Posted by Ancestry Team on July 11, 2008 in Website

Thanks for your feedback on the new search interface at  I assure you that we are reading through your feedback and thinking about how we can better meet your needs with the new search.  I thought that one person in particular, Jerry Bryan, had some very insightful comments—I love getting specific examples—it really helps us be able to understand the issues more clearly and respond to them.

Allow me to clear up a misconception that the new home page on and the new search interface are related—they are not.  When we launched the new home page, there was a bug that inadvertently took many of the new home page visitors into the new search experience at the same time.  We’re sorry about that—the bug has subsequently been fixed.  So, if you find yourself in the new search experience and would like to switch back to the old search experience, you can do that on any of the search pages, just not from the home page itself.  I hope that helps. 

Let me summarize some of the key issues that people have brought up so I can respond to each one in turn:

1. The exact settings don’t seem to work the same way between the new and old search experiences

Thanks for the feedback on this issue.  Specific examples have helped us identify a significant bug in the system that was indeed preventing the exact matches from returning appropriately in the new search.  We’ve fixed that bug and things should be much, much better now.  If you’re still seeing cases where you’ve marked exact on the search or on a specific field and it looks like it is being ignored somehow, please let us know.  We want to make sure we get these issues resolved as soon as possible.

2. The “fuzzy” search returns too many results

We’re working on making the search engine stricter about what results it returns, even on “fuzzy” searches—this should dramatically reduce the number of matches that are returned.  Additionally, you can always turn on the “Advanced” features on the new search and simply mark any field as “Exact” to ensure that results matching only the appropriate information are displayed.  You can also check a single box to make the entire search “Exact” so only items matching all of your criteria exactly are returned.  I think that using this filtering technique (some fields exact, others not) is the best way to get the most out of our search system.

3. Some activities in the new search take more clicks than they did in the old search

Although we’ve tried hard to make the new search experience stream-lined to save clicks in many ways, there are some activities that do indeed take more clicks to accomplish in the new search experience than they did in the old experience.  We’re looking into what we can do to improve that.  One idea we’re playing around with is allowing a keystroke that would bring up the “Refine Search” form up all at once for easier editing.  What do you think?  Also, what are the other areas where it is taking you more clicks?  Specific examples are very helpful.Overall, however, we have developed a new search experience that ultimately should save you clicks as you search for ancestors.

4. The “fuzzy” search engine should return better matches and filter out blatantly wrong matches

Absolutely agree.  We’re working on it—it just takes a long time to make the enhancements we’re hoping for.  Stay tuned.

5. You should focus on making exact searching more powerful (example: get rid of the three-character limit on wildcard searching)

This is something that we’re looking at very closely—we want to make our advanced researchers happy with the tools we provide.  As a result, I’d love to talk more with a few of you who consider yourselves to be advanced researchers to pick your brains on some ideas we’re thinking about in this regard.  If you’re interested, please send me a note to

6. The new search is really designed for “fuzzy” searching

Although we did think a lot about “fuzzy” searching in the new search interface, we also considered exact search very carefully.  We added the “View” option to the search results (look for a drop-down on the right-hand-side of the search results) that lets you see the search results Summarized by Category so you can easily see the list of matching databases—this is particularly useful for exact searching.  Additionally, we made exact searching more powerful than it used to be because you can now specify whether you want a particular field exact or fuzzy on a particular database.  For example, you can now say I want to see results only where the residence was “Spokane, WA” and the last name is “Smith” but leave the first name as a fuzzy result for “John”. 

7. The location type-ahead feature doesn’t work well for counties and/or when searching a specific database

We’re reviewing the way that the location type-ahead feature works to improve it.  Specifically, we’re adding in the county names into the type-ahead list to make it easier to see what county you’re searching on.  When you’re searching on a specific database, we’re also looking into constraining the list of place matches to only matches that are available in the database.  If you have other feedback on the place type-ahead, please let us know.  We’d love to hear it.  Finally, I want to reassure everyone that we’re taking your feedback very seriously and looking carefully at ways to improve the new search experience.  Please continue to send constructive, specific examples and feedback to help us in that process.


  1. Annette Coats

    The one thing I find that is not correct about is the birth & death dates. I have found many errors on the dates. I think you need to review some of your records on dates which I know is impossible.

  2. Kendall,

    I appreciate you taking the time to answer some of the questions and comments.

    On #3, a “Refine Search” box with the Advanced Search boxes for the specific database should be on the bottom of each web page. It’s much faster to hit the “End” key and find the search box, filled in with what you just searched, and to edit the search parameters hit Search and get results. If I can’t find someone in a database, I want to be able to tweak the search parameters. Of course, I told you that months ago when you developing new search.

    Regards — Randy Seaver

  3. Kendall Hulet


    Wouldn’t hitting the “R” key that would overlay a refine search template over the screen be just as effective as the solution you’re suggesting?

    Yes, I remember your suggestion from before. We still have it on our list, obviously, just haven’t got all the way down the list yet. Don’t worry–it’s important to us.

  4. Ok, I have to say that the exact search for the new search is working much better for me now. Overall, it seems like a lot of little things have been fixed and the new search is a lot better.

    That’s not to say that it’s 100% – or even ready to take over from the old search. I still can’t find records that I know exist. For example:

    Old Search: “Ruby” “Huyler” Georgia 1910-1953 — I receive a result for GA Deaths for the correct record

    New Search: “Ruby” “Huyler” Lived: “Georgia” died: “1951-1955” — I receive no records. I should have received the death record. The way to find the correct record is to take out the location. Why would I take out the location when I know where she died and the location (georgia) is even part of the title for the record?

    Overall however, the new search is starting to turn into a tool that I could use.

  5. I actually found something I really liked that was not included in previous versions. I love the fact that they give you all the records that have the hints updates. Before you had to search/hunt through your entire tree to see if you missed a hint. This way you can update at will from one localized spot. This was an excellent upgrade. Thanks Ancestry.


  6. Janet Lockard

    Go back to your old search page where you can enter a name and state and get a list of all the different types of records that may have that person, in that state. I just spent four hours trying to find records I know exist and never found even one record. Before, in four hours, I could have found many records for 20+ people. You new format is wasting my time!

  7. Franz Gilbert

    First and foremost, I applaud the progress that is being made – both on FTM and It is obvious there is a tremendous amount of investment being made – though there are always going to be parties who think investment should go one way or the other.

    What would be helpful is to understand the overall FTM and strategy. I am not sure where best to spend my research time and efforts in creating trees (the web or desktop) and given the lack of information about the future ability to synchronize and/or the ability to get all my information off the website without paying. I am sure I am not the only one that truly enjoys features of both the software and the website and can’t wait for the two to truly be joined.

    Can you share any insight?

  8. Nancy Rogers

    Specifically many of the individuals who posted to the various blogs and myself included do NOT want the box that says “Start your family tree. We’ll start searching.” at the top of the page. Many of us do not want to participate in your mypage experience. I have read many of the comments and clearly those who are interested in detailed well reserached documentation are also capable of keeping their family trees on a stand alone computer. Therefore the request is either a. get rid of this box or if that it is not possible fix it so that the user can move it to the bottom of the page. I hope that many of those who have trusted ancestry with their priceless reserach now realize who actually “owns” it. The age of technology has given genealogy many wonderful new data bases and web sites, but this particular hobby is much older than the age of computers and for many of us will continue to be a mix of technology and old fashioned reading through the wills, stories and letters of our ancesters.

  9. Reed

    Dear Mr. Hulet,

    I am a daily user of Ancestry for over 2 years, a 20+ year computer user, and consider myself a “serious” amateur genealogist. I most often use exact searches, but I sometimes like to go trawling through some databases using non-exact searches. I adapt to *useful* and *functional* improvements in software applications with delight.

    Thank you for responding to *some* of our concerns. Like many Ancestry users, I have become very unhappy with the ill-considered changes to the site and the slow-if-ever responses from Ancestry managers and developers.

    (Speaking of which, do you and the other managers and developers actually USE the site to do your own regular [daily? weekly?] genealogical research? Did you—personally—really find the New Search experience faster, more user-friendly, more ergonomic and better at producing quality hits? Just wondering…)

    After a quick check of the revised New Search, I agree it seems to be producing somewhat better results. There are, however, a number of problems with New Search that still concern me. Let’s take one of the most obvious, the graphical user interface (GUI). You wrote, above:

    “3. Some activities in the new search take more clicks than they did in the old search”

    You’re not kidding! CLICK-CLICK-CLICK and SCROLL, SCROLL, SCROLL!!! —the New Search GUI is terrible. Bad ergonomics. Bad visual layout. Much more time consuming to select (and alter) the specific “Exact” options we desire.

