Posted by Ancestry Team on October 10, 2008 in Website

You might find these useful as your searching in the new search interface:

If you press ‘n’, you will see a brand new search form pop up over your browser.

If you press ‘r’, you will see a search form pre-populated with the data you just searched on.

You can also walk through the previews on a search, by first pressing ‘p’ and then pressing ‘>’ to
move down the list and ‘<' to move back up. ('j' works for forward and 'k' works for backwards as well) We may have some template changes to show you next week, that I'm guessing some of you will find quite interesting.


  1. Andy Hatchett

    Welcome Back!

    We were wondering what had happened to you.

    Now… off to try the new stuff *Grin*

  2. Reed


    You’re back! We thought you’d disappeared into Ancestry’s infamous Customer Service Vortex Of Oblivion…

    I tried the new ‘n’ and ‘r’ key functions and—even though I’m NOT a fan of pop-ups—I think I like ’em. They seem to work as advertised.

    One simple request, could you please, please, please invent a way for the user to permanently turn off the annoying “First Name”–field pop-up? You know, the one that says:

    “Get Better Matches
    •Use full name if possible
    •We will look for common nicknames, abbreviations and misspellings
    •For women, try both married & maiden names”

    Not only is it a patronizing annoyance to work around (EVERY blessed search!), but its suggestions are either too basic and/or very misleading, in that we know through experience that adding too much info to the New Search interface almost always leads to poorer results or no hits at all (in Exact searches), or way, way, way too many useless hits (in Not-Exact mode).

    Further, the “We will look for common nicknames…” algorithm is (at best) mysterious and unpredictable and, more significantly, does NOT generate the most common abbreviation, i.e. initials based on the first and middle names.


    P. S. Haven’t tried the ‘p’ and business yet. But: does one *really* need to press shift+period for ‘>’ and shift+comma for ‘

  3. Reed

    Follow up to my comment no. 2, above:

    My postscript originally made sense, but my “greater-than” and “less-than” symbols and final sentence did not survive the comment-publishing process. (FYI, I run a Mac with OS 10.4.x and Safari browser over a broadband link.)

    Here’s the P.S. in full:

    P. S. Haven’t tried the ‘p’ and “greater-than” and “less-than” business yet. But: does one *really* need to press shift+period for “greater-than” and shift+comma for “less-than”? That could get tiresome in short order…


  4. Jerry Bryan

    Anne, welcome back!!

    On the n and r, I did some experiments. I did a generic (from the home page) exact search for John Smith, no other data, and of course got bunches of hits.

    Typing n pops up the search box as described. But it has forgotten that I am in exact mode.

    Typing r pops up the search box as described. But it has forgotten that I am in exact mode.

    Also, there is an apparent bug in r. If you do a search and type r, the r does pre-populate the search box as described. But if you do a search, type n, close the search box, and then type r, the search box is not pre-populated.

  5. Jerry Bryan

    Here’s another template bug related to forgetting that it’s in exact mode. Again, do a generic and exact search for John Smith.

    If you refine the search with the refine search box on the left side of the screen, the following is the case.

    Name, Birth, Lived In, and Family Members are in exact mode.

    Family Members, Migration, and Marriage are not in exact mode (this is the bug).

    More is a split decision. Keyword and Race are in exact mode. Other Info and Publication Info are not in exact mode (this is the bug manifesting itself again).

    It’s certainly possible (and I’m hopeful) that the coming template changes will have the effect of getting rid of this bug.

  6. Anne Mitchell

    I’m still here…we’ve been deep in the planning process and I was pretty focused on that.

    You can think of search as being two pieces: 1) the algorithms that find who you are looking for and 2) the interface you use to tell the search engine who you are looking for

    Often, #2 looks like lipstick on a pig. 🙂 But we continue to work on it.

    BUT, we are also currently working on #1 as well. In fact, we just brought on a couple of new engineers to add to our current team just to work on our algorithms. Now this stuff tends to be unpredictable — sometimes the best ideas in practice are bad, and sometimes they hog too many resources. So I can’t tell you when you will start to see the fruits of these labors…but they are coming.

    And while all of this is being done, we are also continuing to work on #2, or how you tell the engine who are looking for.

    So look for some smaller changes over the short haul; and some bigger ones as time goes on.

  7. Donna

    Thanks for making and working on these wonderful little tidbits. But if you would create the ability to “MERGE TWO INDIVIDUALS” in the online personal member trees – I would be delirious!
    I spend all of my time trying to get rid of DOUBLES! I have very little time for serious searching – since I am going around and around chasing doubled names! I’ve been told it is on the list – but when will you start working on it?

