Posted by Ancestry Team on November 16, 2010 in Website

Over the course of this year, we have been making incremental changes to our new search forms in response to your comments and suggestions. We’ve added name and place filters and changed the way you could do searches that included family members.

You’ll find we’ve modifed the search forms just a bit to make entering that information just a bit easier.

The updated form may not look that different, but the difference is all in the “Add an Event”:

Click on “Add an Event” and you will see a list of other events you can quickly add to your search. These events aren’t cluttering up the form if you don’t need them, but when you do want to use them in a search, they are just a click away.

Category and Subcategory Forms

You’ll also notice some changes on category and subcategory forms.

Previously when you looked at the Birth, Marriage and Death Category the search form was a bit long and even in advanced didn’t give you the granularity around dates that many researchers would like to have.

So we tightened up the form, and where we’ve got it indexed, we allow you to do searches with days and months instead of just years:

Data Collection Search Forms

Over the last couple of years talking to our members on the boards, blogs and at conferences, one of the most requested changes to new search was specifically in the Social Security Death Index. You wanted to be able to search by Day Month and Year. You now can, in either simple or advanced mode:

Any Event

You may have noticed the “Any Event” option on some of these forms. Sometimes you don’t know for sure exactly how the event was listed. If you enter a year or location into an “Any Event” search field, we will look for any event that is about person you are searching for: birth, death, military, you name it.

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the forms.

Happy Searching!


  1. Virginia

    Could you give an example of a return regarding this new searching…my main objection to all forms of the new search is now and always has been in the scrolling issues one must do … old search returned its searches in a compact manner…all on ONE page.

    Thank you.


  2. MikeF

    The thing with searching for vital records is that you need the databases to search. Ancestry has fallen down horribly in this respect as far as digitizing new state level vital collections. I guess Acom is just waiting until when/if FamilySearch hands something new over.

    And the same with keeping databases up to date, especially death certificate collections where generally each year another year is opened to the public.

  3. MikeF Re: #4

    State vital records just don’t fall into a company’s lap to put online. Where State vital records are concerned you’ll find more and more states refusing to allow access to companies as they are either placing them online themselves or using such records for a revenue source.

    There is one state Ancestry has been trying to negotiate with for 5+ years and still no agreement.

  4. Tom

    I notice a lot of the census records show up almost totally white that used to be very readable. Now you can’t even read them. I have some of the images on my pc that I downloaded before they changed the formats of the images and these same images in the old formats are very readable. You can’t even fix them with photo editing. This all started when they started changing the viewing system. It’s the same thing on different browsers even IE.

  5. colleen browne

    If it actually looked like this–which it used to– I would be happy (and have been). But it doesn’t. I used to get it looking like this, and now I have a very structured, very hard to negotiate search. I hate it and will probably go elsewhere because this is unusable.

  6. Lee

    I agree with Virginia (#3 comment).
    As I get older (pushing 80), doing all this scrolling gets very complicated. Having everything in summary form — on one page — made locating things so much easier for my aging eyes and mind. Today, if I am looking for someone in the 1930 census, for instance, it takes looking through pages and pages. And being intereupted during all that scrolling by telephones, doorbells, family members, etc. makes it even more difficult.

    But then, I have discovered with many things, there is not much assistance out there for senior people!

  7. Alex

    I agree with Tom’s comment(#6). Further proof of the deterioration of these pages comes in the fact that there are fairly complete indexes for them. The indexes could not have been made if the pages were really as illegible as they now appear on the screen.

  8. Sue Jones

    Having the old search with advance, if needed, was so much better. I agree with #3, also. Just put things in the new databases and have them come up all on one page. We don’t need the mess we get now, trying to scroll through things we don’t need or want.