    (1) ALL search fields and pull-down menus should be TAB-and Shift-TAB accessible
    (2) All search fields and pull-down menus should fill with or respond to typed commands/letters
    (3) ALL search fields should be ON THE SCREEN without scrolling up & down all the time! Or:
    (4) If search field(s) is/are not on screen, the screen should automatically scroll to the next field(s) when TAB is used.
    (5) There should be SEPARATE search fields that are specific to each database; e.g., when searching census returns for a given year I should be able to specify only a state, or a county, or a locale, or any combination I choose. (And, if I’m searching e.g. the US federal census, I should not need to add “USA” to any search parameters.)
    (6) Make the condescending pop-up “suggestions” go away. We’re not idiots; don’t force us to work around the pop-ups on Every. Single. Search. And come to think of it:
    (7) Make the type-ahead “feature” go away. It serves no useful purpose (and, in fact, tends to add unnecessary limits to exact searches). Instead:
    (8) How about a type-ahead feature that remembers MY most recent search terms and suggests THOSE?
    (9) And NO, I do NOT want to (A) start a Tree or (B) look at a Tree when I access “my” homepage. If the day arrives that I want to look at a Tree or make a Tree I will access the Trees portion of the site. Until then the “Start A Tree!” area just takes up valuable screen space on “my” page.
    (10) Let the user SORT results on the results lists, choices could include alphabetical/reverse-alphabetical, chronological/reverse-chronological, etc., within each search parameter.

    These suggestions are not too difficult, I think. In fact, except for suggestion no. 10, this sounds a lot like —wait, it’s coming to me—the Old Search!

    Oh, and regarding your suggestion (comment no. 4, above): “Wouldn’t hitting the “R” key that would overlay a refine search template over the screen be just as effective as the solution you’re suggesting?” NO, thanks. More pop-ups are not the solution. The thought of trying to type a plain old “R” into a text box and accidentally having an overlay pop-up, and then go away, etc., etc., ad nauseum, is more of the same “snazzy” GUI junk that we neither need nor desire.

    I know this is a long post, and many of these suggestions have been sent to you by other readers. I thank you for reading, and hope you and the Ancestry “team” will seriously consider these issues.

  10. Carol A. H.

    To Kendall Hulet:

    You wanted examples of what we find objectionable. I used the new search. I entered Mehitable Smullen, born 1828 in Lisbon Maine, died 1906 in Lisbon Maine. I got a list of 12,757 DATABASES for ME to pick from. Some of these databases were totally useless to me! She was not alive to have a SS#; she was not in Wales, she was not in the military, she did not emigrate and on and on and on…

    She was born and died in the USA. I gave all the information. What should I have done differently? I thought that was Ancestry’s job, finding the records to prove my information.

    The old search gave me censuses with excellent possibliities for her spouse and parents, my whole reason for searching! Even found one of her children and her siblings.

    If this is what we will have to go through, I will find it unacceptable.

    Please don’t make us wade through useless databases. I don’t want the new search the way it is now. The old search gives enough brief information to be able to find the source records.

  11. Calsouth

    I am very disapped with the new home page. Each time you change it you make the search more difficult. With the other search I could narrow things down or expand them as I wished now you just throw junk at me.
    I have been a member since the beginning and I am considering not coming back.

    Searches that I have made before are not there now. This reminds me of the program that I use for work. Each time that they upgrade it is a mess.

  12. Jade

    I tried ‘New Search’ again this morning for an individual on whom I know your database has exactly three entries in KY records extracts, and on whom there may be a couple of early US Census entries.

    Here is what happened:

    I entered

    Peter Jump , exact for both, which is how the KY records spell his name.

    b. 1765 +/- 5. I know he was born in 1768 from a record you don’t have.
    born in Sussex County, Delaware.
    —there was no type-ahead on this in the box.

    died in Missouri, USA for which there was a drop-down box. I don’t know that he died in MO, but others based on ‘same name = same person’ have constructed a probably unrelated family incorporating the KY Peter Jump (but they have him b. in England with completely different parents because they don’t know of the Delaware records, one of which links the DE person specifically to Lincoln Co. KY via a power-of-attorney). (There is no evidence whatever that any persons in KY before 1800 with this surname were b. in England).

    More Information:
    Father: John Bounds Jump
    Mother: Abigail Jones
    –these are indeed his proven parents except his mother’s maiden name was actually ‘Crow’ but you do not have any DE land and probate records showing this, and her mother was a Jones. Proven.

    Spouse: Katy Link
    –you have two extracts from KY marriages showing marrige of Peter Jump and Mrs. Katy Link in Lincoln Co., KY in 1790.

    Lived in: Lincoln County, Kentucky
    –no type-ahead or drop-down for this. The third item in your database shows a KY land grant in Lincoln Co. for Peter Jump.

    I did not check “exact” for the “More Information” relatives and residence.

    Here is what the search returned:

    Census & Voter Lists
    8-Maryland Census, 1772-1890
    6-1881 England Census
    6-1861 England Census
    5-1871 England Census
    5-1851 England Census
    See all 73 results…

    **did I mention Maryland? England? Why would not the 1820 US Census for Missouri entry be listed at the top?
    –much further down in the list is reference to a KY census and and to a census-substitute for 1800. Why are they not listed at the top? The actually possible 1820 MO census entry is not listed.

    128 Birth, Marriage & Death
    33-Lancashire, England: Parish and Probate Records
    11-England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index: 1837-1983
    9-England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index: 1837-1983
    7-The registers of the parish church of Croston in the County of Lancaster
    7-England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index: 1837-1983
    See all 128 results…

    **He was born in Delaware 1760-1770, so how do the England and Wales items, including post-1836 registers, have any relevance whatever?
    –further down in the list are the two versions of a marriage record and a marriage bond extract listing my actual target person. Why are they not at the top of the list? Nearly all search results are the irrelevant England/Wales items. They are ordered by number of ‘hits’ in a database rather than by relevance to my query.

    **You have no DE vitals except a very truncated and highly error-riddled extract from a DE Archives card file.

    2-U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865
    2-American Civil War Soldiers
    2-War of 1812 Service Records
    1-Stars and Stripes Newspaper, Pacific Editions, 1945-1963
    1-Stars and Stripes Newspaper, Europe, Mediterranean, and North Africa Editions, 1942-1964
    See all 9 results…

    **Well the War of 1812 is remotely possible, but not Civil War for a chap in his 90’s if still living, and the World War II entries are entirely irrelevant.
    –looking at “all 9 results” the only additional entry is in Murtie June Clark’s excellent “Colonial Soldiers in the South”, which lists no one in KY, DE or MO — which were, remember? the only places I mentioned. Yes this Peter Jump is a descendant of a family of Queen Anne Co, MD, but your database has really nothing at all on that family either.

    12-Immigration & Emigration
    7-New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
    1-Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s
    1-U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995
    1-Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1945
    1-Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948
    See all 12 results…

    **None of these are relevant for a person born in DE 1760-1770 who lived in KY and died in MO.
    –Immigration and passenger lists are entirely irrelevant for this person. The only added entry in the ‘full list’ is one for New York. Your collection of published passenger lists do not include anything regarding 18th-century transportees from land records.

    560-Newspapers & Periodicals
    54-Ogden Standard Examiner (Ogden, Utah)
    24-The Lethbridge Herald (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada)
    15-Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin)
    15-Bridgeport Post, The (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
    13-North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts)
    See all 560 results…

    **These are ridiculous results. If these are the most relevant, based entirely on same first name or same surname, or both WORDS ‘Peter’ and ‘Jump’ on the same page, ordered by number of ‘hits’ per publication series rather than by RELEVANCE (KY, MO, late 18th century) what use is this?
    –The rest of the list includes papers from such places as Manitoba, Canada and Sitka, Alaska. Not a single one for KY or DE or MO. While you do not give dates for the actual newspaper time-frames, I do know that none of them are earlier than late 19th century. I would expect to find a lot of ‘Peter’ and ‘Jump’ on the same page but NO PETER JUMP and none of the right time period.

    2-U.S. School Yearbooks
    **sure, for a man born 1760s who would have died just barely possibly at the beginning of the time period when photographs were possible. Painted portrain remotely possible. But yearbooks? No way.

    25-Stories, Memories & Histories
    7-The registers of the parish church of Croston in the County of Lancaster
    4-Genealogy of the Hickman family : beginning with Roger Hickman of Kent County, Delaware
    2-New York in the Revolution as colony and state
    2-Delaware Governor’s Register 1674-1851, Volume I
    2-American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI)
    See all 25 results…

    **Here we are back to English vitals. New York in the Revolution has no one by this name. FINALLY some DE entries, but irrelevant in fact, as is the AGBI.
    –In the full list is deValinger’s faulty extract of some Kent Co, DE probate records (which has some Jump surnamed folks but different family and no Peter, John Bounds or Abigail). There is a second listing for Settlers of Maryland. And finally the KY Land Grants which are relevant by place.

    70-Directories & Member Lists
    33-Lancashire, England: Parish and Probate Records
    11-U.S. Public Records Index
    7-British Phone Books, 1880-1984 Releases 1-4
    6-Cheshire, England: Parish and Probate Records
    4-U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002
    See all 70 results…

    **Directories might have person by this name but NOT RELEVANT BY LOCATION AND TIME PERIOD. There is no relevance to telephone directories, given the time period in question. Why were they returned as results?
    –In the full list is also a 2nd listing for the useless US Public Records Index, 2nd listing for US School Yearbooks, an odd listing for Hampshire, England parish/probate records, other British directories and the Baltimore, MD City Directory for 1899. None have ANY relevance for time and places.

