Posted by Laura Dansbury on May 6, 2010 in Website

With feedback and beta testing from members, we’re working on updates to many areas of search. Our newest update enhances the category pages.  The forms themselves on the category pages haven’t changed and will continue to work in the familiar way.  But we’ve made several enhancements in the content surrounding the forms.  The new features you’ll see include:

  • A revised introduction to explain the category
  • The ability to narrow your search to a subcategory
  • Featured data collections to help you find more content
  • More help information
  • More background information about category topics
  • Sample images
  • Search tips

Below is an example of the new Birth, Marriage &  Death category page.  We have updated all of our category pages in a similar style.   You can find them by hovering over the search button and clicking on the links in the drop down or by scrolling below the search form on the search homepage.

Here’s a bit more information about each area of the category pages.

Narrow by category

If you are looking for more specific records such as Marriage and Divorce records, now you can narrow your search by clicking on the “narrow by category” links on the right column. These links let you further narrow your search to a smaller set of records.

Featured data collections

If you want to try browsing into a collection or search specific collections, this area gives you links to popular and updated data collections.  Seeing the featured data collections may also give you new ideas about what to search for next.

More help

If you need some ideas, the help links can lead you to new search strategies or help explain a new record type. 

Sample Images

If you are not sure what to expect from a category record, you can see a sample image to get you started.  Even if your ancestors are not in some of these categories of records, you can see some records for famous people to help you understand what the categories contain.

Search Tips

Read this section to get tips that can lead you to more relevant search results.  This section is designed for both new and experienced genealogists.

Access to Category pages from New Search Homepage

These new category pages are just the beginning of updates and new features on search.  You can see a  preview of more updates on our microsite.

I really hope you like the revised category pages, available in new search only, and find them informative and easy to use.

Laura Dansbury


  1. Andy Hatchett

    Good job Laura, they get a lot more info upfront than the old pages and that can only help make searching better- especially for the newbies.

  2. Scott Wilson

    The old search forms allowed you to request exact matches on individual categories such as race, sex, lived in, born, ect. and gave you a number of matches. The new form has an all inclusive exact match button which adds to number of matches and does not indicate the number of matches you have to go through. I liked the old form better due to allowing you to cut down on the number of matches. I would also like to request possibly looking into a couple of areas for improvement. If I run a census search on an ancester and my file has saved to it a match in the; hypothetically, 1900 and 1910 census, can you not filter the returns to exclude 1900 and 1910 census matches from my result page? Also, if I find a match and add it to my file I have to go completely through the search process to get back to where was to continue searching?

  3. Jeff Ford

    Great addition. But I have one comment about some of the pictures. Is there a way to make them “pop” out or larger in some way? The detail that Ancestry is trying to point when they use pictures is lost because the pictures are too small.

  4. Laura Dansbury


    #2: Thank you for the input. The flow of clicks when you add a record to your tree is something we are re-examining.
    #3: The blog photos do not get larger. The sample images on the category pages do get larger when you click on them.

  5. R Mason

    I would like to see the new additions which are about 90% German or French and not readable by most of us to be put in to a seperate file folder. Then if someone wants to search these items they could click on a German language folder or French language folder and search. If this is not possible then could the English language serachable indexes be maybe in a different color so they would be easy to spot in the new listings.

    Also it would be nice to be able to search indexes with first names beginning with example A could be seen. Since spelling was at the mercy of the census taker it would help to be able to check out all the names in a given county or city that begin with A and the last name.

  6. Chuck Willford

    Please, let us choose a default “Restrict To” block.
    Every time it reverts back to ALL FOUR blocks checked. When you doing updating in a specific area, you do not need or want the other information. I think I have unchecked those blocks at least 30,000 times in the last year!!!!!!!

    Chuck Willford

  7. Chuck Willford


    “NEW SEARCH” needs to be relocated. The distance from that choice to the search button is almost completely diagonal to each other. I think my mouse has travel 100,000 page inches!


  8. Robin Bittner

    My question isn’t directly related to this, but it is related to searching. I have an enormous amount of ancestors who, without moving an inch, became relocated. For instance Lincoln County Maine was subdivided into Knox and Waldo counties. I have relatives in West Virginia, who also without moving were living in Virginia. Is is better for searching to leave the ‘old’ location, or change where they lived to the ‘new’ location? Thank you.

