Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ancestry.com Home Page Changes and Wild Card Search Frustrations

I noticed a week or so ago that Ancestry.com has changed their home page - I can no longer search the record collections using the Advanced Search form or exact matches.

Here is the Home Page I copied on about 12 April 2013 (from my 14 April 2013 presentation to the Pommern Special Interest Group):


It shows the Advanced Search fields with the "Match all terms exactly" box checked.

Here is the current Home Page copied today:


The Search Box is different from before - it only has fields for First & Middle Names, Last Name, Locality, and an Estimated Birth Year.

I put First Name = "isaac" and Last Name = "seaver" into the search fields and clicked the "Search" button:



Over 335,000 matches were found for my search parameters.  The "Searching for" column shows that my search with those names was not Exact.

When I clicked the "Show Advanced" link on the Home Page, it took me to the "Search" tab and the Advanced Search form (with my previous settings from my last search):


I put First name = "isaac" and Last name = "seaver" into the search form (Note:  I had to enter them again - why weren't they filled in?  That's dumb!).  The form had "restrict to exact" as the filter under the first and last name fields.

With those settings, I clicked on "Search" and there were 494 matches:


Note that I had to click three times from the Home Page to get the results I wanted.  Two weeks ago, it was one click - just the "Search" button.  That's frustrating to me.

I need to train myself to go directly to the "Search" tab when I open the Ancestry program - that gets it down to two clicks to get the results I want.  I could put the "Search" tab URL (http://search.ancestry.com/search/) into my Chrome browser bookmark bar also and get it down to one click, but I like to see the "New and Updated Databases" every day.

I complained months ago about the problems with doing a Global Search with wild cards in names. I tried again today and the results were the same.  From the "Search" tab, I entered First name = "isa*" and Last name = "sea*" and saw the "Too many matches with the wildcard search" screen:


That is very frustrating to me, even for names that are fairly uncommon.

 I just did a global search for First name = "joh*" and Last name = "smi*" - it worked and gave me 2,935,466 matches!  It didn't work with "mar* smi*".  Are there more "isa* sea*" persons in the databases than "joh* smi*" persons?  I sincerely doubt it!  This is not random - it happens every time I search for "isa* sea*", but not for "isa* sev*" or "isa* sea*r".

This is another of my frustrations with Ancestry searches.  They cost me time...I've learned to expect the frustration and usually search with a full name now, or I select from the database links on my Home Page or in the Card Catalog.

For the record, I have a Dell computer, running Windows 7, and using the Google Chrome browser.

I just did the "isa* sea*" search on my Windows 7 laptop using Internet Explorer 10 browser and received 30,122 matches.  Is this problem related to the browser somehow?

Is anyone else getting these results?  Can you get results with "joh* smi*" and no results with "isa* sea*" or "mar* smi*"?

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2013/04/ancestrycom-home-page-changes-and-wild.html

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

15 comments:

Caroline Pointer said...

I took the search box off my Home Page. When I want to search, I go straight to the Search Tab. In fact, I just blogged today on how I have my Ancestry.com Home Page setup.

~Caroline

Sherry Leafgreen said...

I still use the "old search" by going to the search tab and choosing it from the option in upper left hand area of the screen. I usually know enough about the subject to that I want to narrow my search as much as possible. I may miss something but it is hard to find in 3,000 returns.

Kay Haden said...

From that initial frustrating Search screen you can click on "Show Advanced" at the top and you'll go straight to the familiar search box. I would much prefer to have it stay put once I choose it, but at least it's only one click away.

bgwiehle said...

Not sure how consistently it occurs, but I sometimes get the "too many results" page if the minimum 3 letters with a wild card includes a letter pair/combo that is a single sound (th, sh, sch, etc). Maybe vowel pairs like "ea" are being treated similarly.

Eileen said...

Using the Search Tab, I entered isa* and sea*; I also selected all four collection groups at the bottom and got 1,319,292 results using IE 10 in Windows 7 Pro 64-bit on my desktop.

My personal frustration is with exact search. I can put in a full surname and lived in location and restrict both to exact and it comes back with zero results. I can then set the location to default and get thousands of results, many of which are at the location specified and spelled the same. So why did I get zero results. I used to do this all the time to restrict my results to a single state. I wish they would stop "improving" things.

Anonymous said...

Dear Myrtle just posted with a link to this blog and suggested a private tree is a useful workaround. Since posting to her blog requires login IDs that I don't have, I'll comment here, instead.

First, I don't like the private tree workaround. It might be helpful to someone researching his or her own family, but is useless for those researching others' trees.

Personally, I'm somewhat distressed by this emphasis so many companies are starting to have on matching trees. Until there's a near-foolproof way to correct discrepancies, I'll remain skeptical of this approach.

At least there's still the Search tab in Ancestry and things aren't hidden as much as they are in the new FamilySearch site!

Dave L

Unknown said...

