names, I couldn’t see the red Search button. So I scrolled yet again until I could see the red Search button, and clicked on Search.

There were a gazillion hits. A quick look through the clutter did not reveal any obvious candidates for my couple. There shouldn’t have been a gazillion hits with an exact search. So I declared failure and switched to Old Search.

The attempt with Old Search:

I went to Exact Search and Advanced Search. A really nice search screen came up, and I didn’t have to fight with it to get it to come up and look right. I had to scroll slightly to get the whole search box on the screen, but it did all fit (including the Search button). I put in Slaton for the person’s surname and Christain for the spouse’s last name (yea! The spouse’s first name and last name are split apart just like they should be!). I clicked on Search with no further scrolling needed, and there were zero hits.

THIS IS A GOOD THING. There was no clutter. It told me immediately that there are no hits in either the Florida Marriage Index or the Tennessee Marriage Index (or any other marriage index known to ancestry.com). So I knew I had to change something in the search. So I tried changing the spouse’s last name to Christ* This time, there were two hits, one in the Tennessee Marriage Index and one in the Texas Marriage Index. THIS IS A GOOD THING. There was no clutter. I looked first in the Tennessee Marriage Index, and it was the couple I was looking for. Her name was spelled Claudia Kay Christian in the index rather than Claudia Kay Christain. That’s why Christ* worked and Chistain did not. Fortunately, I was able to use the wildcard successfully because I didn’t need to use it in the first three letters of the name. The only trouble was, the images for that database are down as we speak. So there is presently no way to find out what the court clerk really recorded in the courthouse marriage book, Christian or Christain. That’s typical of the problems I run into all the time. As many others have pointed out, much more attention should be paid to the reliability of the indexes and the databases than is presently paid.

Second attempt with New Search:

Now that I knew the answer, I tried New Search again. I plugged in Slaton and Christ* for an Exact Search just like I had done with Old Search. But once again, there were a gazillion hits, and I couldn’t find my couple among the hits even though I knew they had to be there, neither on the Sorted by Relevance display nor if I went straight to the Tennessee Marriages Records database. I promise I spelled Slaton and Christ* correctly, and I promise that the Exact Search box was visible and checked.

Just for fun, I switched back to Old Search and immediately back to New Search without having done a search in Old Search, and then I repeated the search in New Search. This time, there was no clutter. There were the two correct hits in the Tennessee and Texas Marriage indexes, and eight totally bogus hits in the trees. By bogus I don’t mean that they weren’t my couple. Rather, I mean that the names were not exact, not even close. So it had done some kind of a fuzzy search in the trees even though this was an exact search. One more search with Slaton and Christain (just for fun) yielded zero hits. Zero was the correct number, of course. But why did it work correctly this time and not the first time? And why did Christ* with an Exact Search give eight bogus hits on the trees, but Christain with an Exact Search did not give any bogus hits on the trees?

It took a couple of hours to go through this whole exercise and write it up. If New Search had never been invented and I was just using Old Search, I would have been done in five minutes (well, except for the problem of the images being down, of course). If Old Search were withdrawn from Service and I was forced to use New Search, I don’t think I would have ever found the record I was after and I would probably be cancelling my subscription. As it stands, I’ve gotten very little research done tonight because of New Search and because of trying to document some of the problems.

July 23, 2008 at 7:46 pm
Carol A. H. 

I just re-read Kendall Hulet’s item on the Webinar on the new search which I will watch.

It says, “Geared toward intermediate and advanced researchers, the webinar will focus on how to use the tools in Ancestry.com’s new search:” and etc.

What do you expect new, begining members to use; the old search?

I would like a response from Kendall to all our blogs. Kendall, are you out there?

July 23, 2008 at 8:01 pm
Tony Cousins 

Jerry wrote in #29:

“If Old Search were withdrawn from Service and I was forced to use New Search, I don’t think I would have ever found the record I was after and I would probably be cancelling my subscription.”

What an extremely well presented argument. If we’re forced to use the new search, by Ancestry removing the old one, then we can foresee a sudden drop in research. We would no longer have as much fun researching if it takes 10 times longer to find relevant records.

For the past 9 years we’ve worked at finding ancestors and living relatives, we now have many distant cousins in the USA, Canada, Australia and England. Someone on these blogs stated we’re not Luddites, which is also a very true statement. Making change for the sake of change is not at all productive; this new ‘search’ is very counter-productive and should be removed until Ancestry has resolved the problems.

The new search brings a phrase to mind – ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees’ – in other words you (Ancestry) focus on the unimportant, rather than on the important things.

And as for Carol on #30 – Kendal is a figment of the PR department’s imagination, or maybe they’re using the new search to look for him. No that can’t be, there would be thousands of them.

ANCESTRY.COM

Keep the fun in research. Keep your subscribers happy. Keep adding new collections. Keep on with the great site we’ve all come to trust for years.

Get rid of the ridiculous new home page, put it where it can be found easily, but not in your face when you log in.

