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?