Over the next few weeks, we’ll be making a number of changes to the new search forms. We hope to make searches more flexible, and in response to your feedback we have improved some searches that were hard to do. You can get a sneak preview of some of these at the search update guided tour which you can find at Tour of Upcoming Changes.
This week, we’ve launched the first of these changes to the forms, which provides some new ways to enter details of family members into your search.
There are two main differences:
- We’ve split the names from just one name box into two, supporting first name and last name. This can be really important if you’re searching for a marriage record and don’t know the maiden name of the spouse.
- We’ve added in the ability to simply add more relationships based on what you know, for example if you know multiple siblings – this helps to quickly create a really powerful search query.
One more thing. If you are using advanced search we’ll also allow you to select exact for either the first or last name of a mother or a father.
To find this, you need to click the “Tell us more to get better results” link at the bottom of the search form
If you click on that link, you will see under “Lived In (Residence) and Marriage Info, the Family Member section:
You will see that you can choose from Father, Mother, Spouse, Child or Sibling. To add more than one, click the “Add Row” box.
If you are in advanced search, you also can choose Exact Only on Father or Mother. Remember if you choose exact only, the record must have that value — so if a record doesn’t have a Father in it and you choose it as exact, then we won’t return it.
You will also find this update on all family member areas on category and data collection forms.
Vital Records often have wonderful relationship data in them — specifying family members in your search query will help us narrow down the results we give you.
Lets say you have one of those common ancestor names, William Smith, and you are trying to find out who he married. You start at the Birth, Marriage and Death form and you are in the advanced form, because you like to take advantage of our name filters.
You enter William as a first name, and set the filters to “exact, phonetic, similiar and initials” because you know William has a lot of variations.
You enter Smith as a last name, and set the filters to “exact, phonetic, and similiar”.
You also know that Williams father was named John and his mother’s name was Mary. So you scroll down to where you enter Family Members and enter that information. I recommend that you do not start with exact, you never know which pieces of information are recorded or indexed for family members and it’s a good idea to start with using this information as a way for us to rank records instead of excluding records.
Press “Search” and you’ll see records from everywhere, and over 800,000!
It’s a good time to refine your search and take advantage of our location filter. Press “r” on your keyboard for “refine search”, and let’s say you know William was probably married in Ohio..use the type ahead and start typing ohio:
Select Ohio, USA, then click on “Use default settings” and choose one of the filters, say “Restrict to this place exactly” and perform your search.
Now you have 83 records to look at, which is probably easier to handle. And if you want to drill down to Marriage records, click on the “Marriage & Divorce” link on the right and that is what we shall select for you to look at.
One important caveat here
When we used to search family members, we didn’t search last names, just first and middle names. So we are in the process of indexing all the family member last names on the site. We have over 4 billion records, so it may take us a week or two to get caught up. So if you type in a last name and choose exact and get no results, it means we haven’t indexed family member last names on that collection yet. I’ll let you know when we are caught up.