Posted by Ancestry Team on October 7, 2009 in Webinars

Hello everyone,

The search team is excited about our free online webinar about searching on October 14th at 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. In this webinar, we will show you the best strategies for searching’s thousands of databases. Improving your search strategies will help you to find more information about your ancestors.
It can take time to learn all the details of a search engine and keep up with new features. We’ll explain how to find more records and adapt your search strategies as you look beyond census records. We will start with a helpful overview and then provide step-by-step instructions for using several of the search engine’s features. This webinar is designed for beginning to intermediate members of To attend the webinar, please register here.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!



  1. My comment is the same as everyone else has posted. I am caring for a hubby with dementia, so I am frequently forced to stop and start. The New Ancestry is a nightmare. I know techies are really up to snuff with all issues, however, I think they should go on line as a new interested researcher. They might get a better view of our gripes. I am going to have to discontinue my subscription .

    It seems as if all problems would be solved if you just gave subscribers a choice of the old or new versions. PLEASE.

  2. Sorry Laura looks like I got in the middle of your parade. Im not registering only commenting and agreeing with previous blogs. Also Im looking at your photo. You’re probably 20 or 25. And honey, we don’t need new products or managers. This is only half in jest.

  3. BobNY

    Does this mean Anne Mitchell is history, along with any and all promises she might have made? I am sure you will be reminded of them here as soon as some people are aware of your role.

    I suggest you read her last 3 blog entries to get a reading on the mood of the paying membership re: ancestry search. You probably didn’t pick that up in the interview.
    To Cecilia #2
    I, too, am looking at her photo and think she looks okay for someone who got their undergraduate degree over 16 years ago.

  4. Andy Hatchett

    Needless to say- I’ll be there with bells on!

    I noticed a distinct lack of a request for pre-webinar questions like they did for the last webinar… too bad.

    Just once I want to see a 10 minute webinar and a 50 minute Q&A session with answers that do *not* contain wigglewords to questions such as ” Why is not ‘exact’ search the default on the search engine rather than the opposite?”

    I see that Anne will be there and is still around- I’m glad.

  5. I’m still learning! However, the FTM 2005 is still the most user friendly. I’m looking forward to FTM 2010; hopefully, what I learned from FTM 2009 will provide an educational bridge to 2010.

    Don’t stop looking for improvements. If it is great, make it GREATER!!
    Bob Stone

  6. Bruce Rohm

    You all do a great job. I have been searching my family roots for about 15 years and learn something new everyday. But still don’t know everything so thanks for helping me along the way.

  7. Jim Livermore


    “This webinar is designed for beginning to intermediate members of”

    Do you really believe there will be anything of use to you? I suspect it will be just another rehash of New Search, with zero relating to Old Search. Make a wager?

  8. Andy Hatchett

    Jim Re;#7


    There is an outside chance (infinitesimal at best) that I might learn something new about it that might lessen my utter disgust of New Search. I’m willing to give them the chance even if I don’t think the odds are that great.

    I’ve got nothing planned for that time anyway!


  9. Tom Sommer

    Why when I mark data fields exact do I get people not even close to what i am searching? It seems the searches are “or” searches rather than “and” searches.

    And if a person has lived all their life in the USA why do I get England?

    There should be an option to not search outside the USA or vice versa.

  10. Tom Sommer

    Part 2

    Can your Search Team add the ability to not search for “trees”. Most trees are of little value as they are rarely sourced.

  11. Laura Dansbury

    #3: Happily, Anne is still with and she will be presenting a large portion of the webinar.

    #9 and #10: Please send me an email with an example of where exact is not returning what you expected.

    Even if your person lived in one country all of his life, there may someone outside his country who shares most of his vital information and therefore records about that other person rank high in global search.

    We are looking into ways to help you restrict your search scope. For now, to avoid Trees or any other category you don’t like, I would advise searching inside a category such as “Birth, Marriage & Death” to get more targeted results.

  12. Jerry Bryan

    I also will be watching the webinar with great interest. And I also hope that the webinar is not just an infomercial for New Search and fuzzy search (AKA ranked search). I will be more than happy to learn some useful new tricks and techniques.

    I don’t have the same sense of conspiracy theory that is sometimes expressed in these blogs. I think the ancestry staff are sharp and dedicated people who are legitimately interested in providing the best product possible. But somehow or other a totally wrongheaded vision of fuzzy/ranked search has been driving the search team for a number years. I don’t understand how such smart and dedicated people could have gotten so far off track.

    Fuzzy/ranked search and New Search are not the same thing. Old Search introduced the ranked search option several years ago, roughly 2004/2005 I think but I can’t remember the exact date. When New Search first came out, I was able to find some of the old blog posts from from when ranked search was first deployed as a part of Old Search. It was the same kind of thing you heard about New Search when it first came out: try it, you’ll love it, it’s a great new improvement, it will solve all your searching problems, etc. New Search took the same concepts as the Old Search version of ranked search and carried them even further, and even further off track. The sad thing to me is that it didn’t sound like advertising hype. It sounded like true believers who sincerely believed they had a great vision and had produced a great product.

    Well, “it ain’t so”. The best search that has is still Old Search with the Exact option. The second best is New Search with the Exact option. The ranked search version of Old Search and the ranked search version of New Search are both so bad that it’s hard to know which is worse.

    The New Search version of exact search broke a number of things that worked very well with Old Search version of exact search. I actually use New Search about 2/3 of the time now, but not because I think it’s better. It’s because I think I have to get used to it, and because I want any criticisms I might have to be well informed.

