Comments on: Let’s talk about search! The official blog of Ancestry Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:10:33 +0000 hourly 1 By: Anne Mitchell Anne Mitchell Wed, 06 Aug 2008 16:02:38 +0000 Since this conversation has moved over to the posting:

The new search interface

I’m going to close this posting for comments, and ask that you share your thoughts there.

I have trouble keeping up with more than one post at a time, and I don’t want to miss your comments and ideas.

By: Joseph S. Haas Joseph S. Haas Wed, 06 Aug 2008 15:51:32 +0000 Naturalization details: State or Federal? There are no footnotes here of WHERE the poster got their information from WHAT source! Instead I’ve got to choose which fork in the road. Example: George Z. Singal of Portland, Maine, see my with Record #193408910 that I first thought was an external # to an outside document somewhere, but merely the run-around here of an internal # leading nowhere, and so I give up! Account closed. Please contact me by e-mail: Thank you, JosephSHaas at hotmail dot com , P.O. Box 3842, Concord, N.H. 03302, Tel. 603: 848-6059 (cell phone).

By: judy adams judy adams Tue, 05 Aug 2008 22:40:40 +0000 jerry #30 and carole #31

you mentioned opening the dot com page several times so you can search. jerry you found that you have a bit of difficulty. as i said in my post above if you open both dot com and dot co dot uk you will find no problem as they seem to work independently of each other. and YOU will be able to search for both usa and english records in dot co dot uk for best results there use OLD SEARCH. i expect if you open up other country versions eg australia , canada ectra it will work also.

oh yeah anne i will post this in capitals again because i am some what anoyed again





despite having returned back to OLD SEARCH on my previous visit


i do expect that once i have made a choice to stay with OLD SEARCH i should find that when i log on i am in OLD SEARCH still and not to have to make the choice again at least this time the button was where it should have been.

By: Robert Robert Tue, 05 Aug 2008 16:36:01 +0000 I am a longtime subscriber to I have used and appreciated the access to records otherwise impossible to find. I especially appreciate the ability to access the census records.
However, I agree with the comments of Reed regarding the deficiencies in the search engine, especially the requirement of the initial three letters and the limitation of wild card searches.
I am also greatly troubled by the non-responsiveness of the technical staff at Ancestry. For years I have complained about the omission of half of the names in the 1820 census of Lycoming County Pennsylvania. I never get a response and the records are never corrected. Ancestry discourages direct communication, requiring answers to a long questionnaire before allowing a question to be posted. Of course, the question is never answered.
I hope this dialogue will be helpful to Ancestry in responding to user interests rather than glitz and overflow of useless hits.

By: Jade Jade Tue, 05 Aug 2008 07:51:31 +0000 Thank you, Reed, Mike and Carol.

Reed and Mike touched on need for customer beta testing. In Mike’s words,

“What Ancestry needs to do is get our input in the concept/design phase and not when it is too late after the thing is done and the marketing/PR dept is just trying to get us to fix bugs in their poorly designed/conceived idea while it tries to put lipstick on a pig.”

Unfortunately, even when Ancestry does beta-testing it disregards the user opinions. Just ask those who beta-tested the year-ago demolition of the Message Boards. Only after very clamorous complaints that Management had destroyed the boards’ functionality did they restore some of the thread structure, widen the field and allow wrap-arounds so that the message subjects could be read (!?!). Duh. The odd thing is that they did not have to destroy the Message Board structure to accomodate the additional ads, which was the true purpose.

Except then early this year they rolled out the revolting marketing tag-links, which was the underlying purpose for the change in Message Boards software. Evidently there was no beta-testing of this phase, which had very amateurish bugs, and despite minor tweaks still has such impressively idiotic features as links to other-counties-by-same-name. And anyone who’s worked on genealogy for more than 20 minutes realizes that the offerings of Ancestry Books on surnames are useless.