Get rid of the ‘new search’. It may be new but it is definitely not an improvement – quite the opposite, it provides far too many irrelevant ‘hits’.

Improve the quality control of your data base indices, and if you can’t then at least give your paying subscribers a chance to submit corrections other than just the name. Incorrect ages can really hide a person in a census if it is incorrectly transcribed, just to mention one problem.

We know this isn’t a perfect world, but we do expect better from Ancestry, we pay for better and we want Ancestry to listen to us – and respond to the people who take the time to write in these pages. Because the seasoned researchers care about this site and they are passionate about Genealogical Research. Don’t snuff out that passion.

TonyC

July 24, 2008 at 7:25 am
carol williams 

This new search method is a nightmare! The old search method, which was working fine before is now telling me records that I found before do not exist or cannot be located. All I am trying to do is review census records that I saw previously but want to look at again. Now the old search method cannot find even one census record with that surname! This is ridiculous and unacceptable. I will drop my subscription if this situation is not corrected. I tried the new method and it is cumbersome and produces records that are not even close to being perintent. Why are you doing this to us. Why fix what was working just fine before???

July 25, 2008 at 11:21 am
Linda Hervig 

Will the information in the Webinar be available on the website after the presentaiton on July 30?

July 25, 2008 at 7:53 pm
Nancy Rogers 

I like the suggestion that was made on one of the blogs that TGN give us a “dashboard” so that we can pick and choose what we want on the sign on page. The way it is now reminds me of No Child Left Behind and its one size fits all mentality. I hope the people at TGN stop and listen to all the people who do not want certain boxes on the sign on page, etc. To further the comparison I suggest that TGN look at the teacher shortage in this country today and begin to comtemplate what could happen to Ancestry if as many people who have left teaching leave TGN.

July 25, 2008 at 8:07 pm
Gloria Draper 

I also dislike to new search engine, sometimes thing should be left as they are! Please bring the old one back!!! To many hits with the new one, takes me forever! I have been a member for 10 years! I do have to say that I do like some of the new feature that you have done! Gloria

July 28, 2008 at 8:19 am
Joan 

When the link in my confirmation for registration of the July 30th webcast defaulted to an unusable entry site, I immediately thought someone [Bejamin Nettesheim?]left (was fired?) and gave Ancestry.com a black eye. I am soooo disappointed I couldn’t see you on the Webcast.

July 30, 2008 at 7:31 am
TonyC 

What a waste of my time. :( Did anybody who took the time to attend this PR excercise hear any answers to the many questions posed here about why the new search doesn’t work?

TonyC

July 30, 2008 at 6:34 pm
Carol A. H. 

I was in the process of typing my comments and got “This Webinar is over” so I don’t know if my comments went thru. I was cut off and not happy about that.

Too bad the questions didn’t offer another answer besides “yes” or “no!”

I was disappointed in the Webinar but I will look at it again when it’s available.

No, I did not learn any answers to MY questions, so at this point I have to agree with TonyC. But they are going to make us use it someday (which I dread). I will have to keep trying, but even with the Webinar, the new search is a Rube Goldberg system to me. More later and I’m very interested in all the blogs on this past hour.

July 30, 2008 at 6:56 pm
Valerie 

I too was disappointed in the webinar. I did see a few “new techniques,” but nothing major. I didn’t feel that major concerns were really addressed and I felt that the webinar was not for advanced users (as advertised), but for new users. Most of the visuals were of basic things that anyone trying the search for a day or two should have already learned. (Though I was very surprised that so many people attending had not even tried the new search!)

I thought that the Q&A session was especially weak, with very easy questions being answered. I hope that you will think about releasing an extended Q&A response here on the blog to answer other questions that were asked. This might go a long way to making the webinar feel more effective.

July 30, 2008 at 7:09 pm
Tony Cousins 

My first post on the webinar last night was right after it concluded so in the cold light of day I need to expand a little.

One of the most surprising things was that they covered the new home page, so that threw me a little as the event was targeted at the new search. However what they did say about the new page was really very interesting. It seems that someone in Ancestry may even be reading the blogs!! No, really. They’re going to let us customize it, move things around, so why didn’t / doesn’t someone from Ancestry post that information here?

So back to the purpose of the night. One of the many questions I put forward on the TGN/PR Webinar was the following, try it in the new search.

Name – John Cousins – exact
Born 1816 +/- 2 years – exact in Suffolk, England – again exact.

This will bring up what I expect to see, the 1841 UK census through 1901, plus a few trees and other records, and I was very pleased to see that there aren’t thousands of records – but.

Now add the fact that he died somewhere around 1877, again in Suffolk, England – exact all you get are family trees.

This wonderful search engine excludes ANY UK census records between those dates – why? Doesn’t that mean that the search is flawed if you put too much information in? Isn’t the point of this piece of progress that you can find better matching records!!! This has nothing to do with me being a Luddite, it’s just plain not working correctly.

