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Kimberly Powell

Ancestry.com's "New" New Search

By January 12, 2010

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I've tried many times to love Ancestry.com's standard ranked search - dubbed "New Search" by most of us who have been subscribers for years, despite the fact that it was released over a year and a half ago - but I'm still one of the 13% of Ancestry users who prefers and uses the old search on a regular basis. I can just make it do what I need most of the time better than I can navigate the "fuzziness" of the newer "ranked" search. Apparently, I'm not the only one, as Tony Macklin, head of Ancestry.com's Search team, says that a greater percentage of members using the old search tool find the records they are looking for, although this number is likely skewed by the fact that many of these users are the power users of Ancestry.com - the ones who really know how to manipulate search options to get the results they need.

Old search does have its limitations, however, which is why the demonstration of a "new" new search tool at the Ancestry sponsored "Blogger Weekend" really piqued my interest. I'm pretty sure I'm really going to like this one, and can't wait until it's released on the site for users.

The basic search form asks for the usual name, but has substituted "Where did your ancestor live?" for the more specific birth place and/or death place. This is an easier question to answer and will help turn up records in the areas in which your ancestors lived. There are also options for adding family members and/or events to the search form to help narrow down matches - this is one feature I know I will use a LOT!

Some additional features of the "new" new search include toggles to allow the following search options:

  • first name, or matches for first name and/or first initial
  • specific location only, or location plus adjacent counties/areas
  • exact surname, exact surname plus Soundex matches, and exact surname plus names that sound similar or have a similar meaning
  • ability to restrict the matches to records generated during a specific time period (such as the lifespan of the individual you're searching for)

Best of all, your default toggle selections will be remembered and used as the default, so once you get the Advanced Search Form tweaked the way you like it, it shouldn't be overly cumbersome.

One thing that has often bothered me about both of the current search offerings at Ancestry.com is that results are not returned for records which have blank entries for certain fields on which you are searching. A good example of this is including a birth place in your search of the WWI Draft Registration Cards. Two of the draft registrations did ask for a birth place, but a third did not, so these records will not be returned as matches if you have a birth place entered. The "new" new search will eventually offer the option to return exact matches, as well as matches plus "nil" entries, although this feature is not expected in the initial rollout of the new search tool.

Interestingly, Ancestry.com also invited a group of customers out this past weekend to company headquarters in Provo, Utah, to learn about the company, including the very vocal Andy Hatchett, who is not shy about expressing his displeasure over the current limitations of Ancestry search (just search for "Andy Hatchett" on the Ancestry message boards, or in comments on the Ancestry Blog and you'll see what I mean!). Even the "infamous" Andy as he was greeted this past weekend, is very excited about the features of "new" search and had nothing but good things to say about the time Tony Macklin has spent listening to customers during the process of developing the new search tool.

Now, if they can just come up with a better moniker than "New New Search." Any ideas?

January 12, 2010 at 11:40 am
(1) GenLib says:

When will the New New Search be available?

January 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm
(2) Randolph Clark says:

Maybe it piqued your interest.

January 12, 2010 at 12:47 pm
(3) Andy Hatchett says:

From what I understand it will be rolled out over the coming months in stages so that users can get familiar with each feature rather that rolling it out all at once and hitting them in the face with another new search and interface at the same time.

I fully agree with this type of introduction, it is much less overwhelming- especially for those still using Old Search who dabble with New Search.

January 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm
(4) ~Kimberly says:

Thank you so much for the answer on the search rollout, Andy. And for the many hours you’ve spent giving Ancestry.com excellent feedback on their search tools from a user perspective. It was great to meet you this past weekend!

January 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm
(5) Thomas MacEntee says:

As I stated during the Bloggers Day session, I really think High-Definition Search is a good moniker.

January 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm
(6) Arlene Miles says:

How about 3-D Search which would stand for; Details, Details, Details.

January 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm
(7) Susan Poston says:

My suggestion for a moniker for “New New Search.” is “Improved New Search”

January 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm
(8) Andy Hatchett says:

The first of the new enhancements for Ancestry’s search will be rolled out January 14th.

