Posted by on 13 May 2011 in Company News, General, Record Collections, Site Features

Last October we launched ‘Ancestry Labs’ to test a few of our new ideas and would like to thank all our members who contributed with their fantastic feedback and suggestions.  Today we’re very excited to announce the introduction of one of the ideas, Web Search, into the main Ancestry.co.uk search.

Why are we launching Web Search?
We’ve heard from many members that although Ancestry.co.uk has the broadest collections of historical records available, they certainly aren’t completely comprehensive. Every day digital records are being published on sites across the internet, many of which are free to access.

These sites can be a great resource in helping break through brick walls but it can be hard to know where to find sites that are relevant to your ancestors, and it also takes time to work out the best way to search them once you do manage to track them down.

To help solve this, we are launching a new feature that searches select websites and brings back any matching results we find, along with a link to the site to enable you to go straight to the original record. Where relevant, we will include these results into your main search results. We will also list each collection we have within our card catalogue, which will allow you to search those collections directly from within Ancestry.co.uk.

Principles we will follow
As we’ve been developing Web Search, we’ve spoken with many members from the genealogical community to try to ensure we approach this in the right way. We recognize how important this content is to the respective site owners and their wishes with regards to linking to their content.

From these discussions, we have developed some principles on how this service will work:

- Free access to Web Records – Users do not have to subscribe or even register with Ancestry.co.uk to view these records.
- We will always strive to follow web standards for web crawling permissions.  For example, some websites have a robots.txt file that instructs search engines (like Google) to not crawl the site, or to only crawl certain areas.
- Proper attribution of Web Records to content publishers – we will link prominently to the original site within the search experience.
- We have in place processes to remove content from the index if a website owner requests us to do that and we will publish how to contact our team to do this.  Website owners can also contact us to ask questions or to request their site be indexed – see this page to learn how to contact us: http://www.ancestry.co.uk/websearch.
- Ancestry.co.uk users will be able to save key information to their trees but it will list the website as the source and have an easy way to link back to the original site.

How does it work?
When you do a search on Ancestry.co.uk, if we find a relevant match in a record on a website we have indexed, we will include that match in your search results.

You can view the essential information in the search results list, click on a link to visit the website or on the information to view a little more and save it to your tree.  You don’t have to subscribe, or even have an Ancestry.co.uk guest account, to find and view this information or to get to the source website.  Of course, if you do want to save it to your online tree, you will need to login or create a free account so we know where to save the information.

To designate which of these records are from Ancestry.co.uk and which are found via web search, we are prefacing the source information with “Web:” and then the name of the collection.  For example: “Web: Rootsweb Obituary Index”. There is also an icon next to the name indicating this is a web record.

You will also see a link under the title that will go straight to the website.  If you are using new search, you will also find a special icon next to the title.

When you click on the name of the collection, you will get to this page:


This page only contains the essential information needed to find the information and to make sure it is the person for whom you are searching.

In the same way you should always check the image when you look at an index, make sure you go to the website to see what other information is there.  You will usually find additional information – reference and publication information, grave site locations, ways to order the original record, notes, and sometimes even images.

Going to the Original Website
The first time you click on a link to go to an external website, you will see a message that looks like this:

We want to make sure users know a few things about this experience.  First of all, the site is not on Ancestry.co.uk and will open in a new tab, or a new window (depending on your browser.)  Secondly, when you get to the site, you may have to search for the record.  Some sites have static URLs so we can help you get straight to the record.   Other sites dynamically generate the page for the record so you have to search when you get there.

If you don’t want to see this message in the future, just check the box in the lower right hand portion of the screen “Don’t show this message again.”

Can I search just one collection of web records, like I can with Ancestry content?
Yes, you can do this.  There are a few ways to search just one set of records from a website.

If you are looking at a single record on Ancestry.co.uk, just click the title of the collection and it will take you to a search page for that collection.


This will take you to a search page that will look something like this:

You can also find the individual search forms by going to the card catalogue and searching on the name of the collection.  If you don’t know it, just search the word “web” in the title since we will include the word “web” to denote they come from an external source and not from Ancestry.co.uk.

How fast will we grow the Web Search service?
We plan to add sites to our index gradually so we can learn about how useful they are to users. Today, we are launching Web Search with select websites but hope to quickly add websites that will help our users discover more about their ancestors and help their family history research.

For more information on Web Search
We hope this answers many of your questions.  We greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received so far and look forward to continuing to learn from our users, web publishers, and others in the community.

We have a page with general information on this service at www.ancestry.co.uk/websearch.  On this page, you will find a summary of some of this information as well as ways to contact us.

If you own a website or publish content, we have a special message board where you can ask questions and share your suggestions with us at http://boards.ancestry.co.uk/content-publishers-feedback/mb.ashx.

If you publish family history records on the web, you can ask your site to be searched or request your site not be searched, by emailing us at websearch@ancestry.co.uk.

We also invite users to share their thoughts and suggestions with us at the same email address – websearch@ancestry.co.uk.

10 Comments

Wesley Kerslake 

I was interested in reading more about websearch but the link does not work: http://www.ancestry.co.uk/websearch

It says: Error – page not found. That’s not a good start!

14 May 2011 at 8:43 am
AlanB74 

Same here, it has been like it since yesterday which is a shame as this looks like a very handy extra tool.

14 May 2011 at 10:45 am
Martin Tolley 

As others have said – not a lot of point if it doesn’t work.

14 May 2011 at 11:12 am
Annabel Reeves from Ancestry.co.uk 

Hi everyone – thanks for your comments. I’m really sorry about inserting the wrong link and apologise for the inconvenience caused. The correct link is in fact http://www.ancestry.com/websearch and we’re looking to get the correct links updated as soon as possible. Annabel

14 May 2011 at 12:20 pm
Martin 

The new link given by Annabel goes to a page on Ancestry.com which has a link that says “Go to Website” but this does not work either.

17 May 2011 at 8:36 am
Geliza 

just received your email about this new search but have found same as above, ‘Go to Website’ doesn’t work.
24 May 2011

24 May 2011 at 11:46 am
Annabel Reeves 

Hi both, I’ve tried to replicate the issue but it all appears to be working at my end. Please can you call 0800 404 97 23 and speak to a member of our Customer Support team. They will be able to replicate the issue and advise you. Annabel

24 May 2011 at 12:34 pm
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