Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ancestry.com Quirk - Different Results for Old Search and New Search

I worked in Ancestry.com for most of the day, trying to get a start on my 16 May presentation. Then I started getting strange results for some of my searches.

Here is an example: Using Old Search, Exact Matches only checked, Givenname = "Isa*", Surname = "Sea*", Birthyear = "1823 +/- 2 years", Birthplace = "USA, Massachusetts" -- the Advanced Search box looks like this:



The search results page looks like this:




This Old Search with "Exact Matches only" checked, found my Isaac Seaver in the 1850 census (indexed as "Isaac Seaber"), 1860 (indexed as "Isaac Seaver"), 1870 (indexed as "Isaac Seaver"), 1880 (indexed as "Isaac Seaver") and 1900 (indexed as "Isaac Seaver"). The only other person found was "Isaac Seabury" in the 1860 census.

I entered the exact same parameters in the New Search box with "Match all terms exactly" checked - the search box is shown below:




The Search results are shown below:


The New Search results, with "Match all terms exactly" checked, provided were for the 1860 census (but only "Isaac Seabury") and the 1900 census (for my "Isaac Seaver"). There was no listing for 1850, 1860, 1870 or 1880 for my "Isaac Seaver" like there was in the Old Search search.

I thought maybe something was wrong with the Wild Card search in New Search, but I tested that with the name "Isaac Seaver" and the birth year and birth place, and it found only my "Isaac Seaver" in the 1900 census.

Is it the birthplace specification in New Search for some of the census years? The input is different from Old Search. In Old Search, the user inputs a country ("USA") and a state ("Massachusetts"). In New Search, the user inputs a place (I started typing "Massa") and the suggestions appear - I chose "Massachusetts, USA."

Is anyone else having this problem with their census searches? I checked the Ancestry.com Blog to see if it was reported and didn't see anything similar.

I'm back to using Old Search as long as discrepancies like this persist in New Search. Caveat Genealogicus!!

9 comments:

theKiwi said...

Even within different iterations of New Search - before and after this latest "more relevant results" change. See the image here

http://lisaandroger.com/MIscImages/AncestrySearch.png

on the left a window I've had open for several days with results of a quite simple search -

Last Name Moffat
Residence Vermont, USA - EXACT

On the right, the same search returned just now - only the 8 results from 1840 census are listed.

Hmmmmmmm.

Patti said...

I have had trouble, but thought I just hadn't figured out the system because I hadn't worked very hard at it.

theKiwi said...

It must have been a typical brain fart at Ancestry - searching now a bit over an hour later the new search returns the same list as I had, and the same list as Old Search for the same criteria.

Randy Seaver said...

after reading theKiwi's remarks, I tried again at 10:20 p.m. tonight and my results are the same - the Old and New Search results are different.

At least my brain hasn't farted .... I hope!

Geolover said...

Randy,

It is not your imagination. If you check the ancestry.com blog for 'search' beginning almost a year ago, when they introduced New Fuzzy Search User Interface, you will find many examples of very inconsistent results for Old and New using the same parameters.

New Fuzzy was originally meant to interface more effectively with Trees, which is why the very peculiar place descriptors (lacking specification of Township, Hundred, Town, Village, Magisterial District, Beat . . .) which are among the pesky details that can affect an "exact" search that includes a place.

One quirk of New Fuzzy Search is that if you put in a date - beware; the UI may exclude any results that do not include that number.

If you innocently add spouse's and children's names, the UI may interchange spouse's maiden name and target person's surname. Happily, it no longer gives search results with first-name and surname reversed, as it used to do when I was searching for my Joseph family.

New Fuzzy is especially weak in paying attention to places, in a global search. For a person born in DE and died in WV you will get results of photos of NY passenger ships, settlers in the Cumberland region of Tennessee in the 1770s, Manitoba obituaries, New England Town Vital Records, book summaries of Ohio deeds, a book on the Lenni-Lenape, others on the Minisink region (Delaware *river* valley between PA and NJ and southern NY).

Oh and since these items are not user-sortable, and since the database with *one* entry is most likely to be about your target person, you may have to navigate through hundreds of pages to get to something relevant.

Also the New Fuzzy UI is biased toward databases where there are thousands of purported 'hits' for your target, so tends to favor late 19th- and 20th-century Census enumerations. It hardly ever returns results from 1790-1840. This is quite like the washing-machine theory of genealogy that appears to be held by certain programmers (who may never have done any actual genealogical research): "more is better." Whereas, the genealogist seeks to delimit results to conform to known facts.

One could go on and on; these are but a few of the New Fuzzy Search UI quirks.

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

I don't know why they had to develop a new search method. The old search experience worked just fine. I've had nothing but problems with the new search, so I continue to use the old search feature (and will for as long as it's available). If it's not broken, don't fix it!

Stephanie at the Irish Genealogical blog

Anne Mitchell said...

Randy,

I think if you try your query now: http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?MS_AdvCB=1&gl=35&rank=1&new=1&so=3&MSAV=1&msT=0&gss=ms_r_f-35&gsfn=Isa*&gsfn_x=1&gsln=Sea*&gsln_x=1&rg_81004010__date=1823&81004010__date_x=1&msbpn_x=1&msbpn__ftp_x=1&msrpn=24&msrpn__ftp=Massachusetts%2C+USA&msrpn_x=1&msrpn__ftp_x=1&_8000C000_x=1&_80008000_x=1&_80018000_x=1&_80010000_x=1&gskw_x=1&_83004002_x=1&81000000__date_x=1&_82000000_x=1&810002A0__date_x=1&_820002A0_x=1&rs_81004010__date=2&ne=2

you will find all 7 census records that you were looking for.

Happy Searhing.

Anne Mitchell

Julie Cahill Tarr said...

Truth be told, I have continued to use the old search since the inception of the new search. I will continue to do so until they take it away (which I hope they don't). I find the results are better matched and organized better, which for me results in more efficient research.