Anne Mitchell has just posted about it on the Ancestry Blog.


Those not familiar with the Ancestry Blog might find it interesting.

January 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm
(9) Laura Dunwald says:

How about the New Re-Search Search? Loll

January 12, 2010 at 7:14 pm
(10) Ben says:

I am a heavy user of Ancestry.com as well as a long time user of many other, more professional databases. I can’t help wondering why the Ancestry folks have not introduced more Boolean search techniques, especially or Proximity searching, so words have to appear close together (also called “Near” search), thus resulting in better search results. After all, Boolean searching has been around since the 1960′s!

January 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm
(11) Tom Hudson says:

I hope Ancestry corrects the search engine so that you don’t have pick through listings with the same middle initial but with different given and/or different surnames

January 13, 2010 at 11:38 am
(12) Tony Macklin says:

Thanks for the thoughts on the name – we are struggling on that one. I think Thomas’ “High Definition” or HD search is my personal favorite right now…

Or we could just stick to the “New design” for New search… I’m not sure how many searches our users could cope with…

…other thoughts welcome

January 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm
(13) Andy Hatchett says:


Just call it NewOldSearch!

January 13, 2010 at 6:08 pm
(14) Sanjay Maharaj says:

It’s great to see Ancestry.com engaging their audience as they develop a new search tool

January 14, 2010 at 11:29 am
(15) Cindy says:

I’m with Kimberly in prefering the “old” search on Ancestry. I hope that the new & better one does provide a better alternative than the “current new” one.

I like Arlene’s moniker idea: New 3-D search = details, details, details…love it Arlene!

January 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm
(16) Mike says:

Why would Ancestry.ca turn off some of the search details for input? For example, in the Ontario Death Registration search, you can’t input birth date. So instead of narrowing the number of John Clarks down to just those born in 1875, I have to look at all of them!!

And then there is the return for marriages. If I only want the John Clarks who were married, why do I get all of the John Clarks’ kids?? Oh yeah, and the results screen no longer lists dates of birth, you have to hover over the “view record” to check. Very time consuming!

Did I mention I’m not a fan of the changes?

May 16, 2011 at 9:45 am
(17) Jennie says:

I really don’t like the new search. Takes ages to find the information that I want but there is plenty there that I don’t want!! I was using the old search still, but even that isn’t available now by the looks of it. I click on ‘old search’ but just get another version of the new one. Think I will stop my subscription cos I haven’t got the patience to search any more.

June 17, 2013 at 6:44 pm
(18) TonyC says:

I know this thread is really old (bit like me) but I had to post somewhere that now Ancestry is forcing users to use the new search and make it nigh on impossible to revert to the old search. Family Tree maker now makes you use a new search screen when you do a web search from within FTM – ‘Name a place your ancestor might have lived’ is the new option. I spent nearly an hour on the phone with Ancestry ‘support’ trying to find a way to get back to the old search in FTM – no way.

The manager told me that there is a web site where we can voice our comments and that the powers that be are going to take notice of the comments. I have absolutely no faith in these ‘powers that be’ – if they had listened to the 13% that dislike and mistrust the new search then there would be an option both on ACOM and in FTM to select ‘old search.

The supposed web site isn’t listed anywhere on the front page of ACOM, its only given out to people who call ACOM ‘support’ to ask what is happening. Also the search engine changes are not listed on ‘Whats happening at Ancestry.com’. ACOM are simply hiding the web site, possibly not wanting to see the true feelings of the user community. By hiding it they can claim that there is no interest in the old search – WRONG.

Having vented I feel no better, as I know that these so called ‘powers that be’ are not interested in hearing the truth.

Tony Cousins

April 6, 2014 at 1:17 am
(19) Lana in Texas says:

Switch back to the user friendly OLD SEARCH. My searches went faster with the old search. I don’t use all of this new stuff. I really want simple basic information and the old search gave that and it was easy to use!!!!

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