    52-Court, Land, Wills & Financial
    33-Lancashire, England: Parish and Probate Records
    6-Cheshire, England: Parish and Probate Records
    5-U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907
    2-Genealogies of Kentucky Families from The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. II
    2-Hampshire, England: Parish and Probate Records
    See all 52 results…

    **Again the irrelevant English records. The Kentucky land grant in your database is NOT among the GLO/BLM Land Grant records listed in search results. The ‘Genealogy of Kentucky Families’ has a relevant item. At least they are items from KY.
    –The ‘Full list’ gives another listing of the relevant KY land grant and of deValinger’s book on some Kent Co, DE probate records, plus another listing of Settlers of Maryland 1751-1765. Somewhat place relevance, a duplicate of two hits.

    348-Family Trees
    208-Public Member Trees
    58-Private Member Trees
    16-Family Data Collection – Births
    6-Family Data Collection – Individual Records
    See all 348 results…

    **sure there are items for a person by this name but all factually erroneous and none gives evidence for anything.


    Well at least this time the Fuzzy Search managed to find items I knew were in the database. Three points. Another point for the KY Historical Society Newsletter item duplicating another entry.

    But these actually relevant results were not at the top of the list in any general database type. Only the KY Historical Society Newsletter item was listed in the initial ‘top results’ lists.

    Your program thinks ‘relevance’ of a given database is defined by NUMBER of hits.

    The England/Wales results are especially irrelevant to my search terms, followed closely by Newspaper and School Yearbook hits.

    When I want an exact search, I want it for “PETER JUMP” (or “Jump, Peter”) not for “Peter” and “Jump” on the same page, not even for the surname “Jump” in Kent Co., Delaware or “Jump” in Manitoba or Alaska or California.

    You still have not fixed the time-period relevance: 1898, 1947 and 1960s newspapers for NONE of the places mentioned in my search parameters get NO STARS for relevance. I already know that your newspaper results do not incorporate proximity of words, so am not going to waste time hoping for an obituary mentioning an ancestral “Peter Jump”.

  13. Jade

    Just had a horrifying thought.

    Could all those England/Wales results have appeared for Peter Jump (b. 1768 in Sussex County, DE) because sundry trees include this person but in quite erroneously constructed families?

    The Tree People have him born in England. I did not mention England in my search terms and there is NO REASON WHATEVER TO SUSPECT HE EVER WENT TO ENGLAND.

    If you are giving searchers feedback from the nutty trees in New Fuzzy Search Skin search results, do cease and desist doing this. Completely.

    Kendall, may not believe how completely erroneous 99% of the trees are in very fundamental ways. These erroneous trees are repeated in muddled ways in One World Tree, compounded by ridiculously wrong linkages of persons in OWT.

    Pick any three Trees at random and I will be glad to walk you through the errors.

  14. Lisa Harrington

    I work on several different trees. Before all of the new improvements were made, when I would start typing in a specific location that I had entered before a dropdown box would appear with ONLY locations specific to the tree I was working on. Now, an entire list of GENERIC locations pops up (usually none of which I can use if I want my tree info to be uniform)and I have to type in the complete location each and every time. Right now, I am working with numerous family members/generations whose main location is “Amherst Island, Loyalist Tp, Lennox & Addington, Ontario, Canada”. Try typing that in over and over, all day long, day after day! I have several others like this and it’s getting to be a real “pain”! Please give us our own lists back!! Thank you!

  15. Sharon

    Jade, you are absolutely a gem, no pun intended! And Randy and Reed, your comments are right on target. These are exactly the issues I run into repeatedly in my research on Ancestry. The GUI is a behemoth, the tools are not very intuitive, and whether using old search or new search, exact or soundex, it does not matter; I get sometimes tens of thousands of completely irrelevant hits and I lose patience and have no interest whatsoever in wading through all that. I think the idea with Ancestry is that wow, you might have just found a 3rd cousin six times removed, descended from the person you are seeking. This type of thinking is best left to the various lists you can use to make inquiries on a surname or location.

    My search choice as of late is to open a specific series, such as a passenger list or a specific census and just go through those images looking for my ancestors.

    And those Trees….there are trees with my ancestors in them that have absolutely no place in them; these trees are made up, contrived, manufactured genealogy, call it what you will. Just because you find something on the internet doesn’t make it so. In genealogy, evidence and sources are still required! There is no excuse for what is out there but laziness. There are many people all over the world who will help verify your data. And it is not always for a fee either.

    I will NOT put my tree on *any* website, period. The horrible search results I experience just add to the confusion and mayhem that exists right now in the thousands of uploaded online trees. And don’t even make an attempt to comment about the erroneous data. You will waste your time and likely get a nasty response from the tree owner if he/she is still actively producing their family tree. Or they are hidden or they are no longer receiving email at the address on file.

    Maybe Ancestry might consider emailing all tree owners, notifying them of a housekeeping process and that their trees are being deleted, and if they wish to re-upload a new, more accurate, sourced copy, to please do so, and a lot of these bad trees might just go away. If that notice bounces, then pull the plug! I know this won’t be popular, but sometimes you just have to clean out the junk.

  16. Jerry Bryan

    I have seen significant improvement
    in New Search in the last week or
    so. I seldom get so frustrated
    anymore after ten or fifteen minutes
    that I can’t use it at all. I think
    that’s due primarily to the fixes
    Kendall has described. For example,
    New Search used to randomly go
    into a mode where all searches
    seemed to be fuzzy no matter which option I picked. That no longer
    seems to happen. And now that New Search is working better, I can
    begin to see some possibilities
    where it might be fairly usable in the future.

    I’m also very pleased with the
    dialog that Kendall has established
    with users on the blogs. He
    deserves to be thanked and
    congratulated for
    his efforts so far.

    However, things do have a long way
    to go. We are sort of in a glass
    25% full and 75% empty situation. I
    hope that the 25/75
    characterization is not overly
    harsh, and the glass is getting a little fuller all the
    time. I’ll continue to post issues
    as I encounter them, and I’m pleased that quite a few other users are
    doing the same thing.

  17. Jerry Bryan

    Kendall’s item #3 in part says the following: …. there are some activities that do indeed take more clicks to accomplish in the new search experience than they did in the old experience. We’re looking into what we can do to improve that. Overall, however, we have developed a new search experience that ultimately should save you clicks as you search for ancestors.

    I’m doubtful that the new screens will ultimately reduce the number of clicks. But having said that, the goal is not necessarily reducing the number of clicks per se. The goal is to create an environment where users can easily and quickly find the information they are looking for. Achieving that goal usually but not always includes a navigational scheme that reduces the number of clicks. Being able to easily and quickly find information is more than just reducing the number of clicks. It also includes making it clear what needs to be clicked and reducing the amount of scrolling. Here are some examples of simple navigational problems in New Search.

    a. From the New Home page there is nothing to click on to take you to the Old Home page. From the Old Home page there is nothing to click on to take you to the New Home page. In both cases, you have to go to the Search screen before you can go to the other home page. So if you have just logged on and want to change from Old to New or from New to Old before you do anything else, you feel stuck. At least one extra click is required to get where you want to go, and it’s not immediately obvious what that extra click should be.

    b. Going from the New Search screen (not the home page) to the Old Search screen, you can get there in one click. Going from the Old Search screen to the New Search screen requires two clicks. And that second click can be very hard to find on the screen. It’s not in an obvious place, and the colors chosen for the text and background for the click provide very little visual contrast.

    c. On the new Home Page, I cannot see the big red Search button because it’s scrolled off the bottom of the screen. Excessive scrolliness is just as bad as excessive clickiness. I suppose the problem with the big red Search button being off the bottom of my screen could be my screen resolution, etc., but the same problem exists on all three computers I use to access ancestry. The main reason for me not seeing the big red Search button is that the tree is still at the top of the Home Page. The MyAncestry tab really must be reestablished, and the tree really must move back to the MyAncestry tab. The tree is one issue that has been frequently raised by users that Kendall has not yet addressed. Also, the Search box itself on the new Home Page has a lot of wasted white space (except that it’s wasted “yellow space”).

    d. One proposed solution for people who don’t like the New Home Page is for them to use the New Search screen instead. But the New Search screen does not have Quick Links. It would be a very good idea to add the Quicklinks to the Search screen, both Old and New.

    e. After you scroll down on the New Home Page so you can see the big red Search button, you can also see text that says “Tell us more to get better results”. The first problem with that text is that you can’t even see it without scrolling, so you don’t know it’s there. In addition, the text is dark yellow on light yellow with very little visual contrast. It does not stand out. Plus, what does “Tell us more to get better results” really mean? At first glance, it could mean “submit a suggestion to the ancestry staff for improving the ancestry Web pages”. Why not just say “Advanced Search”? Everybody knows what that means. I suspect that the “Tell us more to get better results” language is a part of the vision of using fuzzy search to find your results and giving fuzzy search as much data as possible to work with. That’s probably why the text says “tell us more”. But since I don’t think fuzzy search works very well, I would prefer that the language just be “Advanced Search” so people know what to click on. And give the text some contrast so that people can see it.

    f. The compact list of census years still needs to be restored to the Home Page. It’s never been on the New Home page, and it even was removed from the Old Home Page. That’s not an issue that Kendall has addressed. Of course the census years probably can’t be restored without moving the tree back to a re-established MyAncestry tab.

    g. There is a certain awkwardness in getting to a specific census year that extends beyond the absence of the compact list of census years from the Home page. The problem is on the Census Search screen itself. The Census Search screen has a long and wordy list of census databases that you can’t see because it’s scrolled off the screen. Well, in the case of Old Search you can see the first two or three census databases in the list so you can at least see that the list is there. In the case of New Search the whole list of census databases is scrolled off the screen so you can’t even see that a list is there at all. In the case of the New Search, the whole right half of the Census Search screen is completely blank so there’s a lot of otherwise wasted space. I would suggest putting the compact list of census years on the right half of the Census Search screen itself, putting the compact list of census years in a prominent place on the Home Page as per item #f, and putting the compact list of census years in a prominent place on the Search screen (both Old and New).