    The kinds of things that still drive me back into the welcoming arms of Old Search about 1/3 of the time include the following: 1) searching by Soundex code, 2) New Search templates for specific databases that are so dysfunctional as to be unusable, and the Old Search templates are great, 3) any searches involving spouses such as marriages and divorces (New Search handles searches of spouses very poorly even if the searches are exact), 4) any searches involving a first and middle name or a first name and middle initial (New Search handles these searches very poorly even in exact mode), and 5) any searches involving a range of dates for the records as opposed to a range of dates for events.

    I would love to see the ranked/fuzzy search work much better and for it actually to be a useful tool. But I think is going about it all wrong. Paradoxically, the best way to improve ranked/fuzzy search is probably to ignore it entirely for a while and to focus on making exact search better. With a better exact search in place, ranked search could and should automatically inherit those improvements.

    Finally, the most frustrating thing about New Search is that it places fuzzy/ranked search at the front and center of things. It’s hard to get at the exact option from New Search, and New Search breaks many of the most useful attributes of exact search. That’s just the opposite of the way it ought to be. Exact search should be at the front and center of New Search, and exact search should work just as well with New Search as it does with Old Search (including decent search templates). Ranked/fuzzy search should be an advanced search that you try only after exhausting your attempts to find things with exact search.

  13. Andy Hatchett

    Laura Re:#11

    My gripe isn’t that exact doesn’t return what I expect so much as that you have to choose exact rather than it being the search default.


    A new user signing on will usually go straight to search, enter some stuff. They know nothing of the fudge factors that Ancestry adds to search dates,fuzzy searches, etc. They hit return and get hit with eleventy bijillion “matches”. Theyt are no expectng this at all- they are expecting *exact* matches!

    This being the case, then why doesn’t Ancestry give them those exact matches they are looking for to begin with rather than have them have to go to advanced search and mark exact on what they enter?

    It is a totally different outlook based on a totally different philosophy; a philosophy, I might add, that Ancestry seems uncomfortable with – it is called “listen to us and give us what we want- *not* what you think we need!”

  14. Tom


    Try Etsie Ellen Howard with exact for fist and middle name and exact for last name. If it does for you what it did for me you will get some names with Howard but not the same first name. And you should get some with neither name the same.

  15. Valerie

    I’ve given up on New Search and don’t use it *at all* anymore. Old search is easier to use and returns better results. The results are presented in a way that’s easier to browse through and the search terms are easier to adjust.

    And, considering how unhelpful the last webinar on searching was, I don’t have much hope that this next webinar will change my mind on anything.

  16. Jeff Ford


    >Even if your person lived in one country all of his life, there may someone outside his country who shares most of his vital information and therefore records about that other person rank high in global search.

    But I don’t want someone from another country if my person spent their entire life in one country! It “pollutes” my results.

    Also, I just registered for the Webinar. I noticed that Ancestry isn’t supporting Safari. Why? I wish that Ancestry would be platform(OS or browser) agnostic. Ancestry routinely disses Mac users.

  17. Geoffrey Browning

    Regarding searching on ancestry, three things immediately come to mind.
    1. Quality of some of the images – some are really bad.
    2. Quality of the indexing – I have run across hundreds of errors and I wish there was a system for correcting them so others would not have to deal with them as I have had to.
    3. The methodology behind what comes up from a search – I just cannot make sense of the order in many cases.

  18. Shusui

    Good Grief! The wonderful New Search which the Ancestry staff are always so “excited” to discuss is so un-intuitive and complicated that they have to put together a web seminar to explain how it works.

    It’s simple:

    Exact searches should return exact searches.
    Soundex should return results based strictly on the Soundex algorithm.
    Fuzzy search can be as fuzzy as the programmers clearly already are.
    Ranked searches should be abolished.

    It would be far, FAR more useful if the wildcard searches were improved so that they could be used as a prefix, eg. *lworth looking for Stallworth which has been incorrectly transcribed as Hallworth.

  19. Laura Dansbury

    #12: Thank you for the thoughtful comments. I especially appreciate reading your specific examples of where you choose old search vs. new search and how you use and value the exact feature.
    #13: Exact is now stored with your login ID so that if you use exact, it will default to exact in the future.
    #14: I don’t get any results when I search for “Etsie Ellen Howard with exact for first and middle name and exact for last name” in new or old search.
    #18: You can correct or add alternate information to the index. See Anne’s blog posting on editing records

  20. Tom Sommer

    Laura, you are correct somewhat. I tried searching from the page and it produced no results. But when I searched the same parameters through FTM 2010 it produced results. Some where her, but others were not. I think in an exact search the “extra” results (from FTM) should not have been returned.

  21. Laura Dansbury

    #21 I tried from FTM 2010 and FTM 2009 and I didn’t get any results. Can you please email me a screenshot? Is “Etsie Ellen Howard” the only terms you are searching or are you also searching a place or a date? Thank you.

  22. Tom Sommer
  23. BEE

    I have tried the New Search now and then when it “pops up”, but ALWAYS go back to the the old search!

  24. Andy Hatchett

    Laura Re:#20

    Exact being stored with one’s log-in ID does exactly *nothing* for the newbies, particularly for those using the site for the very first time.

    To enter full particulars your first time on and get hit with hundreds-if not thousands- of “matches” can be more than somewhat disconcerting.

    It also doesn’t answer my question of WHY exact isn’t the default state for first time users.

  25. Dee

    It’s a shame that has such great information that is so difficult to get to. Kudos on the first and a D- on the second.

  26. Sandra Ferguson

    I have been debating removing the older versions of ancestry from my computer. I liked the older versions much better than the 2009 but am getting used to the 2010. Not sure I like it better but I need to free up room on computer.
    I find the very useful as they are often original information.
    I find the search aspect of
    Ancestry too general. When given choices to limit search the search still does not stick to the limits I set.