  9. Nancy

    Robin #8, this sounds like a really good time to use the new place filter “Restrict to Adjacent Counties” which is in Advanced New Search.

    You need to make sure that you use the type-ahead location for the field Lived In (Residence)–when you start typing your county name, choices should come up and you can select your county from them; if you don’t use this, the contiguous county filter will not be available.

    This should provide the search engine with all of the counties that your non-moving relatives were in. I have quite a few Missouri relatives who fit this, and it works well.

  10. Pete Pinckney

    I’ve only been here about a week, and maybe my opinion isn’t valid. I’ll understand if it is dismissed.

    In my opinion, the new changes are a step backward. There once was a feature where I could just type the letter “r” to refine a search. It’s gone.

    I used to be able to float the cursor over “Family Trees” in the top menu bar, and a drop-down list of my trees and any that had been shared with me would appear. That appears to be gone as well.

    When doing a search on historical documents, a special icon would appear beside the items that had already been added to the person in question. This saved the time of unnecessarily looking at them again. That’s gone.

    When doing a basic search, switching to “advanced search” requires that the name be re-keyed. Kind of annoying.

    Sometimes when floating the cursor over a list of references or documents, a pop-up window appears that says “WHOOPS! Sorry we can’t show you this” (or words to that effect). That’s just silly. If you can’t show us something, DON’T. We’re smart enough to figure that out on our own. Maybe the software was doing that before and I didn’t notice it until all the other changes took place?

    I thought that there was something wrong with my computer when I first noticed all of these changes last night. The look, the feel, the response time gave me the impression that maybe you were running a stripped-down version of the software to conserve resources.

    If this is some kind of an intermediate step or bridge to something much better, you have my blessing. Otherwise, I hope you’ll consider falling back to whatever version of the software was running last weekend.

    I sincerely apologize if this has offended anyone. I’ve had more fun on this site in the past 8 days than anything else I’ve done on the internet in the past 15 years. You really do have a good thing going here and I believe that it is an important service. I wish you all well.

  11. Clyde Gallop

    I REALIZE THIS INS NOT A COMMENT ON THE ARTICLE BUT THIS COMMENT IS IMPORTANT TO EVERYONE SO PLEASE USE IT THANK YOU.I noticed a person asking how to get started and while Jana Porter’s suggestion is excellent there needs to be more depth in the easy steps. I have now 40 and a half years looking into my tree with almost 56,000 names entered to date here on Ancestry (if I add repeat lines probably close to 100,000 names over 500 lines)using over 1,000 sources Here are some steps needed 1. Start as early as possible in your life so that older generations can help you out. 2. Ask parents, grand parents, or aunts ,uncles, cousins from earlier generations. 3. let the elders talk so you can get stories about past generations. 3. look for Bibles, letters, 4. Yes use Ancestry from the beginning to organize your records and use the 5 generation charts. 6. Photocopy the pages and title pages from each source you use if at all possible and start listing the sources like a bibliography. 7. Find old portraits whenever possible and ask for a copy only never the originals unless they are given to you., Make copy negatives for you and the person who lent you the portrait. 8. Go to cemeteries and copy info from grave stones. 9. Look for deeds, wills marriages deaths as much as you can for each person, copy these records and their source. 10. Treat research like a detective and think of strategies to search records. 11. Learn how to completely read a record as it may contain hidden valuable information that can help you out. Example in a will if the wife’s maiden name is not mentioned pay attention to the witnesses or executor as there are many times some of her family will witness the will. 12. Whenever you find where your ancestor is located look at who owned farms or who lived in the nearby area as in many cases people who were neighbors did marry. 13. Rest assured cousins of various degrees did marry and you will find double or more relationships further back in the tree. 14. never be bashful to ask others for help because seasoned researchers in many cases are only too glad to help tutor you and give you pointers as they help you out. 15. When in say an archives politely ask people what lineages they are researching because as you gain more expertice you will find you will share doing research at times. 16. Get names and addresses of everyone you meet while doing research and you can share emails etc. 17. Join genealogical/historical societies because this is another contact and way of sharing to get information. 18. Never publish too early as you will find yourself finding so much more than you realize. I have not published and it has been 40 years since I began but when I do publish I am hoping my research will benefit so many people and be more complete. 19. No matter how much you find always be willing to correct errors as more accurate information is found. I have found most of the time I have had a better lineage than first thought. You will be correcting and editing no matter how advanced you become in genealogical research.20. While internet information has greatly improved to make research faster ALWAYS VERIFY THE SOURCES AND THE INFORMATION AND CORRECT IT WHEN YOU CAN.
    These are but 20 steps from a well seasoned research and I hope they will help everyone. If you can please put these into the magazine and on this web site to help others Feel free to contact me as well.