I just tried the Isa* Sea* search with exact on first and last names. I received 30,122 records. I'm using Firefox 19 on a Windows 7 machine. I don't know how often you clear your cache, but the other day I was having a problem on Ancestry, and clearing my cache cleaned it right up. I was on the message boards and had it set to show 50 posts, and every time I would click to the next page, it would revert to only showing 10. I have been having the problem where checking exact for first anme, last name, and lived in returns 0 good matches. Very frustrating when you have lots of Smiths and Parkers.

Anonymous said...

I've sworn off trying to do anything useful on Ancestry for a couple of months, or at least until they fix all the unintended consequences they have created with all the unwanted changes they've crammed down user's throats recently.

Unknown said...

One inconsistensy I find is that Ancestry (I use the UK site) throws out variations of a name - but not all matches of those variations.

For example, I recently did a search for a Golesworthy - often mis-spelled as Goldsworthy.

Along with Golesworthy I got a lot of Goldsworthy returns - but not the one I needed. It *had* been entered under the mis-spelling, but Ancestry hadn't listed it, even though the date and place of birth matched. It *had* listed a lot of others, where the dob / place were completely different.

This can be really confusing for amateurs like myself!

Barbara Snow said...

I too have been irked by the problems with Ancestry.com. I've practically given up teaching people in my class how to search it. And untangling the long long list of ranked results is so time consuming. I feel like I spend about half my time on Ancestry trying to outwit the challenges it gives me. I appreciate your specific and well documented examples of some of the many problems.

Geolover said...

I, too have had problems with recent changes in the search protocol, including from trees. The results constantly are for wrong names, places and dates placed at the top, supposedly "Sorted By Relevance."

In Firefox20, on Win7 running as 32-bit, I tried "Isa* Sea*" on the purported home-page global search form (not advanced search).

I got 20,257,838 results. "Sorted By Relevance," the top item was the 1940 US Census enumeration for Abel Cruz De Seatrajo (what happened to the "Isa*"? Some user had submitted "Isabel" as an alternate).

The next few results were various 1940 US Census items for various Isabels with Sea* surnames.

So your problem with this particular search might be browser-related, but I could not guess why.

Desta Elliott said...

Ancestry search seems to rely on producing thousands of 'hits'--by ignoring search parameters. I can put in name, birth, death dates, locations, gender, and restrict to US records. Results are from all/any dates, all/any locations, and non-US sites. If I search for Abraham Lincoln, I'll get a hit on a record that contains the word Abraham and Lincoln, anywhere on the page. The preview window often reveals that the names are not connected. I wish I could eliminate search results...say my ancestor is not related to Massachusetts records; why can't my results suppress those hits as you can in a Google search? Can't the searches return hits based on proximity? So, find only "Abraham Lincoln" or "Lincoln, Abraham"? The stars set by ancestry are useless. If I set the death year as 1865, let's skip all 20th century hits. All those Reno, Nevada newspaper hits and high school yearbook pictures.
In the realm of dreams, I wish we could sort records by field....I swear this used to possible. So, in a list of, say, census records, I could sort so that all VA hits would be sort together.
I am curious, does anyone really search 2000 records? Yet, I worry that, buried, 1600 records down is the one I want.
Now, if we could suppress all those useless Family Data Collections....

Anonymous said...

Ancestry gets away with such shoddy service because they are a monopoly and they essentially have no competition - and they know it. The bean-counters running the company now know there's no where else for you to go.
For now... for now...
Familysearch is coming up fast now, though... and I for one will cheer when they put Ancestry out of business in a few short years.

Missy said...

I believe it's now all about marketing techniques. If a possible new subscriber wanting to check it out to see if their money is going to be put to good use, then they may put in their relatives name/s to see if there are any matches. If "exact" boxes are checked, odds are nothing will show up. So the company removes that feature and now it looks like there are millions of records on that persons family member/s. Bingo...they've reeled you in.

T said...

I don't see that ancestry is ramming the family tree thing down our throats like familysearch is. andcestry.com has always had the option of putting a tree on their site. I understand I am giving them free information but as so many trees I've gleaned, what do they get for nothing? A lot of wrong information. However, none as wrong as the conglomeration of stuff I got at familysearch when I was first starting and looked at those what ever they were trees... Not even trees just a bunch of same last names all suposedly related. Thank goodness I was able to figure that out! It wasn't a tree at all, just a list of people with the same last name; children who weren't related assigned to parents that weren't theirs. It caused me all kinds of frustration until I went to ancestry and paid the money and did a real search. I hate change as much as the next person and especially don't like it when the web site changes and I have to figure out where I am and how to get where I'm going but something so simple as clicking advanced search at ancestry.com is not that big a deal. I am more annoyed at having to click Search and then Search AGAIN at familysearch. Does familysearch think we don't mean to do a search so ask us twice if that's what we want?
As for the bright idea of everybody editing everybody else's tree. That should be fun. If they aren't messed up enough now, just wait. At least at ancestry I control what's put on my tree and it's public so anyone can take anything from it they would like. And they do, claiming it as their own research. But maybe I will provide the clue for someone else like it was provided for me by reading every document for every person on someone else's tree.