  8. Andy Hatchett

    Reply to #8


    An easy way to prevent duplicates is to *not* merge other trees into yours.

    If you find info on a person then:

    1) Check that the person is not already in your tree.

    2) Enter that person by hand.

    You’ll find that in the long run this takes less time than searching for and eliminating duplicates.

    Granted, you won’t be adding a multitude of people in one swipe but…only name-gatherers do that anyway.

  9. kdenning

    Is ancestry having computer glitches or did they decide to change the kind of membership I have without notifying me? Well, I can get better from the library… and for free!

  10. R0llie Richards

    I’m completely lost. I press ‘n’,’r’ and nothing
    happened, Can you be more specific where and when to press those two letter??

  11. Ron Lankshear

    I like the R especially. My “hate” with new search was in refining search we have to click open each open to change. The R means the whole panel is available and I can change as wanted.

    However that and all the other keyboard shortcuts – how will WE remember.

    Will you put a panel at side with list of shortcuts – looks like enough real estate.

  12. Jerry Bryan

    This is sort of a follow-up on #12.

    First of all, Anne has discussed the r and n prior to this thread. I confess that I had missed the full import of what she was saying. I didn’t play with the r and n, and didn’t realize that r and n could be used to revise a search based on where you were in the search process as opposed to just starting a new search from the very beginning. Mea culpa.

    But as far as #12, besides us forgetting the hot keys, how would anyone who is not reading the blog know about the hot keys? Generally speaking, it seems to me that there should always be both a mouse way and a keyboard way to do anything. In order for there to be a mouse way to do something, there usually needs to be something that you can see to click on, and the mouse way of doing something should be a “teaching moment” to inform you about the availability of keyboard hot keys. That’s the way I learned all the Windows shortcuts and all the Microsoft Office shortcuts.

    I remain excited to learn about upcoming template improvements. For example, now that I understand the full import of r and n hot keys, even more than before I would really like to get rid of the Refine Search box off the left side of the screen and to use the screen real estate much more effectively.

  13. Jade

    Jerry, regarding #13, the screen real estate is going to have ads. But one would think a teeny bit of space could be devoted to your very sensible suggestion as to a list of available hot-keys. At the *top* of the page, not below the ads, links to other people’s trees, lists of *not* the most recently added databases, and whatever other, er, stuff is planned for the page.

  14. Nancy Rogers

    Has anyone else noticed that on the home page of ancestry the link to “try the new search” is not there at least on my home page, but it does appear on the page that comes up when you go to the 2nd box which is “Search.”
    It also is still interesting to note that the library editions do not have a link to the new search.

  15. Jerry Bryan

    Re: #15, the following has been noted in the various blogs about New Search. The Home page has the Quick Links, but not the links to switch Old Search to New Search and vice versa. The Search page has the links to switch Old Search to New Search and vice versa, but not the Quick Links. I’m not sure this arrangement is optimal, but this arrangement has been previously noted.

    Kendall’s Webinar answered the question about the library edition. It will convert to New Search, but not as quickly as the version of ancestry that we use from home. Without viewing the Webinar again to be 100% sure (and I’m paraphrasing), my recollection is that the reason has to do with the training librarians will need in order to be able to assist their patrons with New Search, probably coupled with a rather strong conservatism on the part of librarians about changes that will affect their patrons.

    My more cynical side that sometimes rears its ugly head would suggest an additional reason that Kendall didn’t mention for deferring New Search support in libraries. The library edition of ancestry does not now interact with trees at all. Indeed, as far as the My Trees feature goes, which library patron’s tree would be the “My Tree”? So even though it might make sense for library edition users to see trees that are already there, it makes virtually no sense for them to “have a tree”. On the other hand, New Search is much more tightly integrated with trees than was Old Search. So there is a conundrum about how New Search should work in libraries.

  16. Jenny Grainger

    Problem: 1891 England census.

    Don’t know where else to post this, so trust this is ok.

    There is a problem linking entries from the 1891 England/Wales census to OWT records (a blank record appears) and against the New Family Trees. (Returns message: “Unable to perforn this action, please try later” sic.)
    Each record presenting these problems shows the ‘Save This’ block directly under “Other Family Members” instead of directly under other family members list.

  17. Quee

    The new search engine is horrible! It doesn’t math any of the thousands of records I was able to pull up before, and it’s faster to go to a local library (even if it’s four hours way) and manually searh for the information than try to figure out exactly what the heck this search is looking for.

