Posted by Kendall Hulet on May 29, 2008 in Website

I’m pleased to announce that Ancestry’s new search preview is now available to all Ancestry users!  Based on thousands of pieces of customer feedback, we’ve completed some new search features that we believe will make searching for records about your ancestors easier, faster and more effective.  You can now switch to the new search and give it a spin by clicking the “Try It” link at the top of the main search page…


or you can just click here:

Don’t worry, if you want to switch back to the old search (although I can’t possibly imagine why you would!? J ), all you have to do is click on “Switch back to old search experience” and you’ll be back to the old interface again.


Here are some of the features that I think make the new search a great improvement over the old search:

  • Type-ahead tools
    • As you type information into a search field, we forecast what you’re typing and make it easy to automatically fill out the search form based on the information in your family tree.  If you don’t have a family tree on Ancestry yet, you should add one just to try this out.  It’s really a time-saver.  We also added type-ahead functionality to the location fields on the form so that you can search for any place out there, not just one in the limited dropdown fields in the old search experience.


  • Image snapshots
    • Now you can see a preview of newspaper and book pages highlighting your search terms so you can tell if a match is relevant or not without having to click through to it.  This should be another big time-saver when you’re looking at books and newspaper matches.


  • Site-wide search
    • We’ve made it easy to search all of Ancestry at once without sacrificing a thing.  You can also narrow down to improved categories and sub-categories of information.  For example, you can narrow down to Births, Marriages, and Deaths, to see a lot of vital records, but now you can narrow down again to just the Births or just the Deaths, so you don’t have to wade through all of them at the same time.


  • Powerful card catalog
    • It’s easy to sift through the more than 25,000 titles on Ancestry with our new-and-improved card catalog.  Now you can sort the information in the catalog, and narrow by location, time period, category or language of the content.  It’s really handy, so give it a try.  You can also search for a keyword in the title or description of a title as well.


  • Advanced searching
    • You can click on “Advanced” in the top-right of the search form, and turn on Exact match filters for each field in your search.  This allows you to mark a specific field as “Exact” while leaving the others fuzzy—it’s very powerful because we’ve added this functionality to each database.


  • Summary view of search results
    • Now you can easily switch between sorting the results by their relevance or listing them out in a summary view that lets you see which databases got the most matches.  It’s nice to be able to switch between the two views so easily, and it gives you the best of both worlds.


  • Adjustable text size
    • You can quickly adjust the size of the text so that it is easier to read.


We’re still working on even more improvements to search, so it should just keep getting better and better.  Go ahead, give it a test drive!


Kendall Hulet

Kendall Hulet has served as our Senior Vice President of Product Management at Ancestry since March 2015. He joined the Company in 2003 has held a variety of roles in the product organization including Director of International Product Management and most recently Vice President of Product Management for AncestryDNA. During his tenure, he was deeply involved in some of the most popular innovations at Ancestry, including the “Shaky Leaf” hinting system that has delivered over five billion discoveries; the Ancestry Family Tree system that has led to the creation of over 70 million family trees containing six billion ancestors; and the creation of the award winning Ancestry mobile app, which has been downloaded more than 12 million times.


  1. Athena

    I’m sorry but I think the number one thing a good search should do is FIND good hits. I searched for someone born in 1782 – died 1861 and the first hit was the 1930 census. The same criteria in the old search displays census 1860 – 1820 just as it should.

    So…what exactly is the “improvement” here?

  2. Linda

    I’m not sure how you see this as an improvement. It has significant usability problems as well as functionality errors.

    I for one use “Match terms exactly” on purpose expecting only result that match. I know how to enter search criteria and don’t want to be bothered with the extra results that one element that matches.

    When an interface is designed, you usually try to keep only relevant data on the interface. In addition to the ads, you incorporate all sorts of instructions for those few who have no search ability. Provide a link but not a whole paragraph and a link.

    Why add the extra steps of dropping down criteria a few fields at a time? How inefficient!

    I cancelled my 10+ year subscription in April and the Beta Search was one of those reasons. I didn’t like the direction TGN is going with it’s “improvements” and wanted to wait to see what was actually implemented. Normally, a public beta isn’t issued until it has been thoroughly tested for both functionality and usability. I don’t see evidence of that here.