  18. Jade


    In your #3 regarding the excessive clicking experience (I like Jerry’s term ‘clickiness’), you say,

    “One idea we’re playing around with is allowing a keystroke that would bring up the “Refine Search” form up all at once for easier editing. What do you think?”

    That is one of the problems with the parameters-entry form, extra clicks to open various fields. It is tiresome.

    I like the idea of bringing up the Whole Form all at once. Not with a keystroke, though, have a link at upper left for “refine search”. Do it the way labs.familysearch does it, it’s a form with virtually no load time; comes right up when you click the link, and has available all the fields in which you’ve made entries. Yours should have all available search-term fields as well as the “exact” options.

  19. Jade


    At the end of your #3 regarding ‘clickiness’ you say,

    “Overall, however, we have developed a new search experience that ultimately should save you clicks as you search for ancestors.”

    The last three words remain as a very incomplete definition of why people use Ancestry.

    Ancestry really does not have the depth of coverage in numerous locales for me to really be researching “ancestors” in Ancestry.

    Some like sticking together existing Trees as a simulacrum, regardless whether any evidence exists for any of the components.

    I would rather have documentation of familial relationships: evidence, not someone’s gedcom, published genealogy or speculative item in a newsletter query.

    Usually I am researching a very specific point: vital records for a particular family unit that may be distant cousins, or a particular individual’s military service record, moves in the course of Census enumerations.

    I am pretty well aware of your depth and breadth of coverage, or lack thereof, and the general global search is virtually useless for my research.

    Your new search skin is much to cumbersome to use for searching a specific database. The old search method is also not very good for searching many specific databases, such as the California Voters’ Registration lists which were indexed as if they were newspapers (in the way Ancestry has decided to index them), so word proximity was not used in indexing. Which is a bit silly, since for these lists people would be searching for specific individuals nearly all the time: that is, for “Arnold Moore”, not for all the Arnolds and all the Moores. It works a bit better in this database if you are searching for addresses, than for searching for people.

    Still, the old search works predictably for searches in the old standby databases, whereas the new skin using a global search returns silly results, and the form does not ease searching a particular database.

    I found that it is not easy to change which individual you are searching for in New Skin without completely starting over. Specific Census searches for one family group often require changing what person is sought, since both the actual enumerations and the indexing can be so variable.

    Thank you for at least hearing us out.

  20. I was disappointed to find that a record the old search returned right away just does not seam to be accessible at all with the new search. This is the “Special Schedule of Eleventh Census of the US Surviving Soldiers . .”

    Before it came up on the name match when doing a census search. Now even when looking in the military fields it does not appear for me.

    I would like the search that I see at the National Archives. The first page you get allows one to pick a census year and then you enter your search criteria and away you go. Also the response time is much faster there whereas I have to wait about 5 seconds every time I do something for it to refresh the screen from your server. I have a 3 Mb/sec DSL line.

  21. Carol A. H.

    To Sharon:

    You are absolutely correct about the trees, but…I have been putting information in 5 trees, one name at a time for several months now and I’m sourcing everyone. I refuse to just upload my whole database(s) because I want quality trees on this site. It is very time consuming, but a labor of love.

    I also refuse to accept anyone’s tree just because it is there. I have found so many errors even about recent people. I thought of sending an email via Ancestry to some of those folks regarding their errors but feel some poeple would get very upset.

    In asking for help from someone who seems to have information I need, my response rate is about 2 in 12. I’m sure there are good reasons for some of these emails that just go into the big computer in the sky, but I would not like to see these trees go away…yet.

    I do think Ancestry has its hands full right now with the problems of the new search. I won’t even bother about the new home page. That seems to be changing every now and then without warning.

    To everyone:

    The new search is like a Rube Golberg invention. From Wikipedia: “[Rube Goldberg] is best known for his series of popular cartoons depicting Rube Goldberg machines, complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways.” I remember these cartoons. They were great but I don’t want my genealogy site to be that way.

    I try the new search every once in awhile but go back to the old one when I want to get some work done.

    I’d love to cite examples of problems but I don’t find much consistancy. The problems are different all the time. I can’t find a pattern. They seem to be very random. I do however read these blogs and think every now and then, “Yeah, I had that problem once.”

    So keep the blogs coming. I for one am learning a lot.

    I have a full subscription. If I changed it to just the USA records, would that eliminate the records from outside the USA from coming up? Seems logical and it would save me money.

  22. Jerry Bryan

    Here’s a specific example of a search I worked on today. I was looking for the marriage record for Lynn Blackburn, born in 1945 (I have the exact month and day as well), wife’s name unknown, children born in 1966 and 1968 (and I have the exact birthdates for them). I don’t have birthplaces for Lynn or either of his children. I would expect all of the events to be in Tennessee, probably in Knox, Sevier, or Jefferson County. But Tennessee people I’m looking for often show up in Missouri, Texas, California, etc. So in general I have to be very willing to be very flexible about locations.

    In this particular case, a search of the Tennessee Marriages database had 48 hits and it quickly revealed the record I was after. It gave me the marriage date and place, and the name of his wife. I was very lucky. He had not moved out of the state. He was married in a county for which ancestry has coverage for 20th century marriage records. He was not named William L. Blackburn or W. L. Blackburn or anything like that, so the search for Lynn Blackburn found him. And the courthouse marriage record listed his father so I could be sure I had the right guy. The search was refreshingly easy. It’s very seldom this easy. Going to this particular database, there is very little difference between using New Search or Old Search, so there was no story to tell at this point. However, I decided to use this search as an example so there would be a story to tell after all.

    Exact Search from Old Home Page. I did an Exact Search for Lynn Blackburn, lived in USA, Tennessee, date range 1945 to blank. I love the ease of specifying USA, Tennessee in Old Search as compared to specifying the location with New Search and I love the ease of specifying the year. Tabs work great for moving from field to field.

    There were hits on four databases: Tennessee State Marriages, United States Obituary Collection, Social Security Death Index, and U.S. Public Records Index. The Tennessee State Marriages database was the one where I had already found the record I was looking for and the guy I was looking for was in there again when I came at it from this direction. It was very quick and easy to determine that none of the other three databases had hits on my guy. If there hadn’t been a hit on the Tennessee Marriages database, I would have repeated the search without specifying a location in order to expand the search into other states.

    Exact Search from New Home Page. I did an Exact Search for Lynn Blackburn, born in 1945 in Tennessee, USA. Filling out the form was just as easy as filling out the form for Old Search except for the location. I’m getting used to the new way to specify a location, but it’s definitely awkward. I don’t think any amount of “getting used to it” will ever make it as nice as the old way – but that’s a minor issue for this search The major issue is that there were no hits. Oops!

    What I did wrong was that I should have said that Lynn Blackburn was born in 1945 and I should have left his birthplace blank. Then, I should have clicked on “Tell us more to get better results”. In the Advance Search options, I should have specified “Lived in Tennessee, USA”. This was a lot more clickiness than with Old Search (see below for more comments about this issue). But I set it up anyway and I happily clicked Search. Oops again! Still no hits.

    In frustration, I unmarked the Exact checkbox on his birthdate, even though I knew his exact birthdate. This time, the Tennessee Marriages database did come up, and with the right number of hits. Super duper. It’s working. It’s great. Except that bogus hits came up for the 1920 census, for the 1930 census, for WWII Enlistment records (this for a man who was born in 1945), and for a few other databases. The bottom line is that I find myself totally unable to replicate the Old Search experience in New Search.