    Absolutely terrible! But unfortunately it’s consistent with the awful products (Family Tree Maker included!) produced since the Mormon LDS has taken over. Stick to what you know and hire professionals to run the technology!

  18. Ron Lankshear

    I am finding new search – inadequate. I just wanted to search for an address in UK 1881 census and there is no street address box.
    Tried Lived In or residence and no hits. So had to switch back to old search.

    Also the UK census have no pull down box to select English county.
    Whereas it has a Parish box and an Ed Institution or vessel box. These can be difficult to know.

    Where are the fields for census reference? Folio etc

    I am using the R to change my search instead of laboriously clicking open the closed boxes but the panel stretches way off the screen so I have to scroll.

    On R The Birth year range selected is half overwritten by the clickable arrow (Firefox)

    Do you still plan to deploy this mess in early 2009?

  19. jane


    this new rubbish is yet another nail in the cpffin for the site as a hole

    why add all this unnessacery tweeks when you should be concentrating on the site users concerns . this new search is no better than that unnessacerly graphic laiden junk amt

  20. I have to tell you, I’ve been a member for quite awhile and I’m honestly thinking of not renewing solely on the basis of the Search function or the “lost” function as I like to call it. If you use “exact” you get zero, if you don’t use it you get Phone Books entries for the years 1920s, 30s, and 40s for someone BORN IN 1815/DIED IN 1898!!! And it just seems to get worse and worse rather than better. Why even have a field for the spouses name in advanced search if it’s not going to be used as a factor in the search? If I’m looking for Cynthia Reynolds b. abt. 1815 Maine married James Smith why in heaven’s name would I be interested in Cynthia Smith b. Iowa in 1880 married to John Reynolds? I mean honestly it lacks logic and elegance. And I keep hoping it will get fixed and it just seems to get worse and I’m so tired of fighting with it.

  21. TonyC

    I may have missed something – I’ve not been reading the boards as much lately. Has the old search been replaced?

    Saturday morning November 8th – I’m getting really squirly results using what I believe to be the good old search. John Carter born in England – thousands of records but the UK 1841 census collection is not in the list – so I click on ‘View all 19,279 results and it only shows 3 US collections!!! So I click back in the web browser, choose the ‘view all’ again and it now shows the UK census records I wanted. What is going on?

    I’ve also experienced some odd results with the same name, showing zero records – I can’t remember what collection now, but when I selected ‘soundex’ and not ‘exact’ the records appeared.

    Are the indexes intermittantly broken? And seeing as it is Saturday the support desk (telephone) is closed.

    If I can no longer trust the results from a simple search I either give up a really great hobby or give up on Ancestry – I’ll leave the answer to that one up to you Anne. 🙁


  22. TonyC

    OK, now it’s really getting to me. Search for Frederick Skinner, England, Suffolk in the old search. This brought up the census year I was looking for with a few others. so I click on the 1891 UK Census link – no results was the answer even though the link showed 5 entries. What in the devil is going on with Ancestry?

    This is no fun, especially when the telephone support is closed!!!!!!!


  23. Cheryl H.

    I do like the hot keys, but Ancestry has never addressed my biggest concern, even though I have been making the same suggestion for years. To require three letters before a wildcard is simply ridiculous. It will not help me find a mis-transcribed “Willer” for “Miller.” I would like to be able to look at “*iller.” Soundex won’t help the problem either. I have taken several surveys through the years and always made the same comment.

    I agree with everyone who wants Ancestry to focus on the basics. I’ve been a member for years, but it seems very few of the changes we have seen are worth the time and energy the staff puts in to them.

    I, too, am frustrated by “squirrelly” results and I consider myself to be a seasoned researcher.

  24. Joanne Sholes

    First I must admit to being an old old ancestry user who has some issues with the new look. I was going to do some updated research on a family member whose name appears in my public tree. When I initiated the search from my new home page I received the message that ancestry could find no matches. I know of at least three matches that should have come up. SO I then clicked on the search tab and did a search… again no hits. SO I then clicked on the try it now tab for the new look and did a search… up came my three hits. NOW, I thought perhaps I was going to be forced to switch over to the NEW SEARCH (which I do not care for…particularly the display of results..the old is so much more tidy…) But, then I thought, if you were trying to force me to use the new search why didn’t my famly name appear on the search from the HOME page which is also very new? Is there just a glitch in coordinating things or am I going to have to do searches from three different pages to exhaust resources?