  3. I’ve tried this new search a few times now, and I have to say I don’t plan to use it in the future. Either you click the “exact” box and receive almost no results, or you don’t search “exact” and you receive thousands of results that have nothing to do with your search.

    I really like what this is trying to do – the type-ahead tools and the image previews – but I just can’t get results with this search. I can’t even find records using this search that I’ve found before and know fit the search criteria. Whatever you do, don’t get rid of the old search.

  4. pgaquin

    Please stop the ‘improvements’. What was for many years, my ‘goto’ search site is becoming useless and aggravating (and costly). I use every day and have always had success to some degree. Today (one small example) I am searching for a record which I know for a FACT is on…. do ya think that I can locate it with the ‘new, improved or even the ‘old’ search method??

  5. Diana

    I’ve already let Ancestry know that I will drop my membership if they don’t return the old search engine. My research has ground to a halt. I can’t find a thing useful anymore. I won’t pay for something from which I gain no benefit and this search engine is the worst I’ve ever used. The people who created it couldn’t possibly have tried to use it.

  6. Reed

    I completely agree with comments 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 above. Please pay attention to their detailed remarks. I use Ancestry every day and my research is slowing down drastically, also. I am unable to locate/use many records that I KNOW are on the site. And what is going on with the “Historical newspapers BMD records” database, Especially for the Chicago Tribune? What a mess. And finally, Ancestry must do something about its unresponsive, unhelpful, more-or-less useless “customer service.” It is (or at least, should be) a source of deep corporate embarrassment for you.

  7. Jade

    It’s the same old search engine with a new skin.

    It reverses given and surnames in ressults unless you specify that surname is “exact” and then you get only that spelling. But time and again I specify “exact” and get NO results, whereas using the same identical spelling without “exact”, I get many hits — maybe 50 or more — for that EXACT SAME SPELLING.

    The sorting results function is nearly useless. Want to sort ALPHABETICALLY so I can see the relevant hits. Still can’t do that.

    The relevance function is useless. Why do I get many British Isles vital records hits for a person born in WV? Why do I get 1930 census hits for a person who died in 1875? This is not a result that has ANY stars for this individual since the date makes it irrelevant. I have no way to sort the results by DATE in order not to have to scroll through pages of nutty search engine results.

    At first I sort of liked the new search format since I could change parameters without returning to the original search page. Now I can’t do that. And if I want to specify the database I was just looking at, have to check the radio button to select it and wait for additional load time. This is silly and annoying.

    Oh, and those new boxes with instructions, that block what you are doing? CUT THEM OUT. THEY ARE AS BAD AS THE LINKS-BOXES ON THE MESSAGE BOARDS.

    So the New Skin to the old search engine is itself buggy and frustrating.

    Please do not elminiate the old skin.

  8. Robin Mina

    I keep trying to like the new search but it seems hard to grow fond of — in my case for many of the reasons already stated. Will the old search, I hope, always remain an option even though “you can’t possibly imagine” why anyone would want to keep it?

    I wish the searches would pay more attn to geography and dates and to more easily narrowing the databases you want to search. For example, a search through “Pennsylvania Birth, Marriage & Deaths” for years “1850-1899” brings up records from “Boston Marriages from 1700-1751.”

    Also wish the card catalog would be easier to take in. Can’t you re-title some of the databases so they are more intuitively obvious to find by geography and date? Maybe you should have a hint function that suggests databases a user can go look at herself. Or am I missing something…..

    Thanks for your efforts.

  9. Dale Ann Fox

    I completely agree with the comments ahead of mine. I hate the new search. If the old search disappears, I probably will, too.
    Has Ancestry actually had anybody tell them that they like the new search?

  10. Bob

    Let’s get real people,Ancestry can not come up with a search that will work with there index, if you use Ancestry search then you know that there index is a piece of **** they need to spend time and money on updating there index.