  27. Mary Beth Marchant

    For #23 Tom-and any others wishing to do a screen shot–


  28. Tom Sommer

    #30 Mary Beth
    Thanks I learned something! I’ve always had another program to do screen captures.

  29. sherrie barber

    I’m now having problems using the “old search”. I’m not in love with the new search system and prefer the original. When I hit the button for the old search I simply am “taken” back to the new search again. Grrrrrrrrr……this is frustrating. This has happened over and over. I even tried to log out and then log in again to no avail. Sure enough the new search is the only search system available. I want to search in individual states!

  30. J. Fulmer

    Just don’t take away the “old search” option. It would be disastrous. That is the bottom line.

  31. Laura Dansbury

    #29: Thank you for telling me about the Kimball/Watertown link. I sent the message board link you provided to our US content lead. If you find or want to report anything else, you can always contact Support

    #32: My email address is listed in my bio. Will you please send me specifics about your browser type, operating system, and more detail about when you get sent back to new search? Thank you.

  32. Kathleen Livingston

    Not sure I will be able to view the webinar on the 14th or not, I have slow internet. I am new to this, and learning.

  33. Reg

    OK, here we go… my frustrations…

    Why when I go into “advanced search” do I have to start all over typing in the information? Why doesn’t the search engine just repopulate the fields with the information that is already there? There is the invitation to try “advanced search” but when I click on it I get a blank data form.

    Why when I do advanced search and want to return to the data entry form, does the “country” field always default back to zero so I have to reset country, county, state, city all over again? This is not fun.

    I also share the frustrations expressed above when I get hundreds of useless results of people who live in England when I am searching for someone who lived their whole life in Canada. I set the priority for Canada, but isn’t much help.

    The “exact” feature is useless. If I set even a few fields at “exact” I get no results, if I don’t set them at “exact” I get pages and pages of useless results that are not even close. Sometimes, the only thing matched is the middle initial!

    Over a year ago, I had a free 10-day trial subscription and found birth and marriage data for my grandfather, and I can find absolutely nothing for him now with my paid subscription, despite having searched for days and days and hours on end. Why could I find this data before, but not now?

    When searching for a married woman, the search engine seems to get totally confused. Are you going to include her married name and then search for census data when she was only three years old? This produces pages and pages of useless and confusing information.

    It seems like I’ve gotten the “low hanging fruit” of source documents and have now hit a stone wall.

  34. Laura Dansbury

    #36: To get back to old search, click the search button at the top of the page. Then look at the top right side of the search homepage just under “Add to quick links.” There is a link titled “Old Search.”

  35. Jerry Bryan

    #37, on exact search, the less data you enter the better. I sincerely believe that exact search with minimal information is the best way to search, but it is very contrary to the advice that ancestry gives. If you happen to get too many matches this way, then add a bit more information.

    Also, sometimes (not often, but sometimes) the Soundex option helps. Soundex is available only in Old Search.

    Much more often, wild cards help. ancestry’s support of wild cards is not very good, and improvements in wild cards have been one of the most requested features for years (since long before New Search came along). I often search for my surname by searching for bry* (to get Bryan and Bryant, and other variations such as Bryen or Bryon) and also by bri* (to get Brian and Briant). However, you are pretty much doomed if you need to put a wild card anywhere in the first three characters.

    Beyond those basics, it depends on what you are looking for. I could probably suggest dozens of tips, but let’s wait and see what the webinar suggests. I’ll bet they are going to suggest New Search without the exact option, and entering as much data as possible.

  36. I have a problem. I clicked on the us deaths, etc, saw Nettie F Marthey and clicked on it. It shows my 88 yr old mom dec. 2004, listed as born in 2004 and dec. in 2006. was from Wooster newspaper obituary probably on 2/3/04.
    Part of the whole site looks like an elephant traipsed thru. Im afraid to browse any further. Cecelia

  37. another problem, it lists a Francisco
    Pedrozo as other persons. I also had dates on article wrong, (Ohh I hate to say that)obit date and death date are correct.
    I hope I can watch the seminar on the 14th, or at least catch some. Will we be able to browse in the old version as well as this new one. Must be past my bedtime. Cecelia

  38. Jean S. Coltart

    Want to let you know that I absolutely HATE the new website format. It’s a nightmare to navigate, since it’s become way too complicated, especially the “Search.”

    Also, with the old version of, I was able to quickly and very easily bring up a U. S. Federal Census record page for any census year for the ancestor I was looking for at the moment. Now…when I try to get into federal census record pages, I get only less than 1/4 of the page! I cannot get the whole page to show up on my screen. With the old version of, I was able to very easily get the whole page on my screen and print it out!

    You people at have made use way too complicated. And no…I don’t happen to have all day to sit there and now wade through your so-called “webinar” or whatever, to learn how to navigate the new, extremely-difficult-to-navigate new website!

    Do us all a favor and go back to the older version, especially for “Search” and U. S. Federal Census records!

    In meantime, until this is done, I will not renew my subscription. Again…in your upgrading to a newer version, you have taken the fun out of using it, since it is now too complicated and time-consuming.

  39. Reg

    #39 Thanks for the tips! Believe me, I’ve tried everything from minimal exact data up and down the spectrum to maximum “inexact” data and back again, having to refill the “country” field every time. Either I get nothing, or way too much irrelevant information. For example, if I select male, why do I have to wade through tons of female matches? I’m beginning think some of my ancestors where purely mythical, lol. Thanks for the suggestion about wild cards. I will try that.

  40. Nicola

    Like many others, I much prefer the “Old Search” which is much easier to use. The “new” search is just awful.