    I think I understand the problem. When I specified dates of 1945 and blank in Old Search, it converted those dates into a range of 1945 to 2008. It was then looking for all otherwise matching events in the date range of 1945 to 2008 irrespective of whether they made sense or not. For example, the hits for the Tennessee Marriages database included marriages in 1946. 1946 is certainly in the range of 1945 to 2008, but it’s not a credible marriage date for a man born in 1945. So Old Search has some problems, too, even with exact search. But Old Search simply doesn’t have as many problems as New Search, and the bottom line is that I can’t replicate the Old Search results in New Search. (Be careful about putting in too much logic about credible events, by the way. One of my great grandmothers was married at the age of 12. And this wasn’t just really ancient history. She was still living when I was born. In any case, given her known birth date, her marriage date should not be discarded in a search simply because she was only 12 years old at the time.)

    I’ve looked to see if I can put in the same kind of date range of 1945 to 2008 for “any event” with New Search as I can with Old Search. If there’s a way, I can’t find it. And I will grant that the 1945 to 2008 kind of range for “any event” is a really crude tool when what I’m looking for is a marriage. But the date range correctly eliminates a lot of impossible events with great certitude (marriages before birth, censuses before birth, military service when you are one year old, etc.), and it’s really easy to specify.

    And by the way, I agree with other users who have stated that the Refine Search mechanism with New Search is awkward to use. There are no fields already on the screen you can tab to in order to change your search. You have to bring up this little popup kind of a thing. The process is really clicky and clumsy.

    You don’t have to be going to totally new screens to be too clicky. Pop ups are just as bad or worse. The New Search mechanism for refining searches does work and I know how to use it. But it’s nothing to brag about – quite the contrary. Plus, I suspect that the accessibility police will not be happy about how well it will work for users with various disabilities.

    It may not be obvious from the description above, but it’s implicit in my description of what I did that sometime prior to doing the New Search in question I had specified the “Summarized by category” option for displaying the results of searches rather than the “Sorted by Relevance” option. New Search does remember your most recent setting of this option and uses it for subsequent searches. If I had been using the “Sorted by Relevance” option then the hit I was after would have been much harder to find.

    This particular search was sufficiently small that I would have found what I was looking for eventually, anyway. But I think that the place you specify “Summarized by category” or “Sorted by Relevance” is all wrong. It’s completely after the search. It needs to be an option you specify at the front of the search, right next to where you specify Exact or Fuzzy search. And “Summarized by category” or “Sorted by Relevance” should be a checkbox rather than a pull down so you can actually see what the options are without having to click to pull something down. It’s ok also to be able to change the display option after the search as you can do now, but it’s really important to the New Search interface to be able to specify this option at the beginning of the search.

    Fuzzy Search from New Home Page. I don’t usually do fuzzy searches, but just on a lark I tried doing a fuzzy search from the main home page. I specified Lynn Blackburn, born in 1945 in Tennessee, USA. There were 172,951 hits on the census, 168,534 hits on Birth, Marriages & Deaths, etc. Enough said. It’s worthless. Except that I remembered that I was still in Summarized by Category mode and that maybe I should give Sorted by Relevance mode a chance. There were 725,071 hits. I wanted to just say “enough said” and abandon the search because the number was so large. But in fairness to ancestry, my guy’s marriage was within the first 50 hits in this particular case. That’s not my usual experience with ranked search, and I think I would have given up in frustration if I didn’t already know what the answer was. And even though it was in the first 50, it was pretty far down the list of 50.

    Suppose I had followed ancestry’s recommendations faithfully in setting up the search. I think they would recommend fuzzy match on Lynn, exact match in Blackburn, exact match on born in 1945, and fuzzy match on born in Tennessee, USA. I don’t know for sure if that’s what they would recommend, but I think it fairly represents “what I knew”. And the recommendation is to put in “what I know”.

    Doing it that way, the number of hits did drop down from hundreds of thousands to 1,887. That’s a good thing. I don’t know if my guy is one of the 1,887 hits or not, but I doubt it. I didn’t have the patience to look at all 1,887 hits, and I suspect the “born exactly in 1945” was a killer, even on a fuzzy search. He was certainly not in the first few pages of the hits. So I changed the birth date to fuzzy, there were 725,071 hits, and my guy was once again on the first page of the list.

    I think this worked for me only because I knew what the answer is going to be. If I didn’t already know the answer (and what if my guy had gotten married in Texas or California instead of in Tennessee, for example), I don’t think I could have coped with the fuzzy search. Others may read the same narrative and come to a different conclusion than me. But I think I would want to try fuzzy search and Sorted by Relevance only when all else had already failed and when I was really desperate. Even in this example where fuzzy search worked to a certain extent, exact search was much more effective.

  23. I have a simple idea, doesn’t need a lot of programming. How about renaming all of your family tree programs. They are all beginning to sound generic. One World Trees, Ancestry Member Trees, Online Family Trees, Private, Public, World Connect, etc. I imagine it is all confusing to a new person. Your Family Tree Makers software are easily understood by the year of production. That would not apply here but there should be an easier way. Calling your new program, Ancestry Member Trees dosen’t sound like a new program. All of the previous trees were member trees of and on ancestry. How about version 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Each could have a section private or public. Any way you get the idea. I hope you will be deleting the One World Tree program in the near future. It is so corrupted with unrelated & merged families, it does a disservice to researchers.

  24. Sharon

    For Carol A H, yes I am completely in agreement with your philosophy. If I had a penny for every error I have found regarding my surnames on other’s trees, I’d take a trip to Hawaii! And, changing your subscription will not reduce your hits. You will just get redirected to a “try World 14 Days Free!” sign-up page when you see and click on a hit for a place outside the USA.

    For What It’s Worth: I for one would not be against reloading a tree on the site, knowing that much evidence and sourcing has gone into its creation. Unfortunately, when a tree is uploaded, good or bad, it automatically ends up in the various other trees pages managed by Ancestry. And I believe that some can only be accessed by subscription, while some are freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

    I wish I could travel to Salt Lake City or the National Archives or to all the various county and state record depositories. It isn’t likely to ever become a possibility. So, in substitution, it is very, very pleasant to be able to peruse microfilm images in my own home through Ancestry’s various databases.

    I have added my surnames and locations to some Ancestry lists and have had contact with some researchers, which has been extremely gratifying. I have made myself available to do lookups at local libraries and county offices, get cemetery photos, etc. This avenue is much more productive for me than trying to find a specific person in a specific place using Ancestry’s Old or New Search. To sum up Jerry Bryan’s experience, it is terribly frustrating and cumbersome to end up with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of hits or absolutely nothing. I have a paid World Ancestry membership, and it is well worth the cost to be able to see these images when I wish. It is much like being in that faraway library or repository. Exact, fuzzy, this checkbox or that checkbox, going back and forth, entering the criteria over and over again, it is just too much, and I have found no way to streamline it or make the results more relevant, it is either all or nothing!

    I can hardly wait for the new National Archives/Ancestry partnership material to start showing up at Ancestry! Maybe these problems with Search will be resolved by then, eh?

  25. Jerry Bryan

    I wanted to report an experience from this morning using New Search. To describe this particular experience, specific examples of names don’t really matter.

    I’ve been working on a long list of names of couples who are likely to be found in the Tennessee Marriage Index. I’m working totally within the database, never leaving it to go back to the main Home Page or main Search Page or anything like that. Because of the way marriages are recorded (initials only sometimes, spelling variations, etc.), and sometimes because of indexing problems, the search process goes roughly as follows using exact search.

    1. Put in one spouse first and last name, put in second spouse first and last time, click on search. If you get a hit that’s your couple, then all is well and you are done.

    2. If not, try lots of variations such as

    a. One spouse first name, other spouse last name (and vice versa)
    b. One spouse last name, other spouse last name
    c. One spouse first name, other spouse first name
    d. Several reasonable spelling variations of both first and last names
    e. Broaden name search, but narrow search to suspected county or counties and narrow search to suspected date range.

    These are all exact searches, possibly with wild cards. Fuzzy search really doesn’t deal very well with most of the variations I want to look at.

    I can do a lot of searches in a very short time with Old Search. The interface to change the search is very easy to use. The response time from the ancestry Web site is usually very good (so the search engine is responding quickly, and the response screens don’t have much useless graphics). I have a 6MB cable modem. The Internet between me and ancestry usually works well. Etc.

    Doing one such search with New Search is slightly worse than with Old Search. The New Search interface to refine searches is really clumsy and slow to use, but I can use it. Using New Search for one couple is no big deal. I grumble, but I can get my work done. However, if I’m going to work for an hour or two in this manner, the New Search interface becomes so clumsy, so slow, and such a preventer of doing research that I just want to cancel my subscription. Instead, I go back to Old Search for a while and pray that it never goes away.

    As I said, to understand this problem you don’t need to know specific names. You just need to use the New Search interface for a couple of hours in the manner I have described. There are quite a few messages about this issue in blogs from other users. It’s not just the Tennessee Marriage Index. It’s any data base that you use repetively, constantly changing or refining your search. Using the new Refine Search interface once is clumsy but it’s no big deal. Using it repetitively is awful.

    And suppose you are not even as pesky as I am about trying lots of variations for one person or for one couple. Suppose you want to work a long list of people or couples for a particular database, and suppose you only do one search per person or per couple. You are still frequently changing your search parameters. Within a very few minutes, you will still be so frustrated with the Refine Search interface that you will want to go back to Old Search.

