Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sorting Out Ancestry Global Search Matches

On my post Home Page Changes and Wild Card Search Frustrations yesterday, Desta Elliott commented:

"...I  am curious, does anyone really search 2000 records? Yet, I worry that, buried, 1600 records down is the one I want."

I sincerely doubt that they do.  I know that I don't.  I joked today at the CVGS meeting (I spoke on "Searching Effectively") that it might take me a day or two to get through the 262,000 matches for my Isaac Seaver using the Ranked Matches.  

The way to overcome the "thousands of matches problem" is to narrow the search using a birth year (with a range) and a birth place location, if known.  That really helps.  But what if you still have hundreds of matches for a common name?  

If you are getting "Ranked Matches" that are sorted by Relevance (meaning gold star ranking), then you can change to "Summarize by Category."

Here is my "Sorted by Relevance" match list for a global search for First name = "isaac" and Last name = "seaver":

I circled the "View" field on the screen above - the option is "Summarize by Category."  When I clicked the "Summarize by Category" the list changed to:

Frankly, I find the "Summarize by Category" list much easier to work with - I like order, and that provides it.  One drawback is that you have to click on the "See all 21,995 results..." link to see all of the databases in a specific record collection (e.g., "Census & Voter Lists.")

To find my specific Isaac Seaver, born 1823 in Massachusetts, I "Edit the Search" (green button in  upper left, or Hot Key "r") to add them:

I left the names in "Default setting" but changed the birth year to 1823 plus/minus 2 years (exact) and the birthplace to "Massachusetts, USA" (restricted to exact).  The results are much more manageable:

Only 572 matches!  I can easily click into these databases one at a time to find my specific Isaac Seaver.  The "Sorted by Relevance" list looks like:

There are only 176 matches ... why is that?  Strange.  Perhaps it's tree matches and public/private photos/stories that don't show up.  Of those 176 matches, the "Matching person" is correct, and:

*  the first three record matches are correct census matches
*  the next 16 matches are record images from my trees for the right person
*  the next four record matches are correct matches
*  after that, the first name variation matches start and are not the correct persons.

I may have just lucked out on the latter "sorted by relevance" match list since the narrowing criteria drove the results down to one match in many of the categories.  For instance, in the "Summarized by Category" list, the correct Isaac Seaver was the first match listed for the census databases, and was the only Isaac on those lists.

Both systems work, but if a person was searching for a more common name, the "Summarize by category" might be more useful.  

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Linda Schreiber said...

Thanks, Randy

I hadn't explored the "by categories" sort, and this may help a lot!

herzogm said...

I guess I am a real Luddite, but as long as "old search" is available, I'll stick to it. I can get the results I am looking for with a couple of clicks and don't have to go through all the manipulations that you are talking about.

Barbara Renick said...

I believe Ancestry searches max out at less than ten thousand matches viewed so there is not way to look at 287,224 matches online. FamilySearch Record search maxes out at 5000 matches viewed. Database sites do this to limit server time used. And, yes, I'm sure we are missing something we would like to find deeper which is why I teach alternate ways to search to find those layers.