Whoever constructed that part of the Message Boards change has evidently had a hand in programming New Fuzzy’s treatment of surnames when not checked off as ‘exact’: one poster here found that New Fuzzy seems to treat such surnames as Keywords, retrieving search results for Counties named the same (or nearly the same) as the surname.

The Ancestry Insider’s view of Ancestry’s non-responsiveness to customers is really an understatement. The destructive pecuniary steamroller will fairly soon make finding anything but Trees nearly impossible.

And we haven’t seen anything yet. This is only the first phase. The additional ads and Marketing ploys have not been rolled out. The Marketing scheme behind the Message Board mess will be repeated. I do not doubt that this is the essential reason for New Fuzzy’s returning so many thousands or millions of irrelevant results.

Remember the days before G**gle searches were available on the web, where the first 50 or 100 results for any search were advertisements for stuff unrelated to your search? Could this time-worn concept be behind refusal of Ancestry to enable a searcher to order search results in any sensible way? Stay tuned.

By: Carol A. H. Carol A. H. Tue, 05 Aug 2008 05:49:41 +0000 After reading the posts from this past weekend, Jade’s post #38 made me realize that I never read the introductory page to the new search. I just jumped in and used it. So I read it tonight.

One thing stuck in my mind after reading “Ideas for the future”

It was this: *Search engine enhancements that will return more relevant results and reduce inaccuracies.

Now that should have been in the new search before it ever was given to us and I think there would be fewer problems for me and for others.

Unless all this commotion is a marketing strategy to get us to do all the work and give marleting the improvement ideas. If so, it could backfire.

This past weekend I got the chance to try ancestry on another computer, (two other computers to be exact) both old search and new search.

There were some very noticable differences in how ancestry behaved. So maybe hardware could be part of the problems. We all can’t go out and buy new computers and some have slow ISP.

I have cable so that is not one of my problems but I think I may have to upgrade my memory. The advertising which I find inappropriate most of the time is slowing my computer in new search. Old search is beter. Some ads are not worthy of ancestry. Low class stuff. I won’t support your adverisers.

By: gail john gail john Mon, 04 Aug 2008 22:59:28 +0000 Thank you Reed, you outlined the concerns of SERIOUS researchers to a tee. Also a heartfelt thanks from me to Jerry Bryan, Jade, Tony C., and the other posters who have taken the time to outline in great detail the virtually useless “new” search.
I have only been a subscriber to since the beginning of this year, but I am increasingly frustrated and disappointed with the results I have gotten when using the “new” search. I generally avoid using it, and will more than likely decline to renew my subscription when the time comes unless SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENTS ARE MADE, AND ANCESTRY.COM SHOWS SOME REAL PROGRESS IN DEALING WITH CUSTOMER CONCERNS.

By: Mike Mike Mon, 04 Aug 2008 20:27:26 +0000 I too would like to commend Reed on his last post, as it sums up very well the background to customer service most of us have experienced. By “most of us”, I mean serious and experienced genealogists (type #1 customers), the kind who expect and complain the most, but also the kind who are more likely to renew year after year.

I also would like to repeat what I have said before, give the unwashed genealogical masses the new search “experience” (what a pathetic marketing word), but give us type 1s (serious/experienced) alternatives, and by which I don’t mean the ability to just move things around the page.

Reed mentioned a very important word and it is (shouting here) CONCEPT. Sure we get to “test” out some of these so-called ideas, but many of them as Reed mentioned are flawed in the conception. What Ancestry needs to do is get our input in the concept/design phase and not when it is too late after the thing is done and the marketing/PR dept is just trying to get us to fix bugs in their poorly designed/conceived idea while it tries to put lipstick on a pig.

If one looks at Mr. Sullivan’s figures in a speech this year, one can see that Ancestry spends (shouting) FOUR TO ONE on marketing versus data acquisition. 4-1. That speaks volumes. My strong suspicion is that it is an attempt to put a band-aid on high customer turnover. Listen to us sincerely and address our concerns, including involving us in the concept phase, and not only would Ancestry likely reduce the turnover rate of us type 1 customers, but also get our help to increase renewals by less experienced customers. Our experience means we know what works and the newbies need that.