I know that John Cousins was born in Suffolk, England – he’s my great, great, great grandfather but if I try too much information in the new search all I get are family trees.

I’m still waiting, like many others here, for an explanation and solution, not platitudes and weak webinars.

TonyC

July 31, 2008 at 7:05 am
Patricia 

I attended your webinar on Ancestry’s new search and found it very informative. I have a suggestion for a new name for your search query. Since the search includes all availible records (historical, newspaper, trees, etc.) why don’t you have it say “Search all Ancestry records.” Just a thought.
Love the new search tool, especially the pull down menu for names and the newspaper preview. Keep up the good work!

July 31, 2008 at 3:47 pm
E A Jarnagin 

I was unable to access the webcast for Ancestry.com Search Enhancements. Also have heard that others had the same problem. I followed all the instructions but couldn’t find the link to get to the webcast. Please enlighten me and others. And will you redo the missed broadcast for us?

Respectfully,
E A Jarnagin

July 31, 2008 at 9:11 pm
Joanne Sholes 

I use ancestry daily and have for the past several years. I find the databases so helpful. My current frustration is with ancstry’s need to be my constant tutor or monitor. I find all the references to ‘what to do next’ very annoying and taking up entirely too much room on each page. I realize perhaps these notes are helpful to some people but I find it annoying and do hope I will not lose my option to utalize the old format.

August 1, 2008 at 10:31 am
JUDY ADAMS 

WHAT THE F*** ( nancy of #10 you were right)

I HAVE JUST LOGGED ON AND WHAT DO I FIND YOUR ******* NEW SEARCH. I DID NOT WANT TO USE IT I DID NOT ASK TO USE IT SO WHY THE **** DO I HAVE TO USE IT.

NONE OF YOU HAD THE GUTS IT SEEMS TO SAY WELL AS OF AUGUST THE 1ST YOU WILL HAVE TO USE IT

THERE AGAIN WHAT MORE CAN I EXPECT FROM THE POWERS THAT BE WHO HAVE BURRIED THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND AND WILL NOT LISTEN TO US YOUR LONG TEWRM PAYING CUSTMER (NOT FOR MUCH LONGER AS THE DAYS GO ON I AM MORE SURE I WILL NOT RENEW) FIRST YOU FALSE THE AMT WITH ALL THOSE UNWANTED BELLS AND WHISTLES ON US MY REACTION I NO LONGER CONSTRUCT OR EVEN USE MY FAMILY TREE ON LINE … I USE TO IN OLT EXCLUSAVILY. THIS MEANS THAT MY TREE IN AMT IS ALWAYS AT LEAST 3 TO 6 MONTHS OUT OF DATE I HAVE EVEN REMOVED THE PHOTOS

NOW WE HAVE THE NEW PAGE AND IT SEEMS WE HAVE TO USE THE NEW SEARCH IT IS FULL OF BOXES MANY OF WHICH WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR A PORTIONED CIRCLE THING TO STOP SPIRALING BEFORE WE CAN DO ANYTHING . PROGRESS MY FOOT

ITS ABOUT TIME ANCESTRY HAD A CRISES MEETING AND THE POWERS THAT BE SACKED ALL THE JOBS WORTHS WHO DO NOT HAVE AN INTREST IN GENEALOGY BECAUSE RTHE ONLY WAY THEY WILL EVER GET IT RIGHT WHERE WE THE CUSTMERS ARE CONCERNED IS TO EMPLY PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN GENEALOGY AND WHO WOULD THEREFORE UNDERSTAND WHAT WE YOU CUSTMERS WANT WITH IN A SITE DEDICATED TO GENEALOGY

August 2, 2008 at 2:28 pm
adina bailey 

Your advertisement is making me ill. I am trying to use search and each time your add pops up. I have read it now you can stop it.Thands AB

August 2, 2008 at 4:07 pm
adina bailey 

Your advertisement is making me ill. I am trying to use search and each time your add pops up. I have read it, now you can stop it. Thanks.AB

August 2, 2008 at 4:10 pm
Stephanie 

Fellow researchers – has anyone noticed an inability to access some of the NewspaperArchive.com images? I am wondering if the new search engine is causing a problem for me?

October 12, 2008 at 4:00 pm
PHeeks 

Hi I am wondering how you can reach some one about an arrer on someones name? You see my grampa,s name was Cyril Cranston Thomas and you have put Caril C Thomas which is very wronge! he was born to Reverend Henry Alexander Thomas and Mararet Cranston Cyril was born on oct 15 1890 Becher Ontario He died in July 1938 in Edmonton Alberta he was a school teacher. please if you could please correct this and Thank you so much.

November 24, 2008 at 4:52 am
Sue McDonald Miller 

I am looking for anyone who may be relatedt to George Washington McDonald, where he came from, & his son George Lewis McDonald was my great-gradfather,grandfather Asbeury Luther McDonald, Father A.L. “Mac” McDonald, & me Bonnie Sue McDonald Miller. Please caontact me with any information.

December 29, 2008 at 11:44 am