  12. Mary Beth Marchant

    I will echo what poster Peter Pinckney said. For some reason, hovering my curser over the family tree link does not work any more. I have to click on that and it brings up my trees but prior to the “so-called” updates, this option was working fine.So,yes, a giant step backwards, My question is why? Why does anything new added mess up something else. It always does. And while I am at it, when all these changes were going on during the week, research was wonky at best and at worst, just not working at all and there was no where at all on the blog, on the home page, on anything to let us know this. It JUST WAS NOT WORKING RIGHT!. My question again is why was there not some type of heads up about this. We were just left to guess, gripe and complain. is not customer friendly in my opinion.

  13. If anyone had bothered to look at their Home Page they will see the following in the Family Tree section thereof:

    Family Tree
    The Tree tool is temporarily unavailable

    Your family tree is just fine. Due to technical issues, we’ve temporarily removed the family tree tool. Thank you for your patience. Visit your tree now.

    That is the reason nothing shows when you hover onve that section of the menu bar.

    It is a technical issue- much like the Media Gallary being unavailable right now.

  14. Herbert horton

    I persnally prefer the previous search format set-up. I think it was simpler to use and think ancestry should let us opt for either or I beleive they will begin losing participants.

  15. Winfred

    Why did you take out the “Race” line. I am searching for my family in North Carolina and it would seem that there are millions with the same exact names who are both black and white (I am black)from NC. The Race line helped define the search and when I saw “white” I knew immediately for most of my family (not all) that this wasn’t the person I was looking for. This way I didn’t waste time. I’m curious as to the logic behind removing it?

  16. Winfred


  17. worshacf

    I personally prefer the previous search format set-up. I think it was simpler to use, I find the “Default” or “Restrict To” is more cumbersome to use than the previous box to check. Also, when searching with the new method, there is no way to get back to the group of people again after the one person has been inspected and found to be the wrong one.

    Also, I too am annoyed that “Race” checkoff box has been removed. Most of my searches involve names who could match several different ethnic origins. That feature saved me a lot of time looking at each and every person with the same last name.

    One more thing, we’re doing ancestor genealogy work, i.e., 1930 backward, how does movie and sound track media fit into our effort, as those technologies wern’t around back then? Having that showing on the profile of my ancestors takes up valuable space that I could be adding specialized and useful information in the description box.

  18. Deb H

    How does one access the map of the US to “browse by location”? I took the “virtual tour” offered in Tony Macklin’s post of a couple weeks ago, and the US map was on the “Search” home page. I’m using New Search and my Search home page looks nothing like it the demo. I’m looking for the clickable map that will bring up resources specific to each state. Can anyone help? I’m attempting to be adventurous and try out the “new” New Search before I decide whether to cancel my subscription.

  19. The tour was only a demo of what is being proposed and was a mock up only – it isn’t live yet as they want to evaluate the comments from the tour and perhaps change some things based on those comments.

  20. AnoniaC

    Oh How I long for the ways of old when I could find things at what now seems the speed of light.

  21. Pete Pinckney

    From what I’m seeing, it appears that we’ve gone back to the old search format.

    Thank you!

  22. Laura Dansbury

    #1 – Thank you Andy
    #11 – Excellent advice
    #15 & 17 – Perhaps you are not in a data collection that offers race as a choice. The race field has not been removed from the main search form. The exact check box is also still available.
    #10 & 17 – From the search results page, you can use the “R” key or click “Edit Search” on the right side column to modify your search without using the back key to get back to the form.
    #18 – The map is a demo and a preview of what we are working on.

  23. Deb H

    Oh well…back to “old search” where browsing resources by state is still possible. I really wanted wanted to use New Search and am surprised that such an already-existing function isn’t readily available. It didn’t even remotely come up even when I tried the “help” menu – no mention on how to access in either old or new search. Shouldn’t the help function be “universal” to Ancestry?