By: Tony Cousins Tony Cousins Mon, 04 Aug 2008 19:06:42 +0000 Reed

That was indeed a masterpiece. I think you covered everything.


By: Reed Reed Mon, 04 Aug 2008 17:22:11 +0000 Dear Anne,

Welcome to the hot seat. We know you are in a difficult position and we do appreciate your apparent interest in our experiences with the New Search.

RE your comment no. 35: Your etiquette requests, while reasonable in a general-good-internet-manners sense are—I’m searching for the right word here—a bit out of touch with our experiences with Ancestry and its approach to “customer service.” We are yelling (IN ALL-CAPS!), asking for people to be fired, and even hinting at the occasional expletive because, month after month, year after year, Ancestry has shown an almost complete disregard for the comments, questions and suggestions of its user/members.

In the words of the blogger and former Ancestry employee known as “The Ancestry Insider,” your company has—and continues to maintain—a “culture of unresponsiveness” in dealing with its paying customers. (Perhaps this will begin to change through your efforts?)

Now, this may not be fair to you, as a newcomer, but many of us have been pleading with Ancestry for fixes to the New and Old search engines, the Home Page and the database indexes. We have used the online “Report a Problem” pop-up forms and NEVER gotten a reply. We have contacted “customer service” and rarely gotten a reply. We have complained about indexing problems and missing images on databases, promises are made, but they are NEVER fixed. We volunteer for the online Beta-testing of New Search and make detailed comments and criticisms. We answer Ancestry’s online “surveys,” even though we know that the “survey” is not a well-designed evaluation instrument, but a marketing tool that has been constructed to “push” the respondent to answer in certain (positive) ways. Year after year, promises are made and yet the same problems remain and new ones arise.

And recently? Ancestry dumps New Search (and New Home Page) in our laps, claims it is tested and ready to go and—no surprise here—it’s not. Many of us send emails and write blog posts (often in great detail), describing what’s not working with New Search and the company responds with a PR department webinar, describing “exciting new features” we have already discovered, and failing to address the substantial shortcomings of the New Search experience itself.

Frankly, I am tired of writing and re-writing posts to this and other blogs, outlining and correcting the errors of your software designers. That should be the job of your programming staff, in-house testers and Beta-testers. I suggest you go back and read the blog comments over the last few months. Try the sample searches outlined by Jerry Bryan, Tony C., Jade, myself and others in this and previous blog posts.

When you do, ask yourself if—compared to Old Search—you:
(1) get more (and better-quality) hits?
(2) get fewer meaningless hits?
(3) find New Search’s interface more logical, more ergonomic, faster, and easier to use (and can be customized to turn off patronizing pop-ups and distracting advertising)?
(4) find it easier to sort and resort search results?
(5) find that the wildcard functions (*) and (?) work with less than three initial characters?
(6) find that Exact searches really give exact answers with easily set (and altered? and Boolean?) parameters?
(7) find, in general, the time you spend on Ancestry is more productive and more user-friendly than before?

Once you can answer YES to these long-standing customer requests, then please show us, because New Search is NOT meeting these criteria in our daily experience. I’m sorry if this comes off somewhat harsh, but you’ve inherited a real mess. We wish you the best, but we need to see results, not more promises.

All the best,

P.S. And FYI, we are not a bunch of technophobic, change-adverse, stick-in-the-muds. We are amateurs and professionals with a passion for genealogical research and high-quality sources. We enjoy well-designed software improvements (that actually WORK) and we pay a lot of money to Ancestry for access to well-indexed, easy-to-search primary and secondary sources. New Search is a step in the wrong direction—philosophically, technically and ergonomically—and most of your users and blog-commenters agree.