Thursday, February 26, 2009

Genealogy Search Engines: FamilySearch Record Search - Post 1: Basic Search

I posted my Search evaluation criteria, the questions I want to answer and the targeted search I want to pursue in this series of posts in Evaluating the Search Engines - Evaluation Criteria.

While performing this demonstration on, I evaluated the four Search criteria. The results for this FamilySearch Record Search search were:

* Exact search and/or Fuzzy search ("Fuzzy" meaning variations in names, dates and locations that might result in a match even if the record was enumerated or indexed poorly, e.g., Soundex). YES, the main Search box has options for "Exact Search," "Exact and Close Match" (the default), and "Exact, close and partial."

* Use of a specific database vs. many or all available databases. YES, the home page Search box uses All databases. For a specific database, the user has to select the Region of interest on the home page, and then can search of of the Region databases or select one specific database.

* Use of Wild cards in names. YES, a wild card "*" can be used after three or more letters (e.g., Isa* for Isaac), but only for either the first name or the last name, not both names.

* Use of dates and locations as search criteria. YES, this can be done in the home page box, and the user can select the event for the date (the default is All dates).

This post starts the demonstration of finding the Isaac Seaver (born 1823 in Massachusetts) family in the 1860 US census using's Record Search user interface.

I do not have as much experience using Record Search as I do using, so I may have missed some of the more nuanced Search techniques during this demonstration and evaluation process. I have confidence that more experienced Record Search users will "help me" if I mess something up!

We start on the home page with the information filled in the search box at the top of the screen (I input "Isaac" in the Fitrst Name box, "Seaver" in the Last Name box, "1823" in the Year box, and "Massachusetts" in the Place box (and the system "helped me" with the standard name, "Massachusetts USA"):

The options for the user in this Simple Search box include First or middle name(s), Last or family name(s), Life Events (drop-down menu), Year range (from - to), and Place (type a place name and select from provided list, as shown above). The user can also select "Exact match only," "Exact and close match," and "Exact, close and partial match" using the drop-down menu, as shown below. The default is "Exact and close match."

I picked the default "Exact and close match" for my search for Isaac Seaver in the 1860 United States census. I clicked on the "Search" button (click 1) and the list of 11 search results came up:

Isaac Seaver born in 1824 and on the 1860 census is the sixth result on the list (it's really hard to deicpher some dates on my 22 inch monitor! Why can't they use bold type - is there an electron shortage?). I put my cursor on the name and a popup box appeared that summarized what is indexed for this entry:

I think that is him, so I clicked on the link (Click 2) and the summary of the indexed record shows on the screen :

It is exactly what was on the popup box. OK, a lesson learned!

That is my Isaac, so I clicked on the Image (Click 3) in the upper right-hand corner of the result page (I could have clicked on the "Record Image" link on the far right margin).

A new Window opened because the record image for the 1860 US Census is on, an affiliate of FamilySearch Record Search.

If the user does not have a Footnote subscription, then this is as far as you can go (you could try to read the image with a magnifying glass, but the image is fuzzed up). If the user has a Footnote subscription, s/he can login and see the 1860 census image on the Image Viewer.

Back when I had the list of the 11 matches in all of the databases, I could have clicked on the little indicator just to the left of the link to the name. The little green arrow on the indicator denotes an affiliate site houses the image.

We will look at the Wild Card and Advanced Search capabilities of FamilySearch Record Search in the next post in this series.

1 comment:

wendy said...

Also - if you get a match on the 1860 census but do not have Footnote, you can try HeritageQuest (if your library subscribes) & look at the image there!