    I wish that Ancestry would stop tinking with formats and the way that their engine searches.

    I was finding ancestors ok until a few weeks ago, when they said that they were changed the way that the searching worked. Now it is much harder to find people.

    Ancestry, please stop changing things for changes sake, or put a lot more research into what your users want before you start tinkering.

  41. J. Fulmer

    It seems purposely makes the “old search” option button difficult to find. It is located on the Search page at the right side top. If you look very closely you will see “Old Search” printed in faint very tiny print.

    If Ancestry were encouraging us to use Old Search as an option, this button would be more prominently displayed here and also on the Main page.

    It is interesting also to notice that on this Search-blog Laura (and Anne before her) never discuss and compare the merits of old search vs. new search.


  42. Andy Hatchett

    Re: #45

    Ancestry will do everything they can, short of removing it, to indirectly discourage the use of Old Search while it is available.

    They have, in their corporate wisdom, determined that New Search is better-for them.

    They have way too much invested in both time and resources to admit that New Search is the failure that it is seen as by most posters.

    Thay have adopted a modified BurgerKing attitude…
    “You’ll do it *our* way!”

  43. Malcolm Northrup

    I’m having great difficulty in FTM 2010 with “New Search” results which now have suddenly given me thousands (literally in my 3500 person tree) of leaves for unsourced trees and now for records which I already have added. Why do we not have a simple “Reset Leaves” button with the ability which we had in “Old Search” to not look at Family Trees? I’m registered for the Search Webinar but mostly to find out why we need a New Search?

  44. Malcolm Northrup

    I must be missing something but I’m having difficulty searching for Naturalization data from FTM 2010.

    Is there not data available?

  45. Carol A. H.

    Seven years ago this month, I subscribed to Ancestry. In the past two years or so, they have made more changes than they needed to do. I have posted to the blogs so much, I’m sure Ancestry doesn’t pay any attention to me.

    When I first started, I needed no webinar to help me find an immense amount of research hits, real hits! The site was intuitive, simple, and straightforward. No special tricks or gimmicks. I jumped right in and was fine as long as they had the records I needed. And then they started to “upgrade, modify, improve and roll out new ways to search.” To me as well as others, it seems all Ancestry has done in the past few years is justify having jobs and screwing up what was ok. I have never had good success with the new search and the new style of trees makes me insane. I’m close to removing my trees and not contributing, and not using the whole site except for research.

    The old search continues to give me good results with few headaches. I do have to sort through many records but I do find the ones I need. This is not happening in new search. I know there are endless problems with the trees. They really are a nightmare, most with NO sources! I am very careful to source any people I put into my trees. Names don’t go into my trees until I can source them. My database at home has lots more folks but I need to source them. My reason for having a subscription to Ancestry was always to find sources as well as new people.

    As a Family History Center Librarian, I have heard nothing but complaints about the site as folks struggle to find their people in records. I spend more time teaching folks how to use the software, and navigate the site than I do helping them to do research and finding their people. This is counter productive.

    Other librarians have complained they can’t find what they used to be able to find with no problems. We do talk to each other! Just today, one of our patrons said she cancelled her subscription to Ancestry. We still provide full access to the site at our Center.

    I have begged, pleaded and tried to bribe people at Ancestry to *NOT* remove the old search. The only thing I can think of to save it is for us to agitate, agitate, agitate!


  46. MOI

    Laura, Welcome to our world where nothing is as it seems and nothing works as described.
    1. Search parameters disappear almost as soon as a user clicks on “search.” Results are skewed for quantity and repetition as opposed to quality.
    2. If users don’t take the time to correct the names on transcribed “records” then other users may not find the same record in a search. That is not our responsibility to fix but Ancestry doesn’t really care if someone else will do it for free. They aren’t going to fix the errors.
    3. This may not be your area, but the trees that show up as “connections” within our trees make me shudder. It seems that anything goes and if info doesn’t fit, why they’ll make it fit one way or another. Those are the kinds of results users get with new search.

    If you accepted this position with both eyes wide open and with a sincere desire to restore searches to a useful and productive level for the members, I say more power to you.
    Welcome to our world!

  47. ENE

    Are the powers that be at sheltered from user comments on blogs and message boards, or do they ever take the time to read them so as to know their customers better?

    In my opinion their business model is sadly deficient. They do not take into consideration the RICH history and experience of their member customers and do not avail themselves of their expertise in genealogical research matters when changing their business model. is NOT filled with rich historical and genealogical data resources IF their member users can not access the information. It is OK if they want to remain in their ivory towers and distance themselves from their customers. Their customers may decide to distance themselves from!

    There are “new kids” on the block and some of them may actually get it right and develop a better business model than has. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

  48. Martin Tolley

    Maybe. Just maybe “new” search keeps you on a page for longer. Maybe it makes you go through more pages. Maybe you have to go through more dead ends to find the page you want. And when you’ve found the page – all the time you’re on that page (and sifting through lists and lists and lists and lists of irrelevant stuff) you’re increasing the average time that you are exposed to “advertisements”. Any maybe, just maybe . . . advertisers pay more for guaranteed exposure time?

  49. J. Fulmer

    One reason “New Search” is frustrating to use is because the template immediately asks us to supply a birth date, birth place, death date and death place. None of which we may know. In fact this is the very info we’re trying to find.

    Yes, we can expand the “New Search” template to include “Lived in” and not use any exact data input, but by doing so we have gained nothing over the “Old Search” template which begins at this point.

    As a long time user of I just don’t see what the “New Search” engine gains us.


