Friday, March 14, 2014

More Quirks with Sliders and Record Counts

Genea-Musings reader Glenn has been working in (see Another Slider Quirk - Orpha Hildreth, posted 11 March 2014) some more, and has found another strange thing:

1)  He did a search, using the Advanced Search form, and put in only Location = Kentucky,USA" and picked "Restrict to Exact" to limit the search to only that state.  Here is the Advanced Search form when I duplicated his search:

The Results (using the "Categories" tab looks like this (note the "ANY Location" slider is on Exact):

Okay, there are more than 750 million matches in all of Ancestry's indexed databases.  That seems like a lot!

I scrolled down to the bottom of the list, and it looks like the Family Trees category makes about 90% of the matches, with over 664 million of them (497 million in Public Member Trees):

I went to the Public Member Trees collection and saw the matches:

There are over 638 million matches on the list.  

Some concerns:

*  The number for Public Member Trees on the "Categories" list (497 million) doesn't match the list for the specific collection (638 million).  

*  If you look at the first 200 matches (I only went the first 200!) and the locations listed on the Results list, you see that very few on the results list have Kentucky as a Location entry.  

I checked the other slider positions and found for Public Member Trees:

*  Not Exact = 1,760,775,866 in Public Member Trees
*  It wouldn't let me choose any other position except "Exact."

Earlier today, I was able to move the slider for ANY Location and see "Country," "State and Adjacent States," "State" and "Exact" slider settings.

I went back to the Search page, and selected "Clark County, Kentucky, USA" and the results for the slider settings were:

*  Not Exact = 1,760,775,866
*  Country = 1,500,580,486
*  State and Adjacent States = 501,349,353
*  State = 501,349,276
*  County and Adjacent Counties = 3,594,054
*  County = 3,594,054
*  Exact = 3,594,054

Those numbers seem awfully high for a county in Kentucky that had a population of population of 20,382 in the 1940 U.S. Census.  Note that the number stayed the same for "County and Adjacent Counties, "County" and "Exact" slider settings.  And that the "State and Adjacent States" and the "State" settings are almost the same.

On the top 50 matches (supposedly the "Best" matches) for the "Exact" slider setting for Clark County, Kentucky in the Public Member Trees, there are 4 matches for Clark County, Kentucky (numbers 47-50).  My guess is that most of the matches are for blank locations or for "USA" matches, but not "Clark County, Kentucky" matches.

Michael John Neill, on his blog, has also done some investigations and found that checking the "Match all terms exactly" box on the Advanced Search page makes a difference.

When I started from the Search page and checked the "Match all terms exactly" box, the results came out with slider positions for "Exact" and "Not Exact."  When I start from the Home or Search page, and input only "Kentucky, USA" in the location field, without the "Match all terms exactly" checked, I get five slider positions on the Results page.

Perhaps the results above are caused by not having entries in the Given Name or Last Name fields.  When I use a Last Name = "smith" with the slider set to "Exact and Similar"), and set the slider to "Exact" for ANY Location = "Kentucky,USA" I get 4,624,546 matches in Public Member Trees. When I narrow the search to "Clark County, Kentucky, USA," I get 45,060 matches in Public Member Trees.  They are all Smith (or similar), but I don't see a Clark County entry on any of the first 50 matches (the "Best" matches).  If I look at the "Records" category results, the top matches are all from Clark County, Kentucky, and from the 1940 U.S. Census.

For some of the above studies, I was unable to get consistent results counts when I performed the same search (I thought!) and put the sliders in the same positions with the same search field entries.

I do a lot of searches on Ancestry using all of the tools they provide - the name filters, the location filters, wild cards, keywords, etc.  Up until the sliders were introduced, I saw tremendous consistency in the results - they duplicated previous searches, and were consistent - no alarm bells went off in my head saying "this can't be right."

My conclusions from this, and other studies performed by other researchers, include:

*  Something is wrong with the number of results for the sliders - they don't make sense - either in absolute terms, or in relative terms.

*  Something is wrong with the "Exact" Location results - they are including extraneous results.

*  The sliders are a good idea from a searcher's viewpoint - I don't have to click to another search box, I can adjust the search parameters right on the screen.  But they need to be fixed so that they are consistent and the number of matches are correct.

*  It is unfortunate that introduced the sliders at the same time as they eliminated the "Old Search."  Those who tried "New Search" for the first time this week also had to deal with the confusion of the sliders.

*  Researchers will question whether they are getting ALL of the results they request if the numbers are not consistent and correct, and the slider positions give confusing results.

For readers' information, I had a note recently from saying that they are aware of the problems with the sliders and are working hard to fix them.  I know that this is not easy.  On the other hand, they've been working on sliders for several months.  I have every confidence that they will get this right, and, hopefully, very soon.

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Anonymous said...

After trying the sliders today, I doubt very much ancestry will get any more of my money. I am comparing the documents and photos I have on my people there to be sure I have them on my computer (after a destroyed computer a couple of years ago)and will be waving Bu-bye this year. On one hand, ancestry and familysearch say they're trying to draw in more new people and then they remake the site so that those of us who used to know how to use it can't even help anyone who's never used it. Simple. Keep it simple. The results I got for the sliders and the experience using them was a total waste of time. If I were a year into it, I'd be crying right now.

Ancestry is spending too much time and money on DNA results. Go back to records of people and make it easy to find them. There was nothing wrong with how the site worked before. Now it doesn't work.

I am incredulous that when I started a few short years ago I was able to go from my mother to the Cookes on the Mayflower at familysearch. I got all excited doing everyone in the family, subscribed to ancestry, spent a pile of money on documents and now the sites are no longer geared toward research, they seem to be trying to do a TV show at the web site. How any newbie will ever find their way through the maze to their people is a mystery to me. Is this where they throw in the towel and any name they see that should be "theirs" gets added to their tree? I see it happening. Soon.

Bill West said...

And that is why I've unsubscribed. Yes, I already had tried the "old New Search" and didn't like it. When they retired Old search, for some reason I was one of the "lucky" people who got the sliders right away. Too Frustrating.

I'm not going to pay to be driven bonkers while they try to figure out what they did wrong. And where I previously recommended Ancestry to people just starting genealogy, I won't do so anymore.

Linda said...

I am SO frustrated with Ancestry - I wrote about just a few of my issues in my blog and actually got Facebook comments from folks supporting New Search essentially saying they find the search function to be working and it's operator error on my part. I have been a paying member for 5 years - I don't plan to sign up when my subscription expires -