  11. Sharon

    I must say, I agree with the majority of the complaints regarding the new (as well as some of the OLD) search features. I especially would like to see results that are RELEVANT – not hits that have NOTHING based on the parameters that have been asked for. Also the indexing of the transcriptions has gotten worse… I realize that this is done by volunteers, but where is the check and balance for the contradictory transcriptions? I wonder if the people who review the transcriptions ACTUALLY LOOK at the record before allowing the indexing… I have made several comments of transcription errors regarding my own family names on census records. Looking at the record itself made it clear that the transcription was erroneous. Let’s get it together, and put out better quality information and customer service; which is what we as subscribers expect for the dollars we spend to use the site!

  12. Carolyn

    I fail to see how this is an “improvement”!!!! It is all glitz, fills up the page, takes too long to load and is STILL full of bad information supplied by researchers who do poor research. I think we should have a choice of the old way if we want it. Another example of “busyness” is on the people page the PHOTO section takes up a lot of room. I find few photos of my ancestors from the 17th and 19th centuries. why can’t this be on the bottom as it used to be. Remember – just because you CAN glitz something up, does not mean that you SHOULD. We pay a lot of money for ease of research and you folks think glitz is better than simple getting to the facts

  13. Carole


    Pass the popcorn please, because this is another “improvement” that will become one of the sideshows.

  14. Tony Cousins

    I totally agree with the comments here, I tried the ‘new and improved’ search for about 5 minutes and immediately switched back – I couldn’t possibly imagine staying with something that didn’t work.

  15. Jade

    The very limited sort-choices for results have a contradictory nature. I have gotten a listing of thousands of hits for one name in one database, but of course the hits are all irrelevant because the database is geographically and temporally impossible for my search target. After scrolling through page after page of listings of results, I found the ONLY RELEVANT HIT at the very end, in a database in which there was just one hit.

    This will very often be the case – the place where there is just a hit or two will be relevant, while all of the others will be silly computer muck.

    Yet there is no way to sort results alphabetically, no way to sort results in any really effective way. The search engine still disregards key search parameters (first name, surname, dates, places), so after a few tries the paying subscriber wonders why she is paying for use of a server that is not programmed to pay any attention to what is in the search fields.

  16. Nicole

    I’ve been testing the new search for a couple of months now. My conclusions:

    Old search = poor results
    New search = poor results

    Improvement? Not that I can see. Yeah, it’s prettier.

    It’s time to stop letting the developers play with the GUI and spend some time properly indexing the databases and writing effective search queries.

    I can find records far more quickly on microfilm, which is sad. Particularly since I often have to wade through thousands of hits to find the ancestor who was transcribed incorrectly. I submit corrections, but since those aren’t searchable (who would guess?!) the next researcher will get no benefit.

    And finally, STILL the online family trees full of garbage information are given priority over actual source records?!

  17. Debi

    New search is downright TERRIBLE! The “location” field doesn’t recognize counties. The “old” search at least had a field in which to type the county name. A test search for my ancestors in the 1850 census in “Montgomery County, Indiana” – of which there are MANY – brought up nothing. The old search brings up all 30+ people. The new location field seems to requires entering a town or city name … which is a piece of information which most of us are seeking when we search by county! I’m dreading calling to cancel my subscription which expires this month because I know it will be a huge hassle, but this is ridiculous.

  18. Lindy

    I tried the new search and like a lot of others had to change back to the old one. I tried looking for someone I had just located in the Queensland Electoral rolls in Australia but the new search came up with no matches. I tried some more searches just in case it was a one off bad result but obviously the new search is just useless.

    I used to think Ancestry was the best site around but I’m rapidly changing my mind. None of the “improvements” are there to help researchers do anything other than add lots of dodgy, unsourced data to their trees

    It is a lot of money for the subscription each year, until now I’ve considered it worthwhile, now I’m not so sure. I’ve already removed my public tree from the dreadful “new’ one that doesn’t show my notes or allow me to update my gedcom now it looks as if I will have to find a new research site.

  19. I have been doing alot of searching for family members and I foundout that when I put the right you come back and say no name or infor.on this person and all the true I just did that to see how true your website is alls you want is credit cards and peoples money

  20. DG

    I just discovered the new search and I think it will grow on me… especially since I can’t get the old one to work the way I am used to. However, I went to “Tell us what you think” and began the survey, but there was no scroll bar on the right to go further than a few questions. I am using Firefox 2. Also in Firefox, I could not “Revise Search”. None of the links were “clickable.” IE works ok, but I don’t choose that browser!!