    The pop up has to go. The Refine Search interface really can’t be made better or fixed as long as it’s based on the pop up technology. The fields you need to update to refine your search have to stay on the screen at all times. The fields have to be immediately changeable without first clicking something like “refine search”. You have to be able to immediately tab between the fields without clicking on anything. Etc. Just like Old Search!

    The problem I’m describing is generic to most any database if you use the database repetively to do lots of searches. The marriage database I’ve been working on this morning has an additional problem. For the second spouse, there is only one name field for the combined first and last name. So, for example, if I didn’t get a hit on Robert Henry as a spouse, I would try just his last name of Henry. I would be looking for things like R. Henry, William R. Henry, William Henry, etc. that might match up with Robert Henry’s wife. But specifying just “Henry” in turn yields false hits on Henry Smith, Henry Jones, etc. For this reason, first names and last names should never be combined together in any search interface. For an example of how to do it right, simply look at the Old Search interface for the Tennessee Marriage Index.

  26. I have read some of the comments that have been made concerning your new search. When I first used it I found it immediately more informative. I located death records for other persons than the one that I searched for simply because the name that I had searched for appeared on the death record. I have not went back to the old search. I am fairly new to Ancestry and the method of use for the old search was not so familiar that I could not adapt to the new search. From reading your comments it has given me a suggestion for exact searches. I never used them on the old search because I always received a “no records available” for the person that I was searching for. I am always willing to look through records beyond the best results bar. I realize that sometimes a transcriptional error may bury a record, or a name may be spelled far differently from the information that I have at hand. I appreciate your site even though sometimes I get a little testy with it, I will bear with because there does not seem to be another site that has access to the records that Ancestry has. Persons that are not happy because you are making changes have a right to make a negative comment, I have made some myself, but over-all, I appreciate the effort that you make. I have sorted through paper records. I think about how wonderfully convient it is to have records at my fingertips rather than have to do a manual search, or possible have to travel to another state to sort through records manually. Keep up the good work, thank you for making the effort to make things easier, Debra Summers-Harris

  27. Athena

    ” It’s not just the Tennessee Marriage Index. It’s any data base that you use repetively, constantly changing or refining your search. Using the new Refine Search interface once is clumsy but it’s no big deal. Using it repetitively is awful.”

    I haven’t figured out how to “refine” a search in a specific database if I have started with a generic search these days. If for example, the generic search displays a hit in the Texas Birth Index, I can’t figure out how to initiate another search of that same index for other children with the same parents. It’s no longer possibe to just scroll down and do a “refine” search anymore of the current database. Instead I have to go to the dysfunctional card catalog and scroll around to find it.

    If the intial hit was in a census, and I want to search for other family members in that same year, I have to display to display the image then click the link for the specific year to get to the search dialog for that year — a dialog that used to be accessible from the record display.

    It has become very difficult to follow up on leads revealed by an intitial search. I don’t know when or why this change was made but I do see how anyone would think this would be an improvement.

  28. Nicole

    Kendall, RE: item #7: The place names type-ahead is AWFUL. The overwhelming majority of my (and may other researchers’) ancestors live in places which do not have the same place names as today. Per accepted genealogical research standards, I track the name of the place as it was THEN. The place names type-ahead (and the similar feature in FTM 2008) only suggests current place names.

    For example, Monongalia County, VA in 1776 is a totally different area than Monogalia County, WV in 2008… in 1776 it covered the territory of 18 other counties in VA (some partial) and 3 counties in PA, not to mention the change of state name from VA to WV.

    The upshot is that any type-ahead just causes more work undoing the hints. If the type-ahead were smart enough to be historical in nature as well, at least for specific databases, then it would be a very powerful tool indeed.

    And please make the annoying “help” balloons go away.

  29. Jerry Bryan

    Re: Athena’s message #29.

    I was able to refine the search of the Texas Birth Index to include the parents both with New Search and with Old Search In both cases, I came into the database from a generic search.

    In New Search, the “Refine Search” dialog box is to the left of the list of people. You don’t have to scroll to see it. In Old Search, the “Refine your search of the Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997” is down at the bottom of the screen and you will have to scroll down to see it (chagrin! – that’s one in favor of New Search).

    The issue that’s been discussed extensively in the blogs is that most of us believe that the New Search method of refining the search is much harder to use than is the Old Search method of refining the search. But refining the search does work with New Search.

    Suppose you are using New Search to search the Texas Birth Index. After you are in the list of people, Click on Family Members at the left of the list of people and the place to enter the father and mother will appear. Having entered the father and mother, they will be remembered as you do successive Refine Search operations. And indeed, if the father’s name and the mother’s name have been recorded consistently in the Texas birth records, you will be able to find all the siblings with one search. To find all the siblings, just leave the given name of the person you are looking for blank.

    I’ve been calling the expansion of the Family Members field (or any other field) of the Refine Search dialog box a pop up. It’s really not a pop up, but I don’t know what else to call it. The Refine Search dialog box gets bigger temporarily. As soon as you do the search, it shrinks back down and you have to expand again to refine the search again. You expand the Refine Search dialog box by clicking the exact field you want to change, and the old tabbing method of moving between fields cannot be used.

    There is a curiosity with the Texas Birth Index that affects New Search and Old Search equally. If you do the first search from inside the database, the parents will be listed the first time you see a list of people. If you the first search outside of the database and come into the database generically, the parents will not be listed the first time you see the list of people. Any subsequent Refine Search operation will cause the parents to be listed. It’s disconcerting, but it’s no worse on New Search than it is on Old Search.

  30. Linda Hansel

    This is the first time I have read the blogs about the searchs on Ancestry and am so pleased that I find others that think the quality of searches have gone to the toilet. A search on the new or old gives me hundreds of hits after I type in the surname I am interested in. However, when I go to the hundreds of hits, the only thing I find in common with my surname is the first letter. I am like the rest of you that pay big bucks to have this service and the searches are getting worse all the time. I am very disapointed in Ancestry as a whole. They come up with some good databases, but if they do not work properly, what is the use for paying for the service. Just go to the library and use it for free.

  31. When I am looking at the alpha list of people in my chart, I click on a person to edit their profile. After the edit while on the page saying the edit was completed, I would like a link back to the list to complete my edits. Right now I have to go back to the individual’s profile to find the link to the list. And I wish it would remember the last place I was on the list, instead of starting over each time I click on that list.

  32. Edith

    Re: No. 19

    Jerry, you have given some very good descriptions of what the Old Home, New Home, Old Search and New Search pages look like but that is exact on your computer only. Each one of us seem to have a variance in the format of those pages. I have NO option for the Old Home page and “my Old Search page” has links to numerous databases that I use to the right of the search form. I previously kept the Home page up and linked to everything from there now I have to click on US Federal Census then click on the year I want to do searches in. Specific year search keeps the information I type in.

    The list below are all clickable links on “my Old Search page”
    Search Resources
    – Card Catalog
    – Advanced Search
    – Need help searching?

    Browse Records
    View All Ancestry Titles New

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    list all databases…
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  33. Dan

    Being a new member of your sight, I find it hard to give a proper example of some of the problems I have encountered. I will say this, your reference to Nevada newspapers for people living in PA and OH in 1700 – 1800 and all of the numerous listing for people in England even though no one asked for that information is driving me bonkers. I think I will have a hard time looking at renewing this membership. ( Why are your screens so out of whack)

  34. Jerry Bryan

    Here’s an odd failure with New Search. I was in Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002, looking for the marriage of Ben Knisley to Jo Anne Cate.

    I was doing an exact search. I didn’t want to get into Ben vs. Benjamin or Jo Anne vs. Jo Ann vs. JoAnn issues. So I just put in blanks for the first person’s first and middle names, Knisley for the first person’s last name, and Cate for the spouse’s name. Remember it’s not possible to specify first names and last names separately for the spouse on this search. There were no hits.

    Rather than giving up, I tried putting in Jo Anne for the first person’s first and middle names, Cate for the first person’s last name, and Knisley for the spouse’s name. It got a hit. In fact, it got a hit for Jo Ann (sic) Cate and Benjamin Haward (sic) Knisley Jr. That’s precisely the marriage I was looking for.

    Remember that this was an exact match. So why did Jo Anne match Jo Ann when they obviously do not match exactly? And why didn’t Knisley for the first person and Cate for the second person match when they obviously do match exactly?

    I tried one more variation. I tried Cate as the person’s last name with the first and middle names left blank, and Knisley for the spouses’s name. This is just reversing the spouses from the search that failed. This time the search succeeded. And of course it should have.

    Of three cases, the first two gave what I would consider incorrect results. The first one failed when it should have succeeded. The second one succeeded when it should have failed. And only the third case worked correctly.

    Needless to say, it works much better on Old Search. A last name of Cate for one spouse and a last name of Knisley for the other spouse gets exactly one hit, in either order. That’s what it should do. However, Jo Anne still matches Jo Ann even though it’s an exact search and even though it’s Old Search. That can’t be right.

