Posted by on 19 April 2010 in Site Features

We are always listening to our members – whether it’s by phone, email or at the shows when we meet you face to face. Based on your feedback, our research and user tests our product and development teams have created and improved a series of site features during the last year. But it is an on-going process – our aim is to continually make our site easier to use.

Below are the highlights of the major improvements we have introduced during the last 12 months and what’s to come later this year:

Improved Data Collection Search Pages  

A Data Collection Search Page is the page where you search a specific record collection. It will contain a search form relevant to that collection, a browse functionality and some information about the collection. The easiest way to find the Data Collection Pages is to use the Card Catalogue – just use the filters on the left-hand side of the page to narrow down the list to the collection you’re interested in.

These improved Data Collection Search pages were launched at the end of last year. We removed the ad space from these pages, moved “Browse” up to the top right, so you can navigate on the same page down to the specific area you want, and made it faster and more efficient. We also included a fuller description of the data collection and related data collection links.

Whilst the look of the search form has changed in both Old and New Search, the one thing we did not change was the Old Search and New Search forms. If you are an Old Search user, you’ll still see the same form; if you are a New Search user, you’ll still see that.

In this example from the 1841 England Census, you can choose the Enumeration District links in the “Browse this collection” box, and you can go straight to the images for these areas, which you can then page through – very useful if you can’t find a person in a census search but you know where they might be geographically.


“Add media” on the profile page

Now you can attach images and photos to the life events of your ancestor on the Person Profile page allowing you to create a visual timeline of the life events of your ancestors. Previously you could only upload photos to specific people in your family tree, whereas now you can link these photos to specific life events. For example, you can add a wedding photo to a marriage or a photo of a house to a residence.


Tips on using the enhanced image page

We have had this improved version of the enhanced image page for a few months now; however here are a few tips about it that you might not already know:

  • you can use the “Maximize image” to hide the right and bottom panels so you’ll have a larger viewing area for the document image; alternatively you can click on the grey arrows to hide/unhide the panels.
  • If you click on the transcription shown in the bottom panel, you can add a variation of the name, correct transcription, etc.
  • On the right hand side in the “Member Connect” panel you can see who else has saved this record and may be researching the same family as you.
  • At the top, you can click on the “breadcrumb” links to navigate to other images in the collection, allowing you to go to a specific place or surname.


RSS Feeds for Member Connect Activity Updates

By subscribing to an RSS feed you’ll get updates on the Member Connect activity, so even if you don’t visit regularly, you can still find out what other members are discovering. At the bottom of the right-hand column on the Recent Member Connect Activity page, you’ll find a link to subscribe to the RSS feed. When you click on the link, you will navigate to the RSS feed (XML) page.

There are two ways to subscribe to the RSS feed: if your browser supports this, you can click on the “subscribe” link/button at the top of the page to add the RSS feed to your RSS reader; otherwise, you can manually subscribe to the RSS feed by copying and pasting the URL from your web browser address bar into your RSS reader. If you use an RSS reader, this is a great way to easily check your latest Member Connect Activity alongside your other favourite news.

Retiring Member Connections from

Over time the distinctions between Member Connections, the Member Directory, and Member Connect became confusing. Member Connections has been used less by members and since the search results have become nearly identical to what you find when searching Public Member Trees, we decided to retired the Member Connections feature. If this is a feature that you valued, we suggest that you search our Public Member Trees to find other members who are researching your ancestors.

Site Navigation Clean-Up for Account Settings, and Alerts

To make it easier to access your account information (such as site preferences, email preferences, and alerts), we’ve created quick links in a drop down menu from the My Account link. With this change, account settings are now one click away from wherever you are on the site.

Message Board Favourites

The message board favourites list has now moved. Previously accessible by clicking on Collaborate > Message Boards > My Favourites. Now you can easily get to the topics you are interested in from the main Message Boards page. Click on “Message Boards” under the Collaborate main navigation from any page on the site and your message board favourites are directly listed there. If you have a lot of message board favourites, you can click on the “See all favourites” button to get to your full list.