  50. Marge

    I have been using ancestry for a year and I always feel like I am missing most of it. The only results I seem to get are census records and death certificates. If there are all of these thousands of documents on Ancestry,how do I find them? For example, I found the Pensacola City Directories because they were announced in an email from ancestry, but now when I choose an option to search all they don’t come up. I know there is a lot that is available but it is remarkably difficult to find.

  51. Jerry Murdock

    From the very start of my experience with Ancestry.Com, my biggest complaint has been the search engine (and I have often posted samples of my complaints). Each change I have seen during this time has made the problem WORSE.
    I have just run a search on my Great Grandmother, who was born in Texas and NEVER left Texas during her entire life. I put Born Texas, USA exact and Residence Texas, USA exact and selected categories “Birth, Marriage, and Death”. YOUR program immediately grayed out the residence selection as “irrelevant to the search” and gave first priority to a KENTUCKY marriage record for a woman whose maiden surname was my ancestor’s married surname (first and middle names TOTALLY different but for initials).
    HOW is exact residence irrelevant to ANY database search‽
    If I KNOW my ancestor never lived in Kentucky, why are you wasting my time searching a Kentucky database for her?

  52. Jerry Murdock

    At the other end of the spectrum, Some restrictions are enforced to the point that they eliminate USEFUL records.
    For example, one ancestor lived all up & down the Eastern seaboard, but never left the colonies/states. An initial search given only exact birth range of dates turns up many state records and very many records in England & the Caribbean, but if residence is set to “USA” exact, there is only ONE return & that is for World War I Draft Registration Cards – apparently instead of interpreting “USA” to mean any portion of the USA or the original colonies, the search is being restricted to databases that cover the entire USA.
    Similarly, if you enter an exact date of death, the search will exclude ALL databases that do not index exact dates of death rather than simply excluding DATA AFTER THAT DATE.
    Your programmers seem to know the mechanics of the solution but fail to understand HOW to set up the QUESTION being asked.

  53. Pat Secord

    #55 Marge – this is exactly a problem I keep having as well. Many times I’ll run across some info on-line. If I have the exact name of the database, or title of the book I can put it thru the Card Catalog (but why bother, since I’ve already found it elsewhere). But that will at least tell me that the document is within the Ancestry sources. But, like you, when I put in my ancestor’s name, most of the time, that particular selection does not show up (or it’s possibly pages and pages away in the hits). I’m going to join the webinar on the 14th in the hopes that I’ll learn something I’m missing. After reading these blogs from members who are much more computer literate that I am, I see I’m not the only one frustrated. I’ve been a member for a couple of years, and while has been extremely valuable in getting my genealogy started, I feel there’s much more info I’m missing. And frankly, I’m simply too busy (or lazy?) to filter thru 400,000 hits for something that should pop up, probably in the first dozen or so.

  54. Fran Smith

    When doing a Search Historical Records from an individual’s page, if I find say a census and view the actual image, two things tend to happen: the link back to that individual is gone, and I cannot continue searching other records after viewing the image. In both cases I have to go back to the tree, then the individual again and start the search all over. As long as I don’t view the image to confirm whether or not this is the person I’m looking for, everything is fine. Viewing the image is the downfall.

    I agree with many of the others that too many irrelevant results come up. For censuses I may not know the exact county and enumeration district to narrow down the search. How do I search for just Mass. censuses?

    Curiosity question – why are your webinars free and FTM charges $40 and up?

  55. Jade

    I suggest writing the presentation outline and posting it in the learning-center, with a prominent link to it from the Search tab.

    Thus the tips will be available to those of us who can’t run Flashplayer 10+, or those with Vista machines that have javaVM troubles with some Flashplayer setups.

  56. Jade

    Laura, in your #20 you say:

    “#18: You can correct or add alternate information to the index. See Anne’s blog posting on editing records”

    The one thing one *cannot* do is ***correct*** material in the indexes or in’s highly error-prone extracts from records.

    Wrongly spelt or nonexistent place names, and non-indexed Census pages cannot even be addressed in those databases for which additional suggestions / alternate spellings can be entered. Neither can the many instances in which persons are listed in a US Federal Census household who are not in that household (sometimes they are not even on the same page).

    One can sometimes (not always) add “comments” on such errors. One can email error reports and wait years in hopes of seeing a correction.

  57. Jade

    In your webinar, please address this:

    Luranah / Lurana Hudson, of Sussex Co., DE in the 1780s appears in exactly two databases on

    Search parameters in New Search, from global search page; Advanced:

    Lurana* (exact); Hudson (exact); lived in: Delaware, USA (exact) returned 11,177 results. Sorted By Relevance, none of the first 50 results were of the two databases where she actually occurs. None of the first 50 results were for anything close to her first name.

    Coverdill Cole, living in Sussex Co, DE in the 1780s and 1790s appears in exactly one database on He appears by other spellings of his first name in myriad trees and (later in his life path) other databases. I want the sole Delaware database entry.

    Search parameters:
    Coverdill (exact); Cole (exact); lived in: Delaware, USA (exact). Search results: Your Search for Coverdill Cole returned zero good matches.

    “Lived in” must be exact to exclude trees and to retrieve the desired Delaware databases.

    What does one have to do to get the search engine to find the Delaware database entries?

  58. Carol A. H.

    Jade #60: I suggest writing the presentation outline and posting it in the learning-center, with a prominent link to it from the Search tab.”

    You have a good idea. Let me expand it, a little. It would be great to see an outline IN ADVANCE of the webinar. I know questions could then be organized by viewers better. Of course the Q and A part can’t be done in advanced—unless it is fixed! (ie: They plan it ahead of time, regardless of our real questions.)

    So far, I haven’t had any hardware/software problems with the webinars. So I’m lucky in that respect.