  21. Again I agree with all of the previously posted comments regarding the search engine. Sadly, it appears that subscribers’ complaints about’s increasingly ineffective search engine continue to fall on deaf ears. Improvement is badly needed. will have one less subscriber when my current subscription expires, unless major improvements are made.

  22. I have used the new search and it has actually found some things that I had not found previously. I like the BMD results. However, it then goes on and brings up tons of other names that mean nothing to me. This large result makes it terribly confusing.

    Like others, when I want only UK information, for example, and provide the county, I get far ranging result.
    I wish there was a way to narrow the result then to expand then when we need to. But, the volume of returns is daunting.

    For example if I want to look for John Doe born in Kent, give me only those returns. If I want to look for John Doe born in Kent and died in Middlesex, give me those results. Allow me to expand the search as needed.
    Just my thoughts

  23. Susan Spurgeon

    Now I know I’m not crazy. Many, many other subscribers are having the same troubles with search results that I have been having. I agree wholeheardedly with all comments sent in so far that have to do with searching, search results,answers from online customer support, and family trees that have little or no source documentation. I have been becoming increasingly more frustrated over the past 6-8 months, and am seriously considering cancelling my membership. Don’t think I am getting my money’s worth.

  24. rachel

    New Search is available for everyone! I can only say YUK! I do not like it one bit. Go back and redesign something really useful to the dedicated genealogist. This new search is best described as “terrible.” I’ve tried it more than once and apparently do not see the improvement.

    why, oh why I ask again and again. Why not leave things simple? I won’t be inclined to use this new ‘search’ engine again.

  25. Nancy Rogers

    I have to agree with the others on their comments about both the old and the new search engine. I tried the newspaper search and did not find anything new there. Specifically I am looking for other newspapers in northern West Virginia and centeral New York state closer to the Pennsylvania border.
    When I put in a specific name and state on the general search engine I still get multiple hits from all over such as putting in New York and getting hits for California. Please get someone to help you create a search engine that will really work.

  26. jrbridgham

    I can only assume that you hired the guy that Microsoft fired for inventing Vista. (“If it’s not broken, break it.”) Please, please, bring back the old format. Or make it an easily accessable alternative.

    Today, the old interface came up (thank you). Then the results of the first search displayed in the new format (ugh). I still don’t know how to get back to the old format. I don’t want stars (5 or 4 or otherwise). I don’t want the results ranked or weighted. Give me what I searched for. In a table format. Let me sort the table by clicking on the column headers. If I don’t like the results, I’ll repeat the search with different search criteria. I’ll repeat this process till I find a set of results that I can manage (usually 50 to 200 results).

    If you remove the old interface, I’ll have to cancel my subscription.

  27. Jade

    Okay guys, past time to quit fooling around.

    People want a functional search engine so badly, most would like think that your new skin on the old search engine will actually instead be an improved search engine.

    Of course this is not true.

    So many have let you know what is wanted:

    An engine that pays attention to the search-field parameters. Doesn’t reverse given and surnames. Treats death date as record cut-off date. Actually is able to find the truly existing ‘exact spelling’ items in a given database.

    And what folks want with the *results* display is sortability: alphabetically; by date; by location. That is, *not* some really ludicrous computer idea of what is a close match. Like the 1930 census and World War I and II results for someone who died in 1875: how is this an appropriate search result, always put in pages and pages at the beginning of lists of results. You have been presented with many such examples.

    So please quit mucking about with interfaces. Fix the dern search engine. The one at the lab site works pretty well, it obeys instructions and is easily modified, refined, and adaptable to database preferences.

    Hint hint.