If you’ve never used the Message Boards, it’s a great place to post questions for other members to help you in your research. To keep track of message boards you want to follow, look for the star icon on the category and board pages to save topics to your message board favourites list.

Search improvements

There is a long list of things we want to improve in search (and in new search in particular) – and we’ve started with what you’ve told us is the most important – getting relevant results. We’ve been rolling search improvements and there are more to come. We’ll keep you updated with blog posting and onsite messaging. Here are the highlights of recent improvements:

Lifespan filter

If you tell us your ancestor died in 1880, you really don’t want to see a 1901 census record.

Here are the changes we’ve made:

  • If you are searching for someone and you just know a birth year, we will assume the person lived about 100 years. And we will only return records from the birth year – 5 to birth year + 102.
  • If you are searching for someone and you just know a death date, we will again assume the person lived about 100 years, and we will only return records from the death year – 105 to death year + 2.
  • If you put in both a birth year and a death year, we will return records between birth year – 5 to death year + 2.


Improved Wildcard flexibility

Improved Wildcard flexibility was one of our most requested feature updates. So we updated our wildcard functionality earlier this year.
When using search forms, for first name and last name, you could substitute unknown letters within a name using the * (asterisk or star) and the ? (question mark); these are known as wildcards. The * matches zero or more characters, so if you type in Ann*, this will match names such as Ann, Anne, Anna, or Annabelle; the ? matches one and only one character, so if you type in Ann?, this will match names such as Anne or Anna but not Ann or Annabelle.

Previously, you had to use three characters and then either a * or a ?. We’ve made a few changes.

  • Now you can put a wildcard first, such as *son or ?atthew to catch all of those crazy spellings and variations that our ancestors came up with.
  • Either the first or last character must be a non-wildcard character. For example, Han* and *son are okay, but not *anso*
  • Names must contain at least three non-wildcard characters. For example, Ha*n is okay, but not Ha*

Record type filters

At, our collections fall into a number of different record types. (If you’ve ever used Old Search, you might be familiar with them already). In Advanced Search you are now able to pick and choose which types of records you see in your result or category list. You can choose all four (which is the default setting), or any combination of the four. Each time you do a new search, we will reset to the default.

So let’s say you want to search for all record types apart from the Family Trees. You would use the advanced version of the search form, and then enter your relevant information. At the bottom, just tick all the record type checkboxes with the exception of “Family trees”.

Click on search, and then you can either look at the results in a general ranked listing or in a category listing:


Coming up: more Search improvements

The improvements listed above were only the start of things to come, 2010 is going to be an exciting year for Search at Having spent much of last year listening to what you wanted, we will be introducing a series of improvements to Search with the aim of giving you a lot more control over your searches and therefore making it much easier to understand your results. To keep yourself updated with these changes, watch this space and our onsite messaging. To receive all the new blog posts via email, please click here.

(Authors of this post include: David Graham, Anne Mitchell, Kenny Freestone and Stephanie Cruz,



i have (as have others) all ready flagged this up with Anne Mitchell on the .com blog about 4/5 months ago.

the LAM records have a major transcript error. some of the records have been placed under the wrong counties for example Lambeth has been placed under Middlesex instead of Surrey


the bmd records have the quarters missing on the post 1915 records and ages in the post 1915 death records have some ages missing too. it makes things difficult to locate the record required with out having to open the images or do calculations.

when are these issues going to be addressed please

and thirdly

a heads up on the launch of the blog would have been nice as a daily user of 6-7 hours a day i was not aware that the blog had been launched. a simple banner message or an email or even a message in out message box announcing this would have been advisable and probably would not go amiss even now!

and lastly

and i have again along with others all ready voiced this

NEW SEARCH is totally and utterly a wast of time ancestry have taken a nicely laid out and smooth working efficient system of OLD SEARCH and said we can do better

WRONG in fact NEW SEARCH is harder to use totally unfriendly and throw up far to many results which don’t even match the search criteria. the fudge facter needs scrapping. if we want to search for records either side of a date to a specific range then as in old search we should be aloud to do so by select from a drop down or by imputing manually a value ourselves. if we ask for a record from Lambeth surrey then we should not be given records in Berkshire or even the USA. no i am not a fan like many others of NEW SEARCH.

