Posted by on 30 April 2010 in Site Features

AUTHORED BY ANNE MITCHELL (FROM ANCESTRY.COM)

This year one of the things we are focusing on is adding new ways for you to control what’s returned in your search results. Over the past few months, we have already launched improvements to wildcards, Collection Filters, and Record Type Filters.

Earlier this week Tony Macklin announced that we will be launching a tour to give you a preview of changes to Ancestry.co.uk search.

One of the features that has been most requested is the ability to better control what appears in your search results, by filtering out names and places that don’t match your query – giving you the same kind of control as exact, but allowing you to choose what variations are included in your results.

In this post, I will preview how name filters will work.

Where you will find them

The name filters will be available to you in new search when you are in the advanced mode. Where you currently see the “Exact” checkbox on the current form:

On any search form with a first and last name search box, you will see:

“Use default settings” will work like have no check next to “Exact only”

If you usually check “Exact only”,

you will instead see:

“Restrict to exact” works just the same as “Exact only”

Use default settings

Unless you usually use “Exact Matches Only” you will see Use default settings. What exactly happens when you use default settings?

First, we look through every first name we have recorded in our more than 29,000 data collections, and pull out any record where the first name is:

  • Exactly what you typed
  • A first name which has a similar meaning or spelling as the one you typed
  • An initial. For example if you are searching for John we will include records that have a J recorded as a first name.

Then, we look through all the records, and we pull out any record where the last name is:

  • Exactly what you typed in
  • A last name which has a similar meaning or spelling as the one you type in
  • A last name with the same soundex encoding as the one you typed in

We add all these lists to a list of records that contain any record that has at least one match for the data that you’ve given to us. Then we evaluate all the records against all the information you entered, and then order those based on how well they matched.

There is nothing new here, this is how ranked search has always worked. And if you wanted more control over what name variations you wanted to see in your search results, you could choose exact.

With these new name filters, we are going to give you a few more options that will allow you to control what you see in your search results.

Now you can request exactly which records you want us to return in your results. If you only want to look at people who have the exact same name as the one you typed in and people with the same first initial, you can request that. If you only want to see last names that match exactly or soundex variations, you can choose that.

Here are your options.

First Name Filters

  • Exact Matches: Records that contain a first name that is exactly what you typed in will appear in your results.
  • Phonetic Variations: There are other name matching algorithms that we can use to help identify records to consider for your results. If you choose phonetic, we will identify appropriate algorithms that apply to specific data collections and if a record has one of those names, we will use it as a possible record for your results set.
  • Similar Variations: There are alternates and spelling variations that are commonly used, such as Will for William. If you choose this option we will look for records with these alternates and consider them as possible results for you to look at.
  • Initial Variations: Sometimes in records our ancestors were identified with just their first initials, or the initials of their given and middle names. By including this option, you allow us to examine and possibly include records that just have initials in the first name. So if you enter Mary, we will look at records that have M as the first name.

Last Name Filters

  • Exact Matches: If a record contains a last name that is exactly what you typed in, that result will appear in your results if other fields in the record also match.
  • Phonetic Variations: There are other name matching algorithms that we can use to help identify records to consider for your results. If you choose phonetic, we will identify appropriate algorithms that apply to specific data collections and if a record has one of those names, we will use it as a possible record for your results set.
  • Soundex Variations: Soundex is a common algorithm used to generate alternate spellings of a surname. If you choose this option, any record that contains one of the soundex variations for a surname might appear in your results if other fields match as well.
  • Similar Variations: There are alternates and spelling variations that are commonly used such as Hashe for Hash. If you choose this option we will loo for records with these alternated and consider them as possible results for you to look at.

Sticky, sticky, sticky

When you choose a filter set for either the first name and the last name or both, they stay sticky meaning that when you come back to the form, they are still set in that same state. So once you find a set of filters you feel comfortable, you will not need to reset them each time.

When can I try them?

Remember these filters have been available since last Thursday. You will only see them in new search when you are in advanced mode.

Happy Searching!

Anne

1 Comment

Rina 

Simpler still (and much more effective) is to ignore “New Search” and stick with the “Old” version.

6 May 2010 at 9:18 pm