  9. Judy Williams

    Why, oh, why, can’t I find a birth record for my mother when I know the date, location, and name on her birth certificate which I am reading as I search your records. I went to the card catalog, selected birth records, limited the search to Colorado, in the 1910s with her name specified. What I get then is an ungodly list of databases – none of which is identified as Colorado’s record of births in that decade. WHY DOESN’T THAT WORK ? 🙁

  10. Judy Re: #11

    The reason is that Ancestry can’t show you what it doesn’t have-i.e. Ancestry has no Colorado birth records database.

    Go to card catalog
    put Colorado in title and a list of Colorado databases comes up – none of which includes birth records.

    If you put Colorado in Title and births in keyword you’ll get a message saying no titles found.

    Not all records online- much less online at Ancestry.

  11. Merlyn Gibson

    Agree with #14 the old Search was the best! I am so tired of typing in a Name – Place (exact place) and have the results come up with every state and combination of names in dozens and dozens of pages (50 names to a page), and if I am very lucky my person of interest may be on page 2. The old search brought up the correct person FIRST and if he wasn’t found it said so! Really dislike the new search, the old saying “If it isn’t broke don”t fix it” really applies here!

  12. Nancy Noel

    I agree 200% with comment # 12! You can add all the bells and whistles you want to the SEARCH function– please, give results that even remotely resemble the data I provide in those search fields! I pay a lot of money ( relative to my income) for this service, and every time it’s time to re-up, I wonder why I continue. The frustration level has outreached the satisfaction level. You really are not listening. The subscribers have complained about poor search results for years. It has worsened, not improved.

  13. Yvonne Cooper

    The new search does not seem to have improved anything. I am still getting results starting at 1864 when I ask for 1959 +/- 0 years. It is a big waste of time and download limits.

  14. Carolyn

    There are two old sayings:
    “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” and
    KISS = “Keep It Simple Stupid”

    I have always preferred the “Old Search” results on one page. I’m in total agreement with #3 – #8 – #10 & #14.

    What the programmers think will enhance a search don’t use on a daily basis. But they don’t think that is good enough. I guess by making changes, they do stay employed.

  15. Larry Hayer

    The input form is not a big problem, it’s the report. The report should be arranged by place and date, with the more likely hits first. If I request a North Carolina record showing an 1880 birth date, I don’t want to see 1860 census records or California marriage records.

  16. Patricia LeBeau

    I agree with how difficult ancestry makes searches. If you click on “exact” almost anywhere, they can’t find anything. If you unclick it, you will find exactly what you typed, eventually, in 50 or more pages of “results” that are not even in the same ball park as what I am searching for. Such as “died in 1862” brings up 1930 censuses. Ridiculous, time consuming, and frustrating.

  17. I like the changes and appreciate Ancestry’s efforts. I have confidence that what IS available can be found here. This “low bearing fruit” is just that. We need to do some digging too (for higher fruit.) In this way we become acquainted with our ancestors and don’t just “click and add” their information without thought. For instance, I know that NYC vital records are not public domain at this time, so I have to travel to Manhattan or send for information to acquire death certificates. Same with many cemeteries there. Someday it may be different. For now, I really appreciate the growth of this invaluable site. I’ve been using since it existed. LOVE IT! How about a link to (since you own it now) and Footnote is SO stiff to use. Can’t wait to see what you do with it…

  18. Deloris

    I agree with #6 Tom about the census images.In the past couple of years, they have gotten terrible with this new viewer. While there are a lot of examples occur in earlier census years, it is particularly bad in 1930, where many of the North Carolina images are almost unreadable because they are so light. I have copies of these same pages taken years ago on Ancestry where they are totally legible, which was also when Ancestry had a viewer that allowed one to switch to negative mode making it much easier to see pages that were too light. Why can’t Ancestry fix their images and other things rather than continuing to screw up their search options which usually don’t do anything to improve real searches? I frankly never use anything except their Old Search because of all of the failed changes and just wish Ancestry would do some real testing before making changing to their website.

