There were some questions in the webinar that were search related that I didn’t have time to answer. I thought I pull out some of them and answer them here.
1. Does performing a general search not look in all data sets?
If you perform a general search it will look in all 27,000 plus data sets.
2. Can we use wildcards in search? What is a wildcard?
Both are good questions. A wildcard is a character we use in a search query to represent an unknown character. Most commonly * is used to represent 0 (zero) or more characters, and ? is used to represent just one character. So if you search for Ill? in the Card Catalog title field, it will match illi and ills. If you use Ill* it will match phrases such as Illinois or illustration. As to the question “Can we use wildcards in search”, you can, but with limitations. We have over 27,000 plus data sets with over 7 billion names in them. In order to keep the site running well and not tie up our search query servers (we have thousands), we will only allow wild cards where the first three characters are specified. Ill* is ok, Il* is not.
3. Why don’t you have the 1940 census
Don’t you wish we did? 🙂 The 1940 US Census will not be made public until 2012. The US Government has decided for privacy reasons that a census must 72 years old before they will make it available for public viewing.
4. How can you identify known errors in current indexes?
Nobody knows their ancestors names better than their descendants. My favorite example is my g-g-g-grandfather Tarlton Gillespie. He’s listed as Fulton, Satton and Frelton in the transcriptions. It was my RAGK (Random Act of Genealogical Kindness) to go and add a correction.
If you want to help some future searcher, here’s what you do: on the record page, on the left hand side, you will see:
Click on the “Comments and Corrections” link and enter what you believe the correct name to be.
Once it’s submitted, it takes about a week to get processed into the system and stored in our indices.
Which brings me to the next question:
5. On rare occasions, I have submitted a correction with a typo. I always recognize my typo immediately, and desperately wish for an undo. But my error is there forever. Can I delete it?
I admit it, I’ve done that as well. Currently there is no way to remove a correction once you’ve submitted it. It is on the list of features to add to the corrections tool; I believe you’ll see this around midyear.
6. If you put in a date will it stick to that date and not all dates?
If you are doing a “fuzzy” search, (that means you haven’t checked it as exact), it will not just stick to that date, but it will rank records that are around that date higher. There is a way around this, most easily done in the new search interface.
You’ll notice that I have identified 1787 as Tarlton’s birth date, but you know how our ancestors were…they were never that exact on these things, so I identified a range of +- 5. Then I checked exact. So when I execute this search, a record MUST have a birth date in the range of 1782-1792, (including those two). Be careful when you do this. If the birth date is listed as 1793, it won’t show up in this example. Also, if a record does not have a birth date, it will not show up as a search result. This is a great trick in limiting the number of results you are getting.
I have six more questions that I want to answer, but this post is getting just a bit long, so I’ll post those questions and answer on Monday or Tuesday.