by George G. MorganÂ
Ancestry.com allows you many search options to find your ancestors. Two of the most important are the Ranked Search and the Exact Search. These are options that are found as tabs at the top of many of the search templates, or boxes, throughout the Ancestry.com site.
The Ranked Search helps you locate data about your ancestors quickly and easily by bringing up the best possible matches first in your list of search results. Performing a Ranked Search also gives you the option of specifying a date and place of birth and/or a date and place of death in your search. The search results page shows the most relevant matches from all of the Ancestry databases on the initial search results page, including basic information about birth, marriage, and death events as well as other possible matches.
Start by clicking the Ranked Search tab at the top of the search template. When the Ranked Search template (which is tan in color) appears, enter as much information as you can. Sometimes even an educated guess can help. Those family stories can come in handy here! The more information you fill in, the better your chances of getting more search results.
The Ranked Search Results screen will usually appear, listing all possible matches. For example, I entered the name of my uncle, Joe Mason (his forename was not Joseph), and information I knew. He was born in 1914 in the U.S. in North Carolina, and he died in the U.S. in Virginia. I allowed for a search of â€œAll Record Typesâ€? but only for the United States. The search results appeared and were very helpful.
To the left of each search results are stars that represent the match quality. Four and five star matches are probably the most relevant match, while one to three stars represent possibly less appropriate matches. A drop-down box at the top of the list allows you to refine the search results presented by specifying â€œAll Matchesâ€? or only those up to and including certain star ratings.
In this case, Joe Mason, whose middle name was Brown, is shown in the OneWorldTree, and as Joe B Mason in the U.S. World War II Enlistment Records, 1938-1946.Â These are four-star ratings. By selecting only four-star results or better, I narrowed a rather large group of results down to seventeen, and two were applicable to my Uncle Joe.
A Ranked Search is also smart enough to automatically return alternate spellings and abbreviations for name(s) of your ancestor. For example, a search for Joe Mason also returned some matches for Joseph Mason and Jos. Mason. This is especially helpful when records include other variants, misspellings, and nicknames. Additional names may be returned with first or middle initials for someone, as happened when I entered Joe Mason and got responses for both Joe B Mason and Joe Brown Mason. For records from the Ancestry.com databases, such as the OneWorldTree, a person might be included in the search results (with less stars) because his or her fatherâ€™s name was Joe, Jos., or Joseph Mason. While these may seem extraneous, they really are not. They are additional clues!
What happens if you enter a name into the Ranked Search and you get no results at all? In this case, your search is probably set to only search for five-star entries. Click on the link labeled â€œSee the lower-quality matches you missedâ€? near the top of the screen. It will then display matches with less than five stars and you can browse there for potential matches.
Also, remember that if you add more information, you increase your chances of bringing your ancestor to the top of the list. The Ranked Search is a powerful tool. Try it out and get a feel for what it can do for you!
AWJ Editorâ€™s Note: For a more in-depth look at the Ranked Search, see Kendall Huletâ€™s informative article, Needles, Haystacks, and Ranked Search at Ancestry.com.
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