Posted by on 14 January 2011 in Site Features


Why have we changed the search form?

Over the past year, we have been working with a wide range of Ancestry members, from some of our most experienced members to relative newcomers. We’ve had a lot of help (including over 10,000 responses to the preview we published in April).

Based on this feedback, we’ve been making some changes to the forms over the past months, and this month we’re beginning to roll out one of the most significant changes.

What’s changed?

Previously, we’ve asked you to enter the name of the person you’re looking for, together with the birth and death dates and locations.

One of the requests we’ve had is for location to be more flexible – perhaps you don’t know where your grandparents were born in 1905, but do know they lived in Manchester in 1960.

So we’ve added a single box that asks for any “place your ancestor might have lived”, and which searches our records for any life events that match that location, including birth, residence, marriage, military service and death.

Most importantly, in our tests with volunteer members, we found that in a number of cases, this change enabled us to surface relevant records higher in our results than was possible before.

Of course, you can still specify birth and death places by clicking on “Add an event”. In fact, these links give you a much more flexible way to add in any of the details you know about the life events or relationships of the person you’re looking for. We’ve tried to make it a little bit easier to enter as much or as little as you know.

Estimated birth year

To search the right collections, we need to know roughly the period of time in which your person was alive. To help us find the most likely records for a person, enter the approximate birth year, or click on “Calculate it” to make an educated guess if you’re not sure.

Show advanced and clear form

The links for advanced search and clear form are now located at the bottom of the form next to the Search button.

Looking for Old Search?

Old search is still there. Go to the search homepage : Under the navigation bar on the right, you’ll see a link, “Go to Old Search”. Click on this, and you’ll be back on the Old Search form.

Happy Searching!



Unfortunately it seems that the changes have negatively affected the OLD SEARCH in the BMD Births and Marriages databases.
Now if you search for (eg) John Smith not only do you get all the John Smiths (as you would expect), but you also get any other John with s SPOUSE surname of Smith – which are absolutely useless.
Similarly in the Births you search for (eg) James Taylor you get all the James Taylors AND every James with a mother’s maiden name of Taylor.

14 January 2011 at 8:24 pm
Ron Lankshear 

I utterly agree with ftmfamily481
I think it affects NEW SEARCH as well.
I am in any BMD database including LMA Baptisms Marriage etc as well as GRO.

It used to work that a search from main Search would bring you a list of BMDs which might include that name anywhere in the database. That was ok as it was a total search.

Now when I am each database and in the main name box I enter a name I want a list of BMD for that person NOT for other events where they might be involved as father or mother or wife etc.

There are separate fields in which I can put those names.

Just think about say searching UK births from 1916 – I put Smith in Name and Brown in mothers name
and there are 5000 plus hits

A lot of Browns and I only wanted them when mother was Brown

one is Name: Clifford G Bunston
Mother’s Maiden Surname: Brown Or Smith

Now Bunston I was not looking for and name came up because of mother’s name

This really needs to be fixed as we are wasting no much time scanning long lists

16 January 2011 at 12:02 pm
Ron Lankshear 

I meant a Lot of Browns and I only wanted Smith.
I didn’t want Browns whose mother might be Smith.

This is utterly incorrect

16 January 2011 at 12:06 pm
Irene Dredge 

I didn’t know you started another comments board, This new site needs a lot of looking at I’ve spend more wasted time looking for Worsfold famlies, its so frustrating when you have told it who you want and where only to get ones that don’t even sound the same, above questions says it all. Surely you should have checked this new site out more before launching it. Old customers are getting pretty fed up with wasting so much time. We pay enough so surely we should get a better service than this.

Another thing too much information in the Search can throw up all sorts, I have always found its best to put as little as possible. Name age and place are the most important bits of information the age need to be variable as they seem to forget how old they were (wishful thinking perhaps) and place well it all depends on whether they were asked “where are you from” or “where were you born” So even the place can be difficult. But at least with the old search you could look down and see if there was a possible match and investigate. Now you spend more time scrolling down and after a 10 or more you get fed up and shut the page. They could have been further down but you get fed up looking, when asking for someone like Thomas Worsfold you don’t expect to see Ada Worsfold thats no where near Thomas and thats just the start. I shall try and get back to the old search. But if only you would answer some of the question when people post them that would at least let us see you are trying.


17 January 2011 at 9:34 am

I don’t know what ancestry have done but they have certainly screwed up the search results towards the end of 2010, and totally agree with the comments from ftmfamily481.

Furthermore the New Search option is very worrying as an example marriages 1916-2005 in Bromley (Kent) for surname TOOMEY gives only 2 results, whereas in the Old Search there are 68!

18 January 2011 at 6:29 pm
Annabel Bernhardt 

Please rest assured that we are reading all your comments and making sure that they get through to the relevant teams. We are also working hard to rectify any existing issues with the name search problem some of you mentioned, which is not a result of the new basic search form.

We recommend that you call our Member Services team on 0800 404 97 23. Each case is different and in order to understand and replicate your respective issues, we need to know the specific details of your individual problem.

Bringing you historical records that are of value to your research and the best tools possible to search them is our number one priority so please bear with us whilst we work to resolve this.

18 January 2011 at 7:03 pm

Get the old search option back pronto! When I clicked the ‘Search records’ option it provided a list of possible candidates, but more importantly, it provided a fully populated search box where I could amend or adjust the populated option to refine the search. Where has that option gone? The new search option is not populated with relevant data and not much good to man or beast.

We are supposed to move forwards, not backwards, and in my opinion this is a backward step

19 January 2011 at 5:16 pm

I also agree. I am close to giving up searches.
There are so many things that are wrong.
I cannot enter a birth year when I search the England census.
When I do a “Search for records” on a family member in my personal tree, it finds very few matches, even when I know there should be many.
Searching for records takes much much longer, and is far less accurate.
Bring back the old searches…or at least offer the old system as an option….please!

22 January 2011 at 1:59 pm