Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Genealogy Search Engines: FamilySearch Record Search - Post 3: Specific Database Search

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.

While performing this demonstration on the FamilySearch Record Search site, I evaluated the four Search criteria in Post 1: Simple Search and started the Search for Isaac Seaver (born in 1823 in Massachusetts) in the 1860 U.S. Census. The process was fairly simple, but the resulting image was on http://www.footnote.com/ (a commercial site), so I could not see it without a subscription. In Post 2: Wild Card Search, I described my frustration in trying to make this work, and uncovered several flaws in the wild card search.

I'm going to start over, this time testing the "Specific Database" Search capabilities of the Search engine. In order to choose a specific database, the user needs to click on the dropdown menu below "Search for Your Ancestors on a Specific Continent by Region". The user could also click on the continent (Click 1). I wanted the 1860 United States Census, so I selected "Canada, US and Mexico (63)." The screen before I hit the Search button is shown below:

The list of Canada, US and Mexico databases appeared on the screen:

I clicked on the "1860 United States Census" link (Click 2), and the Search box for the database appeared. I entered First Name = "Isaac," Last Name = "Seaver" and Place = "Massachusetts." The "Exact and Close Matches" default box was selected (the other options are "Exact Match" and "Exact, close and Partial Matches). As you can see below, when I typed in "Massachusetts," the Standard Place Name list popped up - I selected "Massachusetts, United States":

I clicked "Search" (Click 3), and a page with three matches for Isaac Seaver persons in Massachusetts appeared:

I can see the summary of each match by running my mouse over the link to the name, as shown below:

The first name on the list is the Isaac Seaver I want. I clicked (Click 4) on the name "Isaac Seaver" and the summary for the entry appeared:

This is the same information as seen in the "mouse run-over" popup box. This information could be printed out.

In order to obtain the image of the census page with Isaac Seaver on it, I clicked on the thumbnail in the upper right corner with the green arrow (Click 5). The Footnote summary page appeared (with my subscription logged in):

If the user does not have a Footnote subscription, then this is as far as you can go (you could try to read the image with a magnifying glass, but the image is fuzzed up). If the user has a Footnote subscription, s/he can login and see the 1860 census image on the http://www.footnote.com/ Image Viewer.

In order to see the actual image, print it or save it, I have to click on the Image above (Click 6) and finally get to the Footnote.com image:

Back when I had the list of the 3 matches in the specific database, I could have clicked on the little indicator just to the left of the link to the name. The little green arrow on the indicator denotes an affiliate site houses the image. That would have saved one click in the process.

Using the Specific Database option is by far the easiest way to find a match in the FamilySearch Record Search site, especially if the name is fairly common. It does take five clicks to get to the image, while the Home Page search box method in Post 1: Simple Search required only four clicks, but was a bit more convoluted.

As Wendy noted in a comment to Post 1, if the user does not have a Footnote or Ancestry subscription, they can use HeritageQuestOnline (through a library that permits online home access) to see, print or save the census page image.

We will deal with HeritageQuestOnline record searches in the next set of posts in this Genealogy Record Search series.

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