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
- “Add media” on the profile page
- Tips on using the enhanced image page
- RSS Feeds for Member Connect Activity Updates
- Retiring Member Connections from Ancestry.co.uk
- Site Navigation Clean-Up for Account Settings, and Alerts
- Message Board Favourites
- Search improvements
- Coming up: more Search improvements
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 Ancestry.co.uk 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 Ancestry.co.uk
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.
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:
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 Ancestry.co.uk, 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 Ancestry.co.uk. 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 Ancestry.co.uk blog posts via email, please click here.
(Authors of this post include: David Graham, Anne Mitchell, Kenny Freestone and Stephanie Cruz, Ancestry.com)