OLD SEARCH might not find all records but it is far more reliable and user specific in exact and VERY SIMPLE TO USE.
With NEW SEARCH you are left feeling you need to have a degree to use it even with all the explanations and the various tinkering which has gone on over the last few months it remains a utter mess.
NEW SEARCH is another one of the WHITE ELEPHANTS THAT NEED DISPENSING WITH AND REMOVED and confined to the grave yard along with its partner in genealogical crimes ONEWORLDTREE and dont get me started on that one.

and oh yes i am gonna give the heads up that you are now in existent on the .com blog site so strap yourselves in we are a feisty lot and will give our views with no punches pulled.

19 April 2010 at 3:09 pm
Andy Hatchett 

Nice Summary.

19 April 2010 at 6:16 pm

I don’t like New Search either. I never use it because it gives too many results that aren’t even close to what you’re searching for. If the Old Search facility is ever scrapped then I won’t continue to subscribe to Ancestry.

22 April 2010 at 7:37 pm


“Having spent much of last year listening to what you wanted”PLEASE DON’T GET RID OF THE OLD SEARCH, IT’S FAST AND EFFICIENT COMPARED TO THE NEW.

Also, it’s a pain having to scroll down to the bottom of the census search page to select the England census. I much preferred being able to select the country I wanted to search on the HOME PAGE


I really feel with some of the new features, MY CHOICES HAVE BEEN REDUCED:(

Finally, yes some of the quarters are missing, so you have to go through the census years and select the quarter, then search through images to find the name etc.

P.S. I didn’t know about the blog either!

22 April 2010 at 7:40 pm

I totally agree with Judy and particularly in regard to the superiority of the Old Search system. New Search looks to me like something designed to make casual users purchase more credits.

As far as the comment in the wild card changes article that refers to the odd spellings that our ancestors used, this looks to me more like you’re trying to find a way to get around the problems caused by all the transcription errors.

Good “spinning” try but i’ll stick to my way of working thank you.

22 April 2010 at 8:04 pm

I agree with Fedup22 regarding transcription errors which are increasing to an unacceptable level. Transcribers should take more care! What is the point of transcribing hundreds maybe thousands of records which are not accurate it is not helpful!!!

22 April 2010 at 10:35 pm
Michelle Heather 

I miss not being able to search within a specified time frame, ie 5 years of a known birth date, marriage or death. Would appreciate having this facility put back. Also would be good to be able to specify a known name as we used to be able to so that you don’t get pages of names that are totally irrelevant.

23 April 2010 at 7:46 am
Carol Williams 

Icould not agree more ,about new Search, i reverted to Old Search very quickly, i often have recommended Ancestry as it is easy to use, but have always advised people to use old search, it really gives far greater flexability if you are serious about researching more than your immediate family

23 April 2010 at 9:00 am
Colin Seale 

I have asked this before, but WHEN are you going to have the 1911 census records on as do FindMyPast already?

23 April 2010 at 10:01 am
Linda Brook 

Please keep Old Search as it is much easier, from my point of view, to use. Thanks

23 April 2010 at 10:02 am

TRANSCRIPTION ERRORS FROM IMAGES. A common frustrating problem is where the county TOWN/CITY is the capital (county town) of the COUNTY of its name and consequently the TOWN/CITY space is left blank. So when you copy the records you have to manually insert the TOWN/CITY and this is galling after you’ve corrected it for everyone else following you. I can vouch this is true of Northampton (Northamptonshire), Leicester (Leicestershire) and Nottingham (Nottinghamshire) and I presume Lancaster and York also. As 80% of my ancestors hail from Northampton & Leicester this is frustrating and time-wasting but I will do it to help others. I spent hours inserting the towns purely for the benefit of those following me. I then get 100s of thank you emails which I DO NOT WANT as I never ever read them they just fill my in box before I delete them. Can you sort these problems please? Thanks

23 April 2010 at 11:51 am
Ann Wilkinson 

I agree with all the comments above. Prefer Old search. When will we get 1911 census? Also I find it difficult now to find my way to view Birth /Marriage / death index NOT transcribed. Often the improvements make it harder and more complicated.