  59. Jerry Bryan

    Re: Jade #62.

    I searched for your Lurana* Hudson in Delaware (all exact) from the Old Search global search page. I got your two matches (well, there were three matches listed, but two of them were really the same with a husband/wife and wife/husband listing for the same marriage record). And I got no false positives at all. As nearly always, Old Search works really well.

    I then searched for your Lurana* Hudson in Delaware, USA (all exact) from the New Search global search page and got zero matches. It’s very strange. I can’t figure out how to get your results of 11,177 matches.

    In any case, I shouldn’t have gotten 0 matches. It’s hard to know if 0 matches or 11,177 matches is more confounding.

    Finally (and just on a lark), I turned off exact altogether. I got 1,643,176 matches. One of your desired matches was in the top 50, but it wasn’t very close to the top. Your other desired match was not in the top 50. One of your matches was very hard to find in all the clutter. Your other match was not found.

    This is why I use exact search except for a really extreme situation maybe once or twice a year. Numerous failed attempts to use ranked search have convinced me that it’s 99.99% useless.

    I’ve had pretty decent luck with at least some of my exact searches from New Search. Your example makes me question the wisdom of ever using New Search for anything.

    For your Coverdill Cole, my results are similar. Old Search finds him just fine, just like it always does. And as you say, New Search exact on his name and the location of Delaware doesn’t find him. That’s another argument for never using New Search again.

    But then I did the following. I looked for Coverdill Cole, exact name and no location. There were 4 public member photographs, one public member story, and what I believe is your one correct database. Obviously, New Search cannot handle the location information correctly. That’s probably one factor in causing the ranking algorithm to fail so badly.

  60. Laura Dansbury

    #39: Thank you for sharing your searching tips. I am sure you helped many people with your specific examples.
    #47: I sent your question about the thousands of new leaves in your tree to the product manager for FTM 2010.
    #50: The webinar will be recorded and archived. It will be available in the Learning center for viewing at any time for no cost.
    #51: Thanks for the welcome. I appreciate your feedback and I am looking into the examples you describe. Can you provide more details on your #1 example about search parameters disappearing. Please email me directly at the email address listed in my bio above. Thank you.
    #54: Thank you very much for the insightful and specific examples about your preferences regarding search form setup. That is very helpful.
    #55: I suggest that you search within specific categories and specific data collections when you are looking for something as precise as the Pensacola City Directory. There are more specific data fields in the forms designed for a category or data collection than a general search. This might be a good place to start: You may also want to try browsing through

  61. Carol A. H.

    I just received by email a “newsletter” from ancestry. Mention is made of some of the subjects that will be addressed on Wednesday during the webinar.

    Here is what I received:

    Best Strategies for Searching
    Session Start Time: Wednesday, 14 October 2009, 8:00 PM Eastern (New York)

    With 4 billion records available on, discovering your family’s story is easier than ever. Join our experts as they teach you the best ways to search for—and find—your ancestors. You’ll learn:
    Types of information to include in your searches
    How to use names and locations effectively in your searches
    How to use Hot Keys and Search Forms to refine your searches
    What to do when you find a record
    How to add alternate information and updates to your ancestors’ records
    And more . . .


    I don’t think it is possible to cover everything unless it’s an on-going webinar that will have lots of sessions, like taking a college course. We all have so many different situations in our research that one technique is not the answer. One size does not fit all, as the saying goes. And what is really confounding is two people can try the same method and get different results. There must be more going on that we don’t know about. I just wish Ancestry would listen to us, the users.

  62. Cheryl Singleton

    I can’t find anywhere else to post this suggestion to – so here “tis”:
    I have been a subscriber for many years – both to, FamilyTreemaker, etc. and have been researching and lecturing for 30 years plus — The four greatest improvements for in my opinion would be:
    1) Give a larger space for transcribing documents on the Tree; i.e., some documents – wills, pension applications, etc. need a lot more horizontal space than is allowed;
    2) As in Family Tree Maker, one should be able in to show the relationship between two persons without having to go back to Family Tree Maker to do so;
    3) If there are duplicates in — pls let us know so we can fix same – and lastly,
    4) Why, when adding relatives in a census download, does not show “close” names rather than adding a “brand new person” when in reality it was the same one, only spelled differently? This causes numerous errors by adding a bunch of siblings or spouses that are the same individual.
    thanks much
    Cheryl; San Diego, CA

  63. Andy Hatchett

    Cheryl Re:# 69

    Items 2, 3, and 4 all depend on the online trees function being a true genealogy program.

    The problem is that it isn’t, and was never intended to be, a genealogy program.

    It is nothing more than a display application.

    My personal opinion is that adding more than one person at a time, either to an online tree or to a genealogy program, is quite simply an invitation to duplication errors and should be avoided at all costs as it usually takes more time to find and fix the duplications that it would have taken to add them individually as you research each individual.

  64. Jerry Bryan

    Re: Cheryl #69

    I find your message to be very interesting for several reasons.

    Despite my complaints and whinings, I think is a great resource and I have great sympathy with all the conflicting requirements they try to satisfy simultaneously. (Just why did they have to invent a New Search that was so bad? grin!)

    You are clearly the kind of high quality researcher that should listen to. But you illustrate one of several kinds of divides that separate users. I’m in the camp that doesn’t maintain my tree on at all. So your suggested improvements don’t apply to me at all.

    There are several reasons, but the following will illustrate. About 10 years ago when my youngest daughter was still in high school, she and a bunch of her friends got big time into posting a bunch of information online. They found free online space at, and used it as sort of a “Facebook Lite” – Facebook itself not yet having been invented yet. My daughter spent hundreds of hours typing stuff in, scanning photographs and posting them online, etc. Then one day, “poof!” it was all gone. There was no way to backup my daughter’s site.