  19. Carol

    #25 Deloris,
    Can you please tell me how I can still use the old search. I am tired of clicking on info I’ve all ready collected. In the old search they use to identify previously collected data. How can there new searches be better when they are deleting things that helped.

    #6 Tom,
    I have been with Ancestry since it began & have many Census that I have downloaded, they are readable and I agree with you. Things have gotten worse not better. And yes #9 Alex said it all they could not have made the indexes if it where not readable.

    #9 Alex,
    Yes, the indexes could not have been made if the pages where not there or illegible. I have a passenger list taken from an index, this passenger list has two pages. Ancestry failed to scan the first page and the name from the index does not appear on the second page, so there is no name, and it does appear in the index. This particular whole database of California passenger list of 73 pages doesn’t have page the first page. They don’t seem to care. I have told them about this for 4 years and they still have not corrected it. They only say they will pass it on and look into it. As of today Ancestry has never fixed it or gotten back to me.

    Getting very frustrated.
    Have World Deluxe – up for renewal on Dec 8, 2010 – Will not renew World Deluxe just US Deluxe -and who knows next year may cancel

  20. Adele Just

    I was an early subscriber to Ancestry and used it on a daily basis for years. I became too annoyed with the search results to continue a subscription, when I received page after page of irrelevant hits that were not germane to the specific search request that I made. Others have described their similar results here, so I won’t belabor the point. Ancestry also did not sum the number of hits so you would have a sense of how long you would have to scroll through irrelevant hits in the hope of finding specific data. Really poor architecture in the program. I’ll also mention the name / spelling errors of years back that became apparent after the entry and indexing was offshored to people unfamiliar with English/Germanic personal names. Never proofread or fixed, of course! As a profit corporation, Ancestry should have an eye to attracting happy users who continue to subscribe, year after year. But delusion works as well at Ancestry as anywhere else, I imagine. At any rate, I won’t be back–for a long time, or ever–and that reaction multiplies and cuts into the bottom line eventually. Just saying!

  21. Charlotte

    I would like to see Ancestry add the ability to reorganize the returned search — similar to Heritage Quest. Allow the results to be sorted by date, location, etc. Many times I request an exact date and location and the results are in other states, and my sought after result is way down the list.

  22. Deloris

    OK, I’m really p’d off now, because even now the Old Search looks like that awful New Search. What is wrong with you people at Ancestry? Can’t you leave well enough alone? Why would anyone want to get dozens of pages of stuff all thrown together forcing people to look thru all of that garbage to find a census page for any particular year? Why can’t we get a page that groups the lists each type of records separately like we used to? What good is it to get a bunch of gobbly-goop with a list that shows an 1860 census, then a 1910 census, then 1850 census, then NC Death Certificates 1909-1975, then Nash Co. Vital Records (a database which ought to be outlawed in the first place because it is pure junk), then the NC Birth Index 1800-2000, etc.? Why can’t these records be grouped together like before? Will you guys stop trying to “improve” your search engine, and give us some decent freakin’ results!!!

  23. Deloris Re: #29

    Why would anyone looking for a particular type of record do a global search to begin with?

    If you are looking for a particular page of a particular census year why not just go to that particular census and search it?

    That same goes for any other particular type of record.

    You’ll spend less time looking through more pertinent results.

  24. Virginia

    Sometimes ONE is not sure just where and when they are going to find their “objective” and it is VERY convenient to have ALL of the census records appear on ONE page. Then ONE can search through the records and “toggle” back and forth.

    Also, if you find someone in a certain state…you can go back to your initial search results and zooooom into those state records (if available) to go further…

    All of this can be accomplished with just ONE search entry as opposed to the “gazillion” ones that Ancestry wants you to do…and therein is the final objective of Ancestry…prolonging the search attempts equals more subscription renewals.

    And if that doesn’t keep you on their site…oh well, just go to all of those trees they have online…right or wrong…it will keep many of their subscribers happy.


  25. Virginia Re: #31

    Can’t you get all that now by simply choosing “Summarized by catagory” at the top of the search results screen?