23 April 2010 at 1:30 pm

I won’t repeat all the things above which I so agree with. The arrival of the transcription window means we can see just how dire the transcripts are.
Particular beefs of mine are
Abbreviations. I can see an argument for transcribing abbreviations exactly. There are some cases where two or more names are possible (Jos) for instance. But, your software doesn’t cope with this (Family Search does much better at returning variants, including abbreviations) An abbreviated name often turns up pages and pages later – after whole lists of returns that don’t match in terms of age, place, birthplace. You’ve usually given up by then.
Also abbreviations for place names. Very common when that place is where you are, or really close. Birm for Birmingham is one.
Secondly, the links for revising the search are very erratic. You want to make a small alteration to the criteria, but often, quite randomly a different search box appears, from which the collection information has not only disappeared, but there isn’t the means of re-selecting 1851 England census, or even Uk census collection, or whatever, so instead of improving the search results you get hundreds of returns from collections you don’t want – and have to start over from the menu.
Not to mention the number of times when you hit return to search results and get a search you did much, much earlier. Again, have to start over.

23 April 2010 at 2:18 pm
Patricia Yandell 

I would also like to know when you are going to get the 1911 census. It is so frustrating. I don’t really want to subscribe to another site. So please let us have this census soon or you might loose some subscribers.!!

23 April 2010 at 4:07 pm
Charlene Chen 

Thank you everyone for your comments. We hope that you are finding the new Blog a useful channel to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening at, and that you will become a regular visitor. If you haven’t already done so, you can click on the “E-mail” link on the right-hand side of this page to subscribe to a free service which will deliver all new articles into your email account as they are posted on the Blog.

For those of you who have chosen to continue using the Old Search, we are constantly making improvements to the New Search so please do try it again and feed back your thoughts to us.

Please find out more about the changes to Search here:

You can also take the tour – go to

#1 Judy
Thank you very much for reporting the issues with LMA and BMD. We are aware of them and working to resolve the problems.

23 April 2010 at 6:08 pm
Pam Hopper 

I completely agree with the comments about search (new or old). There are too many returns, most of which are wholly irrelevant. When we get our results from our search, why can’t we use the title bar names to be able to re-organise our results i.e. click on ‘name’ and it will re-organise into alphabetical order or ‘year of birth’ and that column re-orders etc. etc.? This would give us the freedom to check the results most relevant to us and then continue on looking through the less relevant ones if we wish, without having to scroll through (sometimes) thousands of returns. If I’m searching a particular year I want to see all relevant results for that year before venturing forth into other years (earlier or later). I’m afraid the search results seem totally illogical to me………

25 April 2010 at 8:21 am


if you use firefox you can download a tool to do exactly that. once you have it installed all you need do is right click over the colum you wish to sort move down to ‘sort table column as’ this will sort the current page you are looking at. and of course if you use old search exact ticked you have more control
it will work on other sits to.
another good one to have is screen grab

(table tools)

(screen grab)

25 April 2010 at 8:08 pm

sorry those links dont work of course these do

25 April 2010 at 8:12 pm

the frustration for me is that having announced the coming of 1911 census it has not been followed up on. I have started looking elsewhere which means reconsidering if Ancestory is value for money.

27 April 2010 at 7:39 am

Do you know if the above add-ons work on Macs?

28 April 2010 at 9:06 am

sorry i have no experience of mac so have no idea. i do know that they DON’T work on windows explorer. but to get a screen save there are two ways in windows. first use the ‘print screen’ button which will save a copy to the copy board then you can open it in paint.
but the most easiest is to load irfanview on to your machine have the program running and then when you want a snap shot of the screen you are using (it must be open) all you need do is use ‘ctrl +f11’ and you will get a snap shot JPEG pasted into irfanview. i know that irfanview is available for mac (windows)

i just googled and got this it seems that you can get tabletools and screengrab firefox add on for mac

28 April 2010 at 7:55 pm