  35. Carol A. H.

    Thanks Sharon for the tip. I don’t need an “in your face” suggestion I upgrade, so I guess I’ll stay with the Deluxe version. Now if we could just get rid of the advertising….

    I had a weird experience with the trees. Some months ago I decided to put my family (no living people) on a tree in Ancestry. I started with my parents who are both gone and I had the complete informaion. No where were these two people on anyone’s tree, anywhere, period! A short time later, they and their parents showed up in One World Tree mixed in with other people with incorrect information.

    However I did have a good experience with a member tree. I had a g-g-grandaunt for whom I had a Henry H Snyder as a husband. The aunt was a DAR member. Turns out someone had the same lady with a Henry H. Sugden as a spouse. The other person was right and I was wrong. But I took the time and researched these people before I accepted it.

    Well I guess I got off topic. I would GEDCOM my work before I’d zap my trees if I had to.

    I can’t think of any new complaints about the new search. It’s so bad I just don’t use it. I dread the day they dump it on us.

    Jade on #32 has a good site to go to. A Richard Moore has a blog there for a solution for those who don’t even have a tree on Ancestry and get someones tree they may have at one time looked at. He puts a fake tree there. A quick loading 2 generation tree of Harvey the Rabbit. Check this before it goes away.

  36. George Flowers

    The new (and old) had major issues from my perspective. I recently did a search looking for a viola flower born usa, died usa 1915 +/- 2 years. 3 star Search returned 1940, 1930 census data. I have raised the question numerous times in the past. I limit the search by entering a death date, city/state, etc., but results return values that are obviously invalid. If a person is deceased in a certain year, how can a valid match be produced for a date 15 years in the future?

  37. Kathy Lynch

    Hurrah for researcher Jade, whose comment posted on July 12, 2008 exactly described the type of frustration I have felt with the new search.

  38. George Flowers

    The new search is worse than I originally thought. I do searches and copy the results into a spread sheet. After reviewing the data, I go to individual records to verify search results. Can not do that anymore. Pasting data puts it into the preview format. The staright forward list of name, parents, home, etc. is all that is needed. Whne one hovers over the name the preview is OK, but not all of the time.

  39. J Swendula

    Here’s an issue I haven’t seen addressed: why does the search assume that if only one name is inputted into the search field it is a first name!? I have several surnames in my family that are so bizarre, so rare, that any person with that last name is likely related. The name search box really needs to be split back into two.

    This is in addition to all of the other problems enumerated above. I was fortunate enough not to be switched over to the new search upon it’s launch, and didn’t even know anything was changing until I looked at the message boards. I just tried it out now…and I all I can say is I really hope you keep the old search available. I’m a relatively new customer–less than one year–and nowhere near done even looking through the censuses for direct ancestors. I experience enough frustration with transcription errors. I don’t need a search engine that thwarts me as well.

  40. Athena

    Re: Jerry’s post #31 “It’s disconcerting, but it’s no worse on New Search than it is on Old Search.”

    We must be on different sites. I don’t use the new search at all and It’s much harder for me to navigate through successive searches in “Old Search”than it was before.

    I don’t see any of the “refine” dialogs you mention anywhere. Once I select hit from the initial list of hits, there is no opportunity for me to refine a search from within that database.

  41. Lorraine

    I have been warned about Identify Theft on this web site. I tried to email and there are 40 topics and none let me through to type what I am typing now. How do I know FOR SURE that my information is safe here?

  42. Nancy Rogers

    I did some exploring on the internet and found the following of which I am sure many of you are aware, but thought it might give some insight to some of your readers about the problems at TGN. In October of 2007 The Generations Netwook was acquired by Spectrum Equity Investors for $300 million dollars. This I believe helps to explain the big push by TGN to get more customers.

  43. Jerry Bryan

    I keep trying my best to give New Search a fair chance. But tonight it will not do an exact search, and hence it’s unusable. This situation happens pretty regularly, but it usually goes away in a few minutes. Tonight it will not go away.

    I have logged completely out of my account and back in. Is there possibly something I could do on my end to clear up the problem – delete a cookie or something – or is the problem on the server end?

    I can’t replicate the problem. Sometimes it happens after using New Search for 5 minutes. Sometimes it happens after an hour or two. I cannot find any pattern of activity on my part that coincides with when the problem occurs. Sorry, I wish I could replicate it for you.

  44. Sarah J.

    What started as a series of “trickle” complaints over the elimination of the old online tree system and the forced usage of NEW ANCESTRY MEMBER TREES, has now overflowed to nearly all the changes, including but not limited to the over abundance of graphics and flashing advertisements, the newspapers, the searches, and the new home page.

    The complaints have virtually EXPLODED and the greater majority of them are from the seasoned genealogists and serious researchers. However, the complaints are being ignored.

    We don’t hear many complaints from the newly subscribed members who have limited or no experience, and who subscribed to with the purpose of building a family tree with the search and destroy merge system, but it is only a matter of time before they too will rise up and revolt.

    Ancestry appears to be ignoring the major portion of complaints and is determined to continue on their path of destruction, presumably because they feel their site is superior to other genealogy websites available to the public at this time, and Ancestry can do whatever they want. It is evident that the Ancestry thought process consists of by simply ignoring the complaints – the wants and needs of their long-time subscribers – they will win the “war” by doing nothing and the complainers will stop complaining and just go away.

    We are to take our lumps and leave them.

    Ancestry will continue to court the new subscribers. In their minds, it doesn’t matter if the advanced researchers cancel their subscriptions, because one advanced researcher can be replaced by 10 inexperienced researchers who don’t know what they are getting into, but as soon as that trial subscription runs out, 7 of those 10 will be gone but Ancestry is still ahead in subscribers., it is time to take note that it’s only a matter of time before the inexperienced that stay will also become frustrated with the defective search system and become confused by the proliferation of conflicting information on the Ancestry Member Trees. The unsourced information from the multitude of clone trees will clog up the tree system and create mass confusion because 3 out of 5 trees for one named family will each have different information that was merged from several other trees which may or may not be the same family. One World Tree is the master of all evils, being the vessel of unsourced incorrect information for perpetuity.

    Remember that is running up behind very quickly and their information will be free. Their information is being indexed right now as we complain about the website. Certain information is now also available online through the National Archives website.

  45. Linda

    I have been researching for 10+ years and often will do a very broad search by surname and state. I tested this tonight and found that the new search resulted in more MOUSE CLICKS and some of the results made little sense. In addition the center alignment of the search screen vs. the left aligned old screen results in additional scrolling when working with multiple windows…something I do regularily.

    TEST SITUATION: Conduct a broad search for surname “Hensel” in the state of “Missouri” and then check results of database with relatively small number of results for recognizable first names and/or county location. EXACT SEARCH ONLY is the default.


    CLICK in Last name field and type ‘Hensel’
    Tab to Lived in and type “U” to get USA
    Tab to State and type “M” and press down arrow until Missouri is displayed
    CLICK on Search
    Nice Categorized list with Census Records; Birth, Marriage and Death Records
    Want to see if there are DeKalb Co., Missouri Hensel’s listed.
    CLICK on Missouri Death Records
    No, because only St. Louis records are available for Hensel’s. By the way, the state site has a record.

    NEW SEARCH (9 CLICKS and a lot more frustration with the results!)

    CLICK TO SCROLL SCREEN TO SEARCH PORTION OF SCREEN – Since I am using a half screen, I must first scroll over to the Search form. This is not unusual because I often have multiple windows displayed. The left aligned search form of the old search fits perfectly on a half screen.

    CLICK in Last name field and type ‘Hensel’

    Note: No option to narrow to general location. Adding Missouri to Birth or Death Location is too narrow of a search.

    CLICK to scroll to Refine Search.

    CLICK on Lived in (Residence) to expand Search fields.

    CLICK in Location Field

    Enter “Missouri” and press Enter

    NOTE: Missouri Death Records is not even listed! Not all of the Missouri related databases in the old search are even listed.

    CLICK on “Lived in (Residence)” Text field and omit data

    CLICK on More and enter “Missouri” in Keyword Location field and press enter.

    CLICK to expand screen. Unlike with the old search, I cannot see the number of results on a half screen.

    CLICK on Missouri Death Records.

    NOTE: After erasing “Missouri” from the Keyword, I tried putting “Missouri” in the location field for Other. There were 12, 265 matches in Birth, Marriage, and Deaths and yet the Missouri Death Record database didn’t show up on the first couple pages and many of those records that did had nothing to do with Missouri and I had “Exact match only” set.

    SO…with this scenario, there are 6 additional clicks and confusing results with two of the fields used for “Missouri”.

  46. I guess it’s up to me to again say how much I really like the new search. I find it easier to find new records, and I’ve found so much MORE info with new search than with old search. The only thing it’s missing for me is the ability to sort the results by column. Sure, sometimes the exact search is a little buggy, and I’ll be sure to post the times it doesn’t work quite right, but it’s still a huge improvement. I’m able to drill down like never before and find records that I couldn’t find in old search.