    Also note that Deloris wasn’t talking about not knowing; she was talking about a particular page on a particular census year and that that was what I responded to.

  26. Candice

    What happened to the “lived in” residence search bar? I know where the people I search lived at a point in time – I don’t need everyone in the U.S. with the same name to pick through.

  27. Jan Murphy

    Is anyone else using Firefox having difficulty when searching individual collections? I prefer Old Search to New Search, except when I am searching Newspapers and City Directories, because the preview often reveals enough information that I can see at a glance whether I need to look at the page or skip that search result. I am reviewing results from the Massachusetts City Directories and for Massachusetts towns in the US City Directories. I understand that if a particular collection is not indexed for this new “lived in” at year XXXX search then you won’t see any benefit from it — a computer can’t search on an index which is not there. But now I can’t limit my search to the exact town I want. Is this a Firefox problem? @Delores (#29) may think that it is tiresome to wade through disorganized results that one has already seen in order to find new things, but IMHO, not being able to find something that you were able to find before is much worse — “good practice” dictates that one should be able to return to your previous finds or to be able to direct someone else to get there. I’ll test more later with another browser, but it is tiresome to be forced to use IE, and then to be locked out of my account simply because I have both IE and Firefox open on the same computer.

  28. Don

    I have been a customer of Ancestry for many years. I am, in the main, more than satisfied with the money I spend for each yearly subscription. Traveling to all of the different locations to locate the information which is available from Ancestry is not an option due to budget & time restrictions.
    HOWEVER, spending hours almost everyday, looking for information, I get upset, angry, frustrated, & really teeded off over the apparent lack of Ancestry to intelligently, succinctly & clearly place the information requested in a logically precise and clearly defined manner.
    The Ancestry “shotgun” approach to answering queries is at best antiquated and at worst insulting to my understanding of how facts can be presented and are presented on other web sites that produce information from a set of facts.

  29. Bee Re: #39

    While I’ll admit I’ve seen better, I wouldn’t go so far as to call the Missouri, Texas, Dist 98 census images unreadable.

    If you need help with any particular page/entry let me know and I’ll see what I can make out.


  30. Lawrence Huffman

    New search is perhaps simplified, but changes are a step backward, from my use. Example is “Tell us more…Lived in (residence)” was powerful, and could enter more than one location. New format requires entry of this as keywords, which does not work as well, measured by my finding the correct person with new search versus old. “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”

  31. Lawrence Re: #41

    To add multiple locations just click “Add Event”, leave the default “Any Event” and then add a location (date is optional), then just keep adding.

    I don’t know now if there is a limit to the number you can add.

  32. Deloris

    Re #30 Andy-
    Once in a while, I do a global search just to see what is out there, when you do it in Old Search, you don’t get as much garbage as you guys do when you use New Search, and it is orderly. I ordinarily go to a specific database, but sometimes there are databases that I’m not familiar with, or which are new, so it helps to check it out. If you don’t know that, you are not as smart as you think you are.
    Anyway, I found what the problem was, the page had gone back to a default of that didn’t include Exact Matches, which is what I keep checked in Old Search, so I do see that it does seem to work the same as before. I also use wildcards when I search, the transcriptions on some of these records are terrible, I have had to go thru page by page in some cases since some transcriber can’t distinquish a surname like LYNCH from SMITH, or SNEED from SMIT. I do like that one can search by first or last names, and use wildcards by substituting an asterisk * or question mark ? for letters in almost any part of a name now, as long as you have at least 3 letters, that is a plus.
    But as I have already said before, until I hear ZERO complaints about any new Search Engine, I’m sticking with Old Search.

  33. Deloris

    #26 Carol,
    Sorry, I didn’t notice your request before. You can use Old Search by clicking onto the option in the upper far right side in the “Search All Records” page.
    When you switch to Old Search, make sure you check mark the box that says Exact Matches Only, otherwise you will get a bunch of jumbled up results with very little meaning.

