Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ancestry "Old Search" and "New Search" Comparison with Exact Matches

I posted Another "Old Search" vs. "New Search" Comparison yesterday with my third great-grandfather, Henry Carringer (1800-1879) as the subject in an effort to demonstrate that there is no real difference between the results of the two searches.  For that post, I did the comparison with the "Exact Matches Only" box unchecked.  My reasoning for that was that many searchers don't know about, or prefer to not use, the "Exact Matches Only" box.  

I received a comment from Karen who said:

"You state that we are not to use 'exact match.' What happens to your search results when you do?

"I almost always use exact match so it keeps more of the unwanted search people out of the results. This means fewer people to scroll through and faster easier searching at least for me."

Here is what happens when I do an "Exact Match" search in both "Old Search" and "New Search," again using Henry Carringer as the example:

1)  In "Old Search" I added these entries to the search box fields on the "Search" tab:

*  Clicked on the "Historical Records" tab (highlighted in green below)
*  Clicked on the "Exact matches only" box
*  First & Middle Name(s):  Henry
*  Last Name:  Carringer
*  Birth Year:  1800 plus/minus 5 years
*  Birth Country: USA (pick from list)
*  State: Pennsylvania (pick from list)

Here are the "Old Search" matches for the exact match search above (listed by Category and database because "Exact match" was selected):

The only record that matched was the 1860 U.S. Census search.

Why was that?  I used the complete names for the person - and there are other records with slightly different spellings.  There are other records on for this Henry Carringer, using this spelling, but I asked for records for a birth year of 1800 plus/minus 5 years and birth location of Pennsylvania, USA.  The other records don't provide both a birth date AND a birthplace.  Since I asked for "Exact," the computer provided only the exact matches.

2)  In "New Search" I added these entries to the search box fields on the "Search" tab:

*  Clicked the "Exact matches only" box
*  First & Middle Name(s):  Henry
*  Last Name:  Carringer
*  Any Event Year:  1800 plus/minus 5 years
*  Location: Pennsylvania, USA (pick from list)
*  Checked only "Historical Records" in "Collection Priority" area [this makes it similar to "Old Search")

And the results for Records found are identical (in the "Categories View"):

Because I chose to use the complete and correct name for Henry Carringer, plus a birth year and birth state, I did not get all of the results that I found in the earlier post because I asked for Exact matches and only one record had an Exact Match.  

3)  What happens when I take away the Birth Year and Birth Place, but still do an Exact Match search on just the name?

Here's the "Old Search" results:

I counted 77 matches on the list (it was a little longer than the screen capture shows).

Here's the "New Search" results for the identical search field entries:

There are 78 matches on the list.  Although the California Voter Registers database shows up in several categories, it is counted only once.  Several other databases appear in more than one Category, but are counted only once.  But the one "References, Dictionaries and Almanacs" match on the "Old Search" list didn't show up on the "New Search" list, and the two items in that category on "New Search" didn't show up on the "Old Search" list.

I guess I could do the comparison for a more common name, but I didn't.  Obviously, doing this for John Smith will result in thousands of matches in many databases that would be impossible to work through on this blog (most of my posts are too long already...).  

With thousands of search results for using only an exact name, the "Category View" is essential to find your target person.  For instance, the 1830 U.S. Census item for Henry Carringer may be the 100th match on the "Results View" list, but it would be easily found on the "1830 U.S. Census" database list of 4 matches.

Using the exact name, with an exact birth year and birth place, will not find all of the records unless the name was spelled correctly in all records and the records contained a birth year and birth place. If this is your preferred practice, you will probably miss some record matches.

4)  The point here is to show that "New Search" finds essentially the same results as "Old Search" does, no matter what search field parameters are used.  It's imperative for the user to understand what search field parameters they used.  If the user is not getting expected results, then they should look critically at their search field parameters.

The fix for the "Exact Match" problem noted above is to use wild cards for the names (to handle name spelling problems) and to narrow the search using birth years, or death years, or birth or death places, or relative names, etc. in your search.  We will use "New Search" to do this because it has more flexibility than "Old Search" and "Old Search" is going away soon.

In the next post in this series, I'll look at using wild cards to find the records for a person, and how narrowing the search can help the user find more records.

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Michigan Girl said...

Thanks Randy. That made me feel better about new search, although its what I have used for some time now. Also, I rarely if ever use "exact" search. Too many chances to miss something. I start with a BiG net and narrow, rather than vice versa.
See you at the seminar in a couple of weeks.