    As for the trees on Ancestry, I think the people complaining have yet to embrace social networking and the connections that the trees enable. Through the trees feature, I have found FOUR previously unknown distant cousins. I found them because Ancestry returned a hint from a tree and I contacted the owner of the tree through Ancestry. It is awesome! I think they should take it further and give us better profiles and let us bookmark or “add friends” in Ancestry. I think it has ENORMOUS potential. I WANT my tree to be public knowledge so that I can have help building it. Some of you are kind of selfish!

    Keep it up, Ancestry. I love the type ahead, I love the new technology. Thanks for embracing Web 2.0 and stepping into this century. People will complain because it’s not what they’re used to, but people complain about new technology all the time, and then they accept it, get used to it, and love it. I’m sure someone complained about elevators when they were invented, but now we can’t live without them. There are some passionate people on here who aren’t ready to move forward or change, but there are PLENTY of us who love the direction in which you’re going, but we’re too busy using the new search and exploring our results to be commenting on here!

  47. Magda P.


    You are very obviously a new subscriber to

    As long as has been on the Internet, which has been approximately 10 years, there has been social networking.

    People worked their trees directly through the Ancestry Online Family Tree that was offered by and also worked at home, and uploaded their trees to Rootsweb, which was connected directly to’s tree service.

    Email addresses of the tree owners were readily available to anyone who wanted to contact a possible family member or ask for more information on a particular person or family.

    Notes concerning a family or sources were also available to a researcher at any time.

    When Ancestry changed their tree system, they hid the notes, hid the email addresses, and with the exception of the Rootsweb trees, made the Ancestry trees available to paying subscribers and their invitees only.

    The social networking is down to a slow crawl, and again is only available to paying subscribers.

    Trees are being cloned and the information is not sourced.

    The discontent with the trees, the loading of pages, the new search system has nothing to do with anyone being resistant to change.

    You either didn’t read all the comments or you don’t understand what you are reading. Read these blogs again and read what the people are saying.

  48. Jerry Bryan

    With respect to Aisha’s note #50:

    On searching: could you do us the favor of posting a couple of examples of successful searches you have conducted (names, dates, etc.), how you went about it, which databases, how you refined your search, etc.? It would be very helpful to be able to understand a success story with New Search. You don’t have to post every single detail of your searches, but it would be helpful if you could provide enough information that others could go through a similar process with your data and see how New Search can be beneficial.

    On Social Networking: nearly all my data is on Rootsweb and therefore is searchable from My E-mail address is displayed with my data at Rootsweb, and I certainly encourage people to contact me that way. I have established many dozens of “genealogy buddies” that way (really, probably a couple of hundred), many of whom do not have subscriptions. My notes and my sources are on Rootsweb. What’s not there are living people (of course), nor is my GEDCOM downloadable. I share GEDCOM readily with serious researchers, but they have to contact me via E-mail. But my GEDCOM at Rootsweb is under my control, it’s not placed on CD’s and sold by anybody, I can delete it at a moment’s notice if necessary and it’s really gone, I can control the definition of a “living person”, and I can control which facts are displayed and which are not. Also, I have a personal Web site that’s linked to Rootsweb that has even more data – images of primary sources, transcribed primary sources that are heavily annotated, research notes, etc. People find my Web site with Google all the time and contact me that way as well. They are not looking for me, but they find my Web site by Googling some ancestor that turns out to be on my Web site. I maintain my data primarily through a genealogy program that is local to my computer rather than using Web based tools to update a tree on the Internet (such as at ancestry).

    There are many variations on the approach I have just described (some people don’t have their own personal Web site, some people do allow GEDCOM downloads from places like Rootsweb, etc., etc.), but the basic model I have just described is very common. And I don’t see the model as unsocial or unfriendly at all. How else could I have found a couple hundred distant cousins? I confess I was a tree grabber the first year or two I worked on family history (I didn’t know any better at the time, sorry), but that’s really just not the way to do family history.

    Finally, Magda P’s information in note #51 is totally correct. ancestry has supported social networking essentially from the beginning and you could use it to contact distant cousins essentially from the beginning. A number of enhancements have been made to social networking by ancestry through the years. What’s so different at this point is that until New Search and the New Web page, the social networking was not so thoroughly entangled with the process of searching for primary searches as it is now. Whether you like specifically where and how you click to find things with New Search (and I don’t like it), the bigger issue is a need to disentangle the search process from the social networking process. The two fundamental actions that need to be taken to accomplish this goal are to re-establish the MyAncestry tab and to move all social networking functions there (including trees!), and to get rid of the “feature” in New Search whereby your search fields are pre-populated from your tree.

  49. Fran

    I love that you add new info to the data base.

    But I keep it simple with you search. The main page is to busy. Newspaper search when you ask for Pa you get other states with it.

    Fix the files you have before moving on . Like the World War draft card that you can view one page that is your and the second page is someone else. That problem has not been correct and it has been a couple of years.

    I have dial up and only a couple hours to work on my family tree a day. Don’t make it like work.

  50. Beverly Winsness

    First, you messed up FTM with 2008 – a rather total disaster and the first time I refused an “upgrade”. Just taking the “Books” option out was bad enough but from all I hear of people losing data etc, I’m staying with FTM 16 until I find a better alternative and lots of emails are going around with great suggestions.

    Second, you absolutely destroyed a good search tool and as I read all the other comments, only one thing comes through. Give us back the old engine that worked great, get the junk like “want to start a tree” off the top of “MY PAGE”, and best of all, would you please force some of your own people to use this?

    You’ve lost my support for FTM, and now, it looks like your search improvements ruined my research capability. And you have courage to ask me if I want to ‘upgrade’ my current subscription. I’m looking much more at the cancel option as why pay for something that no longer works.

    Beverly Winsness

  51. Warren

    Since I do not see many comments on this I am compelled to believe it is only on my computer that this is happening: From FTM 2008 I launch a Web Search and the “clock” shows a ticking away of time. Then it stops with the info but only long enough to “tease” you and then it is off again with the same search. My internet connection shows that info is “streaming” to my computer but the “clock” just ticks away. Eventually, 70% of the time, it finally stops only on a useless page which gives me many choices (one of the new search page) none of which are helpful except the “Family Trees” button which will take me through another series of “eternal clock machinations” to land me on a “look-only-but-you-cannot-merge” page with useful information, sometimes, if you want to “toggle” back and forth between the “People” page and the “Web Search page. Then finally, I can click on the One World Tree button and pray that I do not end up in “clock-hell.” Finally, if all goes well, I can merge data. I am the only one who experiences these procedures?

  52. Jade

    Warren, with all of the known bugs in FTM 2008, it could be that you are experiencing one. Try buying an older version and see if it works better for you.

    You really don’t want to be merging stuff from OneWorldTree. This computer compilation has huge amounts of erroneous data. It picked material from available Trees, based on no really good criteria for choosing one version of Family A over another version of the same family. Most of the Trees are not based on evidence. And the OWT program cross-linked many families in seriously erroneous ways, such as merging data for same-named individuals who were 2 or more generations apart in time.

    If you want a truthful genealogical account of your ancestry and/or cousins, there really is no substitute for nuts-and bolts research directly in records.

  53. Barbara J. Yeoman

    I am indifferent to the new search and find the old search much more flexible. But, I have a problem. I am having great difficulty loading images which I had easily been able to access before. Now I repeatedly get errors while trying to load. I do clear my cache regularly including doing a clean restart when wanting to search records. I sometimes spend many hours searching and find I need to keep my system clean in order to continually load images.

    Is there a problem with pulling up record images, i.e. old draft records, some censuses? Particularly the draft registration images.

    Thank you.

  54. Gloria

    I have posted elsewhere on Ancestry, so will not repeat here.

    What I find is that Ancestry has implemented new software that doesn’t really work well. Those who have subscribed are trying to be so helpful , but it is THE JOB of the software creator to do it right in the first place! And certainly to test it adequately!

    Someone got paid “big bucks” to create this software. I hope you all are getting a “consultant’s fee” rebate for your time and efforts to correct this mess!

    Note to Management: There will be no books, or scrapbooks, or albums, or Tree software sold if the information available from you is so hard to get.

  55. John Allbritten

    The new search is junk. Period. Doing this for 16 years and an on again/off again Ancestry subscriber (the latest about four years), i find it the only thing worse than the crawl of the site’s speed. Thanks for the trouble.

  56. Anything change with the (adv) Search Saturday night or Sunday morning? Seems what was working yesterday now finds ‘No matches’ on exact spans of Birthyear.

    Also, can some of the icons at the bottom of the display be replaced so we don’t have to sit waiting for the ‘unseen’ to load so we can continue working?


  57. Charles B. Compton

    I noticed several years ago that I couldn’t find someone in the 1850 census on Ancestry. They are in the microfilm at the LDS Family Research Center and also in the 1850 California Census book. The name was Loyal M. Moore and Eliza Moore, in Sacramento County. We’re they just overlooked or is this common in some census years?

    CB Compton

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