  34. Carol

    #26 Thank you Deloris
    I guess I have been using old search, but didn’t recognize it as the old search because it doesn’t identify the records I have all ready saved to my trees. I believe they use to have a check mark next to the records that I had previously saved. Now I have to click on all the records just to see if they are new or if I had saved it prior. When I had one tree it was easy to remember the records I had saved, but now I have 14 trees so it’s impossible.

  35. Joanne

    When I started with Ancestry a couple and a half years ago, I liked the search format. At that point, the “new” input form was just being introduced, and I used that from the start. To me, you have been downgrading the input form ever since. I commented/complained about the change to a smaller field for the birth and death dates, because when the full date is available, I found I got better results. Even with the smaller field, I could still input the full date – until this latest update. Now instead of copy pasting a date from my tree, I have to type it in. Also, when I find a record that has some details that I want to put into my search, you changed it so that I can’t go back and forth to copy paste. Your example shows ability to search “where indexed” by month and day as well as year – but no idea of where that might be. I also, as others, don’t like that you have to work harder to put the lived in information in – why would you have to add an event for that line, when it is one of the most common items to fill in? I hadn’t been on for a few days, and I must say, this was a very unpleasant surprise. I wish we could at least customize our settings so we could turn off the new “features” if we hate them!

  36. BEE

    Hi Andy, thank you for your offer, but I have the particular information, and see the names at the bottom, but I think it’s a shame that these documents look so terrible compared to when I first viewed them. It certainly wouldn’t be something I would want to send on to anyone.

  37. Phyllis

    The Old Search is great, and I continue to use it.
    I keep trying the New Search and keep going back to the Old Search. The Old Search actually works!

    Why can’t you just leave the Old Search along and stop offering new searches that are useless? I am a long-time subscriber and use Ancestry almost daily. I am very satisfied with the Old Search and have great results. I have read many of the comments above and I am not alone in my opinion of the New Search.

    My only complaint about the Old Search is when I specifically say the country is the US, why do I get results from other countries. That’s really annoying!

  38. Linda

    I read about the new search field that includes month and day, not just year, for things like birth.

    I can’t seem to find those fields on the new search, just the year. Can someone point out to me where to find that?


  39. Christine

    I absolutely loathe the New Search. And what gets me is sometimes you’ll go back to that wonderful Old Search and I can find things really easily, and then the next day, BAM, the New Search again. I am becoming infuriated and I don’t want to be! 🙁

    The current search function is very frustrating, as it doesn’t remember profile information on the person being searched, I can’t restrict certain fields without restricting everything, I can’t do the search within-an-area (exact, nearby counties, nearby states), the records already attached no longer have the check by them (which was very helpful), and I keep feeling like I have to always have an extra window open. After using the old search I know what is possible, and I feel hampered and annoyed by the current search. I can often find info, but it takes many more steps.

    BRING BACK THE OLD SEARCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  40. Christine

    I forgot to mention that when I do try to restrict the search it manages to expand the search. Please, people. Don’t fix what ain’t broke!

  41. Christine

    Sigh. I think I am confused about the terminology RE: Old Search and New Search. The images in the blog post above are of the search function that I LIKE and used to use with tremendous success, but when I go into my searches it always wants to go into that condensed-looking search function that is practically useless. I realize now how to get to the “New Search.”

    I’m sorry for ranting. I guess I’m ranting about the Old New Search? All this changing around of search stuff has me whip-sawed by confusion.

  42. Christine Re: 56

    To help with the frustration try this:
    1) Go to your home page
    2) In the upper right hand corner you will see a link that says one of two things:
    a) Go to New Search (which means you are in OldSearch)

    b) Go to Old Search (which means you are in NewSearch)

    Toggle it so it says “Go to Old Search”.

    This will put you in New Search and shouldn’t change unless you change it at a later date.

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