  28. Nancy Rogers

    I also agree with Jade’s request about the search engine. I am becoming convinced that Ancestry is more interested in the pomp of the table top genealogy book than inproviding a reliable easy to use site that with an appropriate use of time by the owners could continue to be the premier data base collection that it originally had. Please stop trying to improve on what was a great web site. On the other side of the house I think that the people at Family Tree Maker also must of hired the guy that Microsoft fired because of Vista. What is going on at

  29. robert

    To KENDALL HULET can your new sreach find SHOOTING CREEK, CLAY, NORTH CAROLINA in the NORTH CAROLINA death certificates if the dummmy indexer put in SHOETING CRUL,SHOOTING CUCK,SHOOLING CREEK,SHOATING CREEK.SHUNTING CREEK,SHOVINZ CREEK,SHROTING CAUDE,the list go on. SO stop wasting time on a new search and put the time in REDOING the indexes. If you don’t have time to do it right the first time how are you going to find time to redo it.Will be waiting for a reply

  30. Jade

    Robert’s extremely brief rundown of indexing errors is appropos. A few more funny ones is the inability of indexers to get the name of Pleasants Co, WV right (actually has an ‘s’ at the end); the abbreviation for place of birth “Ia” in the 1850 US census is for INDIANA NOT IOWA; it’s Orient Gore, not Orient Gove. Oh this is ridiculous.

  31. Kathleen Cook

    How can I get my old screen back? I do not like the changes, and am finding it very difficult and time consuming locating the information I am looking for. PLEASE consider returning to the great program you had, it was easy to move around in and easy to locate information needed. Kathleen

  32. PJBUK007

    The new search format is AWFUL. The comments about the indexing and the search engine say most of it above – I know DOB and DOD and the hits include peoplke with the same surname who were born and died 50 years earlier!

    But my main grouse is the stupid lefthand column which takes up so much of the screen, and the result screen layout. I want to see as many records in one line each, on one screen as possible, so I can eyeball them. Originally Ancestry allowed you to do this. It is much harder when each hit takes up several lines.

    Some of my work relates to a one-name study, so I sometimes want to search on surname, then be able to order the results by either date or given name.

    Please scrap this new system, which is quite useless for serious research!

  33. Lfmccauley

    I have now tried the new search 3 separate times and my 1st impression that it is 10 steps backwards still stands.

    Today I decided to give it that 3rd try and spent almost 15 minutes trying to bring up a census record that I knew was there but never was able to get to it. Reverted to the old search and pulled up the record in SECONDS. (Please dont intrepret this to mean the old version is perfect – there are several real improvements that could be made as mentioned in many previous posts here.)

    I don’t know why Ancestry is bothering to add new actual records to their collection since their target audience will never use them as they are only interested in copying a GedCom file, adding all the unvalidated, unrelated names they can find to their file, and setting up profiles with cute little avatars.

    It’s painfully obvious that staff making the decisions for all these “improvements” have never been involved in actual research and have never tried to use the tools that they are systematically taking apart. This is really heartbreaking since there is currently no other on-line genealogy resource with the volume of records that Ancestry has. So my advise to TGN is, since you are determined to alienate long time subscribers with an interest in real research, stop wasting your resources on new records databases. There won’t be anyone around to use them in another year or two.

  34. Jade

    Lfmccauley is right: the new search interface makes it **harder** or impossible to get results from the databases.

    It is true that the majority of ancestry users seem to be Tree People interested in the silly inaccurate gedcom files. Thus a huge proportion of your constituency is interested in

    I disagree on the point of adding databases. Many thousands have found the Revolutionary War Rolls images, added a year ago, very useful. The World War I Draft Registration records are also very useful – would be more so if the Tioga Co, PA images for the last 2/3 of the alphabet were accessible, as you have known for nearly 2 years now. Other recent databases appear to have been indexed in only a cursory way, such as the California Voters’ Registration database – cannot retrieve people I know are in there except by tryng to search addresses instead of names.

    Scrap the ‘new search’ skin. It is more frustrating than the present one to use. Instead, please fix the basic search engine.