  24. Winfred

    I’m assuming that was a Beta screen that I encountered the other night/early morning as it was different from the regular search screen that is back now. It was that screen that didn’t have the “race” line. Either way I’m glad the old is back. Again, great site! Thanks as this site is greatly appreciated.

  25. Bob Wilson

    I agree with Mr. Pinckney on most points. With over 30 years in the IT industry I have written and consulted on search programs. I don’t understand how when searching James Tignor I can get a hit on Jan as in 4 Jan 1827. The other day I searched John Barnes from my FTM 16 and got over 5 million hits. Most of the ones I checked had nothing to do with him. Also, you get hits on all the James and John. I would suggest you examine your parameters and hire a good consultant. More is not better. Provide parameters, as have been suggested by others, that will help to narrow the search and exclude previous found records.

  26. Karis

    Would you suggest starting with Family Tree Maker or an Ancestry on line tree? Is there any benefit to having a practice tree or should you just make corrections as you go. It seems like photos move up from Family treemaker to ancestry but not the reverse?

  27. greg t

    NEW SEARCH in my opinion still needs to be put in a lockable box along with OWT, put on a shelf in some dark dingy cavern on the moon to collect dust in the vast quantities it spits out results and the key throw in the deepest crevice preferable with volcanic properties under the deepest part of the deepest ocean.

  28. Edwina

    Oh dear, I haven’t done any research for a few days or more and everything seems to be changing again. Cumbersome would be my description. I am so glad I completed the bulk of my research a few months ago when it was quicker and simpler then.

    I am very pleased with the depth and scope of your records but CHANGE DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL PROGRESS.

    Could you look into changing the way items in the Shoebox are deleted? When I delete an item I am always returned to Page 1 and I would like the choice to stay on my current page.

  29. BEE

    If an ethnic name is badly written on a census, and transcribed even worse, people are impossible to find regardless the “search” and all those “filters”. Sometimes the only way I’ve found someone is “the old fashioned way” – with a page by page search of a particular district or even whole county!
    I finally found a family I was searching for on the 1900 PA census. I first tried both old search/new search with the name of each family member that I knew from the father’s obituary, using their ethnic given name, their “Americanized” name and anything else I could think of, with and without their surname, which was written differently on each census, and one of those names that can very easily be written incorrectly, and usually was, depending on what the enumerator heard, and finally, one of the given names showed up in the “old search” list. I definitely find it far easier to search by “first name only” in “old search” then in “new search”.
    I then looked for this family on the 1910 census, using both old search/new search, now having the names of formerly unknown family members from the 1900 census, but no luck. I then searched the district where they was living on the 1900 census – again, “the old fashioned way”, and I believe that I have found them, even with a lot of conflicting information.
    The surname on the census was written with a Y instead of a J, looking somewhat like it sounds. The father’s first name was close – it’s one of those Polish names with no comparable “American” translation, and misspelled a dozen different ways. Three children that were on the 1900 census are listed here, one by the diminutive of his “American” name, the second still using her “Polish” name, which was not known until I found the 1900 census, because she used an “American” name on future census, that happened to start with the same initial. The third child was recorded by “her” Polish name, but if it’s the right family, “she” is actually a “he”, which I’ve seen happen a number of times in my family, and would like to know how that can be corrected, since it’s not on the “alternate” list for “updates”?

  30. Bee,

    Was the person actually listed as a she but was really a he or was he merely mis-transcribed as a she?

    If actually listed as the wrong gender on the original document then obviously no change should be made but the mistake can be noted in the comments tab on the right hand side of the the document next to the source tab.

    If the sex was mis-transcribed I’d add an alternate “americanized” name and not the error about the sex there.

  31. BEE

    Hi Andy, in the case of an uncle on the 1920, and my Mom on the 1930 census, they were both listed as the wrong gender on the census.
    In this particular case that I wrote about above, I don’t know if it’s the right person. Besides the similarity of the man’s name, that of his widowed mother and those three children, some of the information is so conflicting – as well as the information that I found on the next census – again, with my “page by page” search, I have no way of knowing if this is the family I’m looking for, but thank you for answering my question.

