Thursday, November 15, 2012's Wild Card Search Is Broken - Please Fix It!

Michael John Neill wrote Where's My good Customer Experience at today after being frustrated when he used wild cards for a first name and a last name, and received the dreaded "Too many matches with the wildcard search" message.

I have done the search below more times than I can's even in my presentations about searching  Here is what I saw today:

1)  I searched for First name = "isa*" and Last name = "sea*"

Too many matches.  I used to get results with this search.

2)  I added a birth date ("1823 plus/minus 2") and birthplace ("Massachusetts, USA"):

Still too many matches.  I used to get matches with this specific search.  When I did this last week, I had 172 matches:

3)  I added a spouse's first name ("luc*"):

Still too many matches.  I used to get matches (very few!) with this search.

4)  I spelled out the first name = "isaac" and spouse's name = "lucretia" and left the Last name with the wild card "sea*":

5)  Only when I spelled out the surname did I get matches:

6)  My conclusion is that the Wild Card Search algorithms have been corrupted, and the Wild Card Search feature is broken and unusable. 

I sure hope they fix it, because wild cards are often the only way that researchers find records that have enumeration or indexing errors in them.  I use them all the time - almost exclusively these days, ignoring vowels and some consonants.  I get the right match much quicker using wild cards than by substituting name spelling variations one at a time.

Thank you to Michael for highlighting the problem.

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

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