  35. Fran

    What is going on. Looking at your plan, it looks great, but it does not work. I am looking for an article on my Grandfather who was a state senator, who died several months after leaving office. I know the year, 1947, the location Nebraska, but I can not get there. I tried searching on newspaper locations. The first time I was able to get a list of Nebraska newspapers. The next time I tried to limit locations to search, I am told that once I click USA, to limit I am told that there are no news papers. Now you and I know this is not true. Why can’t I simply go through and select that I want to search Nebraska Newspapers for a specific name, in a specific year (or even better month). I am not interested in looking at other years. I know he was frequently in the newspaper and another time I will search there. However, sometimes you are looking for information within a narrow time frame. You know where it happened and even if there are other articles in the collection that may be relevant, you purpose is to be specific. Why do you not provide a list of all the newspapers in the collection, subdivided by states and cities or towns and the dates available for each newspaper. It is truly frustrating. I would rather have an unsuccessful search that get 1000’s of responses that have absolutely no relevance. I am afraid to make stuff exact because of the possible misspelling of names.

  36. Nerida Robinson

    I recently upgraded my “Family Tree Maker” progream and was suppoded to be offered 3 months FREE subscription to ‘’ I have been constantly told to ‘choose’ a subscription opption and enter my credit card No in case I go over my limitted ‘FREE’ subscription time.
    I really just wanted to see what was on offer before paying anything. I have now lost interest in pursuing this FREE offer aand my time is fast running out anyway. I am very dissappointed!!. I have been using an old version of Family Tree Maker for many years and am sorry that I bothered to “Update”

  37. C. Woods

    To those who think is going to go into a funk over losing old customers, I doubt it. The name of the game is to get new customers.
    This site will continue to show up in links and in searches by novice genealogy researchers and will remain just as it is, I would imagine.

    Maybe this ‘busyness” as someone else put it is being done to impress, and maybe it’s also being done to do just what it looks like it’s doing: creating busyness. The longer one researches, the more determined he becomes, and the more time (and money) spent.
    I don’t think is so keen on having its customer base find its elusive ancestors so readily. The money is in the all-day foxhunt, folks! That’s my opinion on the matter in any case.

  38. The Texas Marriage Collection has information on both marriages of a family member, Savannah Roberts. However, I can only enter the source for the first marriage. When I attempt to add the source for the second spouse, it will only substitute the first marriage date, not add the second.

  39. Sad to say, I am not too happy with the new search. It’s harder now to find family. The older search was easier to configure. The new search is more confusing and a lot of the results don’t match what I put in.

  40. Ada Brunson, Gilbert, Lawson, Robison, Smith, Drew
    Born: 9/18/1891 Died: 2/14/1969 Donaldsonville, Seminole, Ga. USA
    Mother: Josephine Brunson Gilbert
    Grandmother: Juddie Brunson
    Father: David Lawson
    Married: Hugh Robison, Morgan Smith, and Albert Drew
    Ada was this authors grandmother whom she raised.

  41. Don

    I ran into several problems using the new search feature to show and add other family members in a record. This may not be the correct place to report them, but when I tried to use the search’s Provide Feedback link, it didn’t work. Rather than taking me to a feedback input page, it took me to a blog “New Record Merge Feature” Posted by Kenny Freestone May 29, 2008. The only apparent feedback option there was a Comment Feed, but that just took me to a page of HTML source code for some of the other responses already entered into the blog.

    The problems occcured when I was looking at the record for Arden R Steveson in the Oregon Death Index, 1903-98 ( The record description shows the following information:
    Name: Steveson, Arden R
    County: Multnomah
    Death Date: 14 D 1963
    Certificate: 17281
    Age: 77
    Spouse: Phoebie

    First problem: When I click on the “Show relatives on this record” link, it shows two siblings who weren’t listed in the above info. Were they included in the record and the record description just doesn’t list all of the info on the record (if would be nice if the page told us that), or is the search pulling in the sibling info from somewhere else and somehow linking it to the death index? If the latter is the case, how can we know whether to trust the info, and will it be cited correctly or cited as coming from the death index?

    Second problem: When I click on one of the sibling to be added, a message comes up: You must select at least one parent in order to add a new sibling. However, no parents are listed among the relatives to select.

    Third problem: The wife, Phoebie, listed on the record does not show up in the list of relatives on the record.

    Also, when trying to merge other records in the census databases, after going through the merge options for the primary person’s data, the merge function frequently asks if I want to merge a blank person (i.e., it says there is a person but no info for the person is shown) with my person’s father and then another blank person with my person’s mother. The record contained no info about the father or mother.

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