  32. Pete Pinckney

    Re: Mr. Hatchett, #22

    I didn’t consciously switch to or from anything. Maybe that’s the real problem here. I’m not a very experienced user of this site and may not be picking up on some of the subtleties. All I know is that what had been familiar to me and working well for almost a week suddenly went away on May 6th, and no matter what I tried I couldn’t get it to work the “old way.”

    I didn’t find a single piece of useful information during the three or four day span that the “new search” was running. So I just used and instead.

    I can also tell you this, when you’re viewing a family member’s profile here, there are three possible places you can click to begin a search. #1) that’s too many, and #2) it’s not clear that they might give you differing interfaces or results. I never saw an option for “new search” or “old search.” Again, maybe I’m blind, but I am a competent web user, a programmer, and like Bob Wilson (#27) I am an IT professional with 26 years of experience–NOT one year of experience repeated 26 times.

    People like consistency. The fewer options you present, the better. It also limits the number of snakes you have to chase through the bushes if your support staff is trying to de-bug a problem. If I was having difficulty with it, I can guarantee you that the average user was as well.

    Everything is back to normal now, I’m still pleased with the experience of “being” here.

  33. Pete,

    If you click Search in the main menu bar and select Search All Records the page that comes up has the toggle for switching between OldSearch and NewSearch. It is at the top right just below the “Hire an Expert” and right next to “Add to Quick Links”. If it shows “Old Search” that means you are in New Search and need to click that link to switch to Old Search- and vice versa.

  34. Sherry

    I was invited to try the “new search experience” and provide an opinion.

    When I joined a few years ago, I could find records quickly. With every “enhancement” this becomes more and more difficult.

    I wish ancestry would stick to content and spend less time trying to draw in new customers by a bazillion meaningless search results.

    With the family search pilot site catching up, (as an example, BC images of births are online, I traced my Vincer family in England through their site none of which is available on ancestry – and this is a free service), you should concentrate on adding meaningful records and fixing indexes.

    Your search engine worked fine a year or so ago. I fit ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    All being said, I value the information that you provide. Can you imagine having to do this on foot?

    Many thanks for all that you do.

  35. Chuck Willford

    Regarding #6 and #7 above.

    I switched back to old search to see what difference there is in the maintenance searching I’m doing. By using the old search, I get the default “restrict to”; since, it has a “Historical tab”. But I cannot restrict to Canadian files only. The mouse travel distance and clicks are fewer with old the right census’ come first.

    So, if the “restrict to” blocks would default to the last use and not all blocks; I think most people would get a better first search result.

    Chuck Willfor

  36. Nancy Ann Norman

    I AM COMPLAINING!!! I THOUGHT ANCESTRY.COM WOULD WORK WITH AQ A LOT BETTER THAN THEY ARE. When you change pages around you all have knocked out, us that use AQ to access, and we are no longer a prority? Please put us back on priority. I am really angry, what am I paying for anyway?

    Update! 5-13-10 It is our understanding that made some changes around April 22, 2010 that caused this page to be removed from their site. As of May 13, 2010, this is a statement we received from “[] says they are not getting any significant complaints about this problem, so they are not planning on fixing this in the immediate future. They will prioritize this fix if some customers complain.” If you are a subscriber to, and you want to use this feature in the future, you will need to complain to loudly enough to get their attention.

  37. Andy Hatchett


    Since when did Ancestral Quest *ever* a priority status with Ancestry?

    This is the first I’ve heard of it.

    Since they make FTM I’m surprised they would consider another software package to be a priority.

  38. J. Fulmer

    Despite all these “improvements” the “Old Search” engine is still the best! Least confusing to use and consistently gives the most relevant results.

    Now I see you’re promoting some type of “hybrid” engine between “Old Search” and very poorly received “New Search” introduced a few months back.

    It’s going to be a shame when you dump “Old Search”, which you seem insistent on doing, one way or another. Pity!

  39. portalberni

    Me, too. I absolutely DON’T like the changes to the searching historical document feature. As it was, I could be on the person’s page, click on “search historical documents” and matches or possible matches would pop up in various categories and, if I had already added them to a person, it would be checked. Now, when I click on “search historical documents”, I get a list of categories, and more lists, and more etc etc. Being extremely new to this searching and to this site, I find that I am spending hours just trying to figure out where I want to begin looking for a name. Has sure taken a lot of the fun and excitement out of doing this research and added a ton of frustration.

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