    Something similar happened to me. My primary private E-mail account is on (now they call it Microsoft Live, but the address is still I had archived hundreds of genealogy E-mails out there. And one day, “poof!” and they were all gone. Well, when I signed on I could see all my old E-mails, but when I tried to open any of them they were all empty.

    I know cloud computing is all the rage (and putting your tree on is an example of cloud computing), but I don’t trust it as far as I can throw it. I have two prime examples from my own family to justify this distrust.

    At the same time, I hear really sad stories all the time about somebody whose computer crashed and they thereby lost 20 years of genealogical research. So just keeping your data on your own computer is not the solution to any real or perceived lack of reliability in the cloud.

    I keep everything on my own home computer (including my E-mail archives), and then I back up my computer a zillion different ways. I have backups that are in the house, that are not in the house, and that are on the Internet. It’s hard work, but it’s the only thing that works for me. Other very reasonable people may have conflicting opinions about how to secure their data.

    But the bottom line for is that they are going to get hit from two different directions about the trees, by people like me who don’t use the trees at all and by other users for whom the trees are central to their research. I don’t envy their task.

  65. Carol A. H.

    I just talked on the telephone to a support person at Ancestry regarding the “Member Connect Activity” box on my home page. I wanted to delete half of the items in it because they are not my people and never have been. (There are a few items that do apply to my people which I would like to keep, for now.)

    I was told I could delete ALL the items or none, but I couldn’t select part of them to trash.

    I was advised to send an email to them. In my experience this accomplishes nothing. Anybody got any suggestions?

  66. Carol A. H.

    To Jerry Bryan, post # 71

    Excellent post, as usual. I know you don’t keep your tree(s) on Ancestry. I always look forward to anything you have to write. I have bookmarked your web page. Your advice can’t be repeated too often, as new users and members of ancestry totally trust the site and should be advised not to do that.

    As I have written, I keep my database on my computer at home, and in other places, and after every session, I backup, (and sometimes during). I also keep some trees on Ancestry for those who may be searching for the same people, to help them. I have many more folks on my home computer than on Ancestry so I fall between the two groups you mentioned.

    I also experienced a loss of many valuable emails when I had AOL. Their support people in trying to help me with a program problem, managed to delete all my emails, favorite sites, and contacts. I learned my lesson the hard way.

  67. Ginny1997

    I agree with Cheryl Singleton. There are many people with same!! names and date of births that don’t!!!! connect they just add a new individual. Making FOLLOWING YOU ANCESTRY VERY VERY CONFUSING!!!!!!!!

  68. Andy Hatchett

    Ginny Re:#74

    There is only ONE way for duplicates to show up in either an Ancestry Member Tree or in FTM…

    The person at the keyboard has to take some action to cause it- period.

    I strongly suggest the following methodology.

    1). When you find a person of interest that you think belongs in your tree then research that person to be sure they actually do belong there.

    2). Having determined that they really do belong in your tree then check the persons in your tree to see if this person, their parents, their spouses, or their children are already in your tree.

    3). If a family member of the person is already in your tree and the person is not then manually enter the person and their data and attach them to the correct family member.

    Granted, using this methodology will not build you a 5,000 person tree overnight- but it *will* insure that there are no duplicates and that each person in your tree has been properly researched and verified.

  69. Marcus

    I hate to state the obvious, but it would be greatly helpful to search only within a particular State. 99% of my family has lived in the same state. No its not california.

  70. You keep making so many changes; why mess with success? I think you have too many cooks ruining the broth. Go back to the simple way for our old searchers, like me. I am 81.

  71. Jeff Ford

    >Even if your person lived in one country all of his life, there may someone outside his country who shares most of his vital information and therefore records about that other person rank high in global search.

    I’m sorry, but that is a copout. Fix it!

    Why are foreign (outside the U.S.) sources even included in a search that is supposed to “Give priority to US Collections?” I find your solutions to our problems amazing. It is your company and engineers that build the databases and the search algorithms. Ancestry could fix it if they really wanted to.

    Laura, I am sorry. I don’t feel Ancestry cares.

  72. Jade

    Marcus, your wish in #76 is shared by many.

    There was some feedback on inability to do this in Anne Mitchell’s first couple of posts regarding New Search.

    As noted above for the Nth time, the New Fuzzy Search User Interface handles place-specific searches rather badly. And as noted in the aforesaid user-feedback posts, is somehow unable to eliminate ridiculously extraneous material even from the US-State database lists — indicating that there is a problem entering the right code for the platform Search Engine to differentiate between a database that is “about” a State, a database that mentions a word that is the same as a State’s name in one or more entries, and a word-same-as-State in a database title.

    Thus, for example, the list of State-of-Delaware databases includes at least one about the Lenni-Lenape (“Delaware Indians”), items about Forks of the Delaware (PA/NY), items about places on the Delaware River (such as Northampton Co, PA). Along with hordes of New England databases, immigration records (there aren’t any *for* Delaware), and probably still the pictures of NY passenger ships, Manitoba obituaries, and so forth. The items for larger States are even more horrendous.

    This fundamental programming problem seriously hampers searchers, particularly those who unwittingly keep trying to use New Fuzzy Search User Interface because that is the default and switching to Old Search is enabled only in obscure places.

    Overall, it would be helpful if the “Search Tips” webinar would address this and the other basic indexing/programming flaws, for those attempting useful searches.

