Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ancestry.com tries to help me. And you too!

While trying to find records for H.A. Knapp last night, I got frustrated by Ancestry.com's effort to "help me" fill in the blanks on their search form. It seemed that every time I input his first name in the form and then clicked quickly down to the birth year I got this entry in the form:

Hiram Beemer? That is not the name I wanted - Ancestry kindly filled in the blanks for me because Hiram Beemer was in the dropdown list that appeared just as I clicked into the birth year field. In other words, I clicked too quickly. If I had tabbed into the field rather than click into the field, this would not have happened. But it did happen several times as I worked in several census databases using only a given name search (since I couldn't find him using first name and last name for some years).

The key to avoiding frustration of this event - after all, Ancestry.com is trying to help me by letting me pick a name from my online Member Tree - is to wait for the list of names that match the first name to appear and then either pick one or tab over to the next field, and the list of names disappears.

This feature on Ancestry.com, when used properly, could be helpful. Or not, depending on how much information you have in your online Member Tree.

When I input "Hiram" in the First Name field, a list of persons named "Hiram" appeared below the field:

I chose "Hiram Abiathur Knapp" from the list and Ancestry.com filled in some of the blanks for me:

When I clicked on the "Search" button, I received many matches in many databases:

Why are there so many matches? Because I had specified name filters of "Restrict to exact, similar & initials" for the first name and "Restrict to exact and similar" for the last name, and a place filter of "Use default settings" for the birth place. Those filter choices expanded the search a bit. I noted that my state name of "VT" for the birthplace worked in the search.

When I limited the last name filter to "exact" and the birthplace to "exact" I received 88 matches.

When I input the last name first, and then the first name, the same "helpful" name list appears. I would have thought that the "helpful" name list in this case would be restricted only to the first name and last name input, but that doesn't seem to be the way it works.

If I enter the first name and then tab quickly to the last name field and enter the last name, the "helpful" name list doesn't appear.

My frustration noted above happened only when I entered the first name and quickly clicked into the birth year field. If I had waited another split second, I would not have had a problem. If I had tabbed out of the first name field, I would not have had the problem.

I understand why Ancestry.com offers this "helpful" name list, and now I know how to prevent my frustration with it!

Do you like this Ancestry.com "helpful" name list? If so, why? If not, why? Do you wish that they had a check box of some sort to "opt out" of the "helpful" name list?

1 comment:

Geolover said...

Sometimes it is your browser doing this, not the Ancestry.com servers.

Most browsers have the option called something like 'remember forms filled in'. In Firefox there is the option 'search for text when I start typing'.