  25. Jerry Bryan

    I also think something funny is going on with Search – I notice it more in Old Search but I’ve seen it also in New Search. My basic symptom is to do a search where matches are expected and to get nothing. Repeating the search immediately then gets the expected results.

    For example, get a list of matches and repeat the search with more specific criteria that will narrow the search. You can tell from the first search that the more specific criteria will get at least a few matches, but it finds none. Repeat the more specific search immediately, and it produces the expected result.

    I even had the following strangeness. A search gave 5 pages of matches. I was paging through the matches with the Next Page option. When I hit the 4th page, it said there were no matches. I backed up and clicked Next Page again, and the 4th page of matches appeared correctly.

    It appears that some otherwise unannounced maintenance is going on, and that the maintenance is causing very strange and unrepeatable search results.

  26. Jerry Bryan

    As a quick follow-up on my #28, others have reported search problems since the collections option has been introduced. I wonder if that’s really the root cause of the problems I have encountered??

  27. Jade

    Like Jerry I have noticed problems in Old Search as well. Results sort less reliably according to my criteria.

    Oh, and results are including same County name, wrong State among the top choices. This is stupid and annoying, allied with the same silliness in the new-style links in the Message Boards. The better results presentation would be Same State, Different County.

  28. Tony Cousins


    Where are you. Your last response was the day after this article was started – that was October 11th – not November – October, nearly 5 weeks ago.

    These last posts from Jerry Bryan and Jade #s 28,29 and 30, with mine at #24 and #25 need answers, is something broken?

    And it doesn’t matter how much lipstick you put on a pig – it’s still a pig.


  29. Jerry Bryan

    I haven’t posted anything about search in a while, just waiting on the template improvements that Anne has mentioned. But I have run into a somewhat search new problem that’s related to some problems that have been reported previously.

    My mother has sort of a lost branch of the family, where one of her uncles moved from Tennessee to California way back when. I have oral histories of the names of the uncle’s children, but that’s about it (the uncle’s children being my mother’s first cousins). One of the cousins is named Louisa Bray, born about 1927, and my mother remembers that Louisa married a man named Bray who was Louisa’s cousin.

    Well, the search process does not do a very good job looking for spouses when they both have the same last name. Old Search does ok when you are in a specific database such as Tennessee marriages, California marriages, Nevada marriages, etc. But Old Search does a poor job of finding spouses with the same last name from the Advanced Search screen of the main home page or main search page. New Search does a poor job of finding spouses with the same last name in all cases.

    The problems are two-fold. One problem is that New Search does not distinguish properly between the first name and the last name of the second spouse, essentially treating the names like keywords. And in the case of generic searches, even Old Search has the same flawed design. The search mixes last names between spouses. A search for Jane Smith and her husband Mr. Doe will find Jane Doe who married Samuel Anderson. But just think about how many extra and incorrect hits you get if you look for Jane Doe who married Mr. Doe (or in my case, Louisa Bray who married Mr. Bray).

  30. Jeff Ford

    Response to #9


    >An easy way to prevent duplicates is to *not* merge other trees into yours.

    Sometimes it just happens. I would like that ability to eliminate doubles when it happens. Or to merge people without having to jump through a million hoops. Now that would be an improvement instead of some of the sophomoric eye candy that seems to be forced on us.

  31. George Gilbert Moss

    Family Tree, mine ? I believe that my ancestors lived in the Brattonsville, South Carolina area in 1770 to 1800. Of course; Moss, Brattain, Mendenhall, Huddleston, Hill, Millikan, Smart, ! People with these names remained in contact across Smokies, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illiniois, Iowa, Kansas, and west. The Caywoods, Morrisons, Bradshaws, Bridemans, so many intertwined. I am lost for information. WHEN, WHERE, WHY, WHO.? The names are many and I need help to crack the time and place where they entered these endeared shores.

  32. Joanne Sholes

    Just a quick question about the new message greeting me as I go to login on Ancestry… “Make this the year you discover your story” Is this necessary? It is a bother to me as now I have to close it before I can login. Just one more step before I can being my searching. Please tell me this isn’t going to be a permanent fixture.

  33. Pat

    I’m not sure “shortcut” keys are the answer. We just need a search that will bring up the information we listed. I agree with 23 & 27. I am finding it harder and harder to search. Going to the library might just be easier. I too have been a long time subscriber, but not sure I can get my money’s worth anymore. Would really like to see a search that work.

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