  73. Robert Esch

    Ancestry must be pretty cozy with the “New Enhanced Image Viewer” because each day its noisy ad appears again. So I calmly go to the underlined “continue without downloading” and wait for my chance to get back to the search I started before I was so rudely interrupted. Does anyone else besides me get infuriated about this “unsolicited commercial?”

    Also, I am still waiting for the promised improvements in the pre-1880 census that would allow me to add entire families to my tree in one fell swoop, without having to add one individual at a time. It is such a waste of my time.

    I am also waiting for missing images for certain census years to be corrected. It has been at least 2 years since I first began pointing out the problems with the 1910 census for Johnstown Ward 19, Cambria, PA which has no page 16 available, as well as other missing pages. I was told then that it might take a while for this to be corrected. If I’m lucky I may still be alive by the time the correction is made. I even volunteered to make the correction myself, if I were given the missing page from “Heritage Quest,” but no, that would be too easy.

    I also echo the complaints of Reg in comment #37. It is so frustrating to have to re-enter the data each time the census changes.

    Also, it would be nice if there were a “general forum blog” where people could register their complaints, rather than having to unload in whatever forum is available. Usually after a particular forum closes, there is no chance to get feedback from the community till another forum opens. The community offers valuable suggestions, and I miss hearing about the problems others are having. Thanks for listening. Bob.

  74. Andy Hatchett

    Robert Re: #80

    Also, it would be nice if there were a “general forum blog” where people could register their complaints, rather than having to unload in whatever forum is available. Usually after a particular forum closes, there is no chance to get feedback from the community till another forum opens. The community offers valuable suggestions, and I miss hearing about the problems others are having. Thanks for listening. Bob.

    Why not continue on the appropriate message board( Comments, Member Trees, Suggestions, etc) with a subject heading something like…
    “Ancestry Blog-Best Search Stratigies- #80” ?

    You might even get more people involved as I think more read the message boards than read this Blog.

  75. Andy Hatchett

    They must have tons of them, otherwise the blog and message boards would be overwhelmed… either that or they have a bunch of unhappy customers who don’t complain publicly.

  76. Richard Joel Link

    How do I put my personal notes and stories that I have in another FTM program and have them show up as “sources”?

  77. Andy Hatchett

    Deb Re:#84

    Attendees of the webinar won’t be heard by anyone. I’m sure questions will be submitted and only the Ancestry folks will actually be heard – which is a pity!

    They really need to do a monthly 1hr. live chat like some genealogy programs do.

    It is a great way of getting the real pulse of your customer base.

  78. Richard Davis

    After having read all 80+ comments on this blog, a couple of things are obvious.
    1. New Search is worthless as designed. I certainly have not been able to find anything, repeat underscore, anything using it. I don’t expect to. When a search for Fred Smith in Arkansas turns up as its first (best) match Joe Wroddzyk in New York, who was born 127 years after poor old Fred died, the inescapable conclusion is that the programmers were either drunk or incompetent…or both.
    2. The accuracy of the search is immaterial. In modern corporate America, promotion and raises depend on the managers being able to present full and juicy “Accomplishments” for their annual reviews. By reporting that they have implemented a wonderful “New Search,” program, management is able to get promoted, make more money and advance their careers. Since it is exquisitely obvious that no one in senior management at Ancestry looks at, or cares about, the opinions of the actual users, management is entirely safe in doing this.
    Just wait for what happens when–in quest of their next promotion/raise–they present the “new and improved” version of New Search.
    I have begun searching for a replacement for the entire Ancestry/FTM complex.

  79. Andy Hatchett

    Richard Re:#87

    You know it is bad when the Search seminar itself recommends NOT using the search form that appears on your Home Page!

    It also shows that they know it is bad!

  80. J. Fulmer

    Earlier, in another blog, Anne inferred that Ancestry is incurring extra cost by keeping both search engines available. I’m sure they had intended by now to have “retired” the old search form. And I worry that they still might do it.


  81. Re # 89


    I strongly believe that if Ancestry ‘retire’ the old search, while the new search is almost unusable – they will also ‘retire’ a great many of their paying customers.

    Take a look at The Genealogist site, OK it’s only UK but they allow an occupation search on census records – and it works 🙂

    Another UK site is Find My Past, which beat Ancestry to the 1911 UK census, they have a great simple search engine – KISS is a great way to go.


  82. Katherine Dinsmore

    I watched the webinar last night with a friend, and we tried to use the hot key functions you mentioned. As yet, we have not been able to figure out how this works. We found the subject matter interesting, but feel you did not go into enough detail or show examples of how the hot keys work. We listened to that part of the webinar again and still are experiencing difficulty. Thank you for any information you can give.

  83. Elmor C. Stephens

    I have been a member for almost 2 years which equals about $400.00 When I believe I am not getting my money worth I will quit and form my own Ancestry co correct all things I don’t have at the cost of 10s of thousands of dollars and get rich. Til then I will glean all I can and keep learning and ask positive questions leaving the negative ones to miserable people I think is by fair a Quality product for the money. Not perfect but til I know everything I will keep my mouth shut. E.C. {Buddy Stephens

  84. Andy Hatchett

    Elmor Re:# 93

    I’ll agree that Ancestry is, overall, a great bargin; I have no quibble with the money involved.

    We differ, however, on it being a quality product. The constant problems of new rollouts of any feature breaking some other features is more than adequate proof that their Quality Control is either lacking or missing entirely.

    At one point someone from Ancestry mentioned they had “over 100” beta testers… and seemed proud of the fact! They should have at least 10 times that many to do any meaningful testing at all.

  85. Judy Roush

    I just uploaded FTM 2010 and saw this notification a couple of days too late, but I’m really hoping you will repeat it. I’d like to attend the next one. Thanks, Judy

Comments are closed.