Thursday, February 19, 2009

Genealogy Search Engines: - Post 3: New Search, Exact Matches

I posted my Search evaluation criteria, the questions I want to answer and the targeted search I want to pursue in this series of posts in Evaluating the Search Engines - Evaluation Criteria.

The first post in the series, Genealogy Search Engines -'s Old Search, Exact Matches discussed how satisfied the four evaluation criteria.

This post demonstrates finding the Isaac Seaver (born 1823 in Massachusetts) family in the 1860 US census using's New Search user interface with Exact Matches.

We start on the New Search Home page with the information filled in the search boxes (First Name, Surname, Year, Birthplace) and the Exact Matches box checked:

Note that the user has to select a "standard" place name from a list generated by the site.

Clicking on "Search" (Click 1) provides the Exact Matches found by the New Search algorithm and interface:

Hmmm, there is no 1860 US Census listed. The Search actually found Exact Matches, and the 1900 US census is the only one that has the birth year indexed as 1823 (the others have it as 1824).

OK - I will expand the search by adding plus/minus 2 years to the Search parameters. On the left side of the screen above is the summary of the Search parameters. The user can click on any one of them to add or modify the parameters.

I chose to add "+/- 2 years" to the Birth Year - I clicked on the Birth link, then clicked on the "down" arrow and selected "2 years." The screen above reflects my status at that point in time. [Note: there were two more clicks there, but I'm not counting them.]

I clicked on the "Search" button (Click 2) and this screen appeared:

This screen shows four census records and two entries in Private Member Trees that match the Exact Search parameters requested.

I clicked on the 1860 US Census Record link (Click 3):

I ran my cursor over the "View Record" link to make sure that this was my target family as shown below:

I clicked on the "View Record" link (Click 4) and the Record Summary shows as below:

Scrolling down, I can see the source citation too.

Clicking on the "View Original Image" link (Click 5) in the Record Summary provides the digital image of the record.

Looking at my four evaluation questions, the answers are:

* Does the Search find the record I'm seeking? YES
* How many clicks does it take to find the record? Five (5), not counting the Search box addition. However, the Exact Match performed its' search exactly, unlike the Old Search - Exact Match search, which found the Click 3 items above on Click 2. By doing a real Exact Match, the New Search was penalized one click.
* Does the record provide a source citation? YES
* Was the process easy to use? YES

The New Search - Exact Matches method used five clicks to get to the image, while the Old Search - Exact Matches method used four clicks.

The Search Parameter box appears on the left side of the Search Match pages until the user selects a record to view. The Search parameters are collapsed if there is nothing requested in the particular parameter. Exact parameter values are listed in "quotes" so the user can see what was previously requested. If I had wanted to change the search parameters at any point, I could have easily by clicking on the parameter name.

An observation: while the parameter names are in Bold Type, the fact that they are links to click is not obvious. Experienced users "know it" but beginner users might be confused. I suggest that they be made obvious links by underlining and putting them in the "Ancestry green" color like the other links in the Search process.

Next up is to look at the New Search interface with Fuzzy Matches. This might be a lot of fun.

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