The chronicle of this woman's perpetual game of hide-and-seek with her ancestors
… but I figured I’d put my two cents in about Ancestry’s decision to do away with Old Search.
So Ancestry has sent out an email (I didn’t get one) to Old Search users advising them that Old Search will be discontinued at the end of the year. Less than two hours after the announcement, our (usually) quiet, well-mannered genealogy community resembled Filene’s Basement on sale day.
In this now infamous email, Ancestry said that only 2% of their subscribers used Old Search. If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times … “I don’t believe it, where’d they get those numbers?” “Everyone I know uses Old Search, so it MUST be higher than that.” You get the idea. Here’s the thing: at last count, Ancestry had 2 million subscribers. 2% of that amount is only 40,000. I don’t find this figure all that hard to believe. Hmm … 40,000 users versus 1.96 million users. Can’t imagine what’s driving this business model.
I have used New Search since day one and have had few, if any, real problems with the “hundreds of thousands” of irrelevant results that others are claiming to have. I’m not sure whether it’s because they are researching common surnames, but I have never gotten that many irrelevant results when I use the search engine properly.
I’m not saying there aren’t issues with Ancestry’s approach to research as a whole – but New Search gives us more options to narrow our search and widen it as we see fit when you use it as intended.
And another thing … (here’s where I get opinionated. You’ve been warned.)
Just because I use New Search doesn’t mean I am inexperienced.
I wish I had a nickel for every time a user of Old Search inferred that the users of New Search were inexperienced or beginners, or were inferior to Old Search users for one reason or another. Then I could retire and do nothing but research for the rest of my life.
I have been researching on and off since the late 1980s. I’m no expert, but I’m not inexperienced either. I am currently enrolled in the NGS Home Study Course and working my way toward certification. If my past use of Ancestry’s New Search is going to somehow inhibit my ability to become certified, then I think that’s something I should know. Can anyone direct me to the BCG rule that references that? Didn’t think so.
Take a few minutes to LEARN how to use New Search.
One comment (authors’ names are withheld for obvious reasons) said, “For my gg grandmother, I got 27 results in the old search. I got 385,198 in the new one after filtering the search. One of the filters I used was her spouse’s name. The 385,198 results I got were for a woman with a husband named John but not the surname I gave for him.”
Aside from the fact that none of the commenters gave specific details about their searches, one thing I can tell you about this search is that they did not use the filters properly. For each first name AND surname, there are options to limit your search to EXACT matches, soundex matches, phonetic matches, or similar spelling/meaning matches, or some combination of these.
There are also filters for locations – exact location only, county, surrounding counties, state, surrounding states, etc. Using these filters has provided results that I wasn’t expecting, leading me to locate more than one ancestor I thought had been abducted by aliens.
“I want to be able to search for a name in a state and in one more click go to a list of the places where it appears and be able to immediately choose the database I want. Three clicks!” Wow … lazy much? You actually CAN do this. Unfortunately, it takes FOUR clicks. So, sorry. When you enter a given name, surname, and location, your search results can be viewed by record or by category – just click on the tabs at the top right of the results window.
“If I use just my surname XXXX, exact, USA, New York in the old search I get 82 results in the census and 31 in B,M, & D. In the new search, using the same criteria, I get a total of 2,831 results.”
I performed this search (surname withheld) in New Search and only got 263 results. Here’s a trick that I think most people haven’t noticed. Waaaaay down at the bottom of the search box, there are little boxes you can check to tell Ancestry what TYPE of records you want to see. You want to only see online trees? Check that box. Don’t want anything but Historical Records? Uncheck everything else. Pretty simple. Also reduces the number of hits you get per search.
So … bottom line it for me, Jenny.
Okay. Here’s what we KNOW:
Other than these two things, everything else is still up in the air. So … I’m trying to figure out why everyone is complaining about something that (a) isn’t happening for another 6 months and (b) may or may not be better than what we have now. My former therapist used to call that “borrowing trouble.”
Whichever search they decide to put out there for us, it’s still better and cheaper than traveling to the repositories and looking for the documents in person.
There are plenty of blog posts, videos, and other resources on how to use New Search efficiently. Here is a good one from Michael Hait, CG, from a year ago. Ancestry also has instructional videos and articles on how to use New Search. It really doesn’t take very long to figure out how to use New Search, and when you take into consideration that it’s more powerful than Old Search and gives you more filtering options, it will end up saving you time.
New Search is what you make it. If you don’t want it to work for you, then it won’t. And there’s nothing anyone can do or say that will change your mind. I guess you just saved $300 a year.
Do we share any ancestors?