Friday, August 14, 2009

Interesting and Useful Articles on has a Learning Center here. Included in this center are articles in the Article Archive. These articles go back into the 1990's, but it is difficult to find an article on a specific topic.

It is best to use the Advanced Search field and enter a keyword or an author to find what you're looking for. However, searches for common words like "Census" (433 matches) or "Military" (207 matches) result in too many matches. I've found no easy way to sort them out. The user can narrow a search by using the author or inclusive dates if they are known. There are 1,539 articles in the Ancestry Archive of articles, and 6,403 total in the Article Archive, as of today.

I received the Ancestry Monthly Update newsletter today and there was a link to Tony Macklin's article Ask the Expert: Sorting Through Search Results, published on 11 August. Tony answers the question from a user: "When I try to search for a name I get thousands of results. How do I sort through them all to find out who my ancestor is?”

In the article, Tony describes how the New Search on Ancestry is supposed to work. There are quite a few comments to this article, but most of them are negative - they claim that the search doesn't work the way Tony describes how it should work, and you can hear the frustration in the commenters words.

I'm sympathetic to the commenters frustrations, because I have them too. But I still think that the frustration is misplaced - I think the search problems on are the result of the enumerations of the data (the actual writing on the census, military, or other record) and the indexing or transcribing of the records.

When I look at's Search capabilities, I see the most sophisticated search capability in all of genealogy. No other commercial or free database provider includes as much versatility in their search fields (all databases, a collection or a single database; basic or advanced search boxes; many indexed fields; exact vs. ranked search for every field; wild cards; age or year ranges, etc). I do not fault them for the effort and the implementation of their search capabilities.

That said, I still prefer the Old Search, and do mostly Exact Searches with wild cards because the navigation seems easier to me.

Another article that caught my eye was by Jana Lloyd titled Leonis or Lewis? Some Quick Tips for Finding Your Ancestors in the Census, published on 5 August 2007. Jana discusses why there are errors in the census indexes, and some search tips to help you get around them. She uses one of her ancestors as an example.

One thing I noticed was that the Ancestry Article Archive shown that there are zero articles published in August 2009. Tony's article was published 11 August 2009 - why isn't it included in the list? July 2009 also shows zero articles. Jana's article doesn't show up in the August 2007 list of articles either. Whatsup with this? This page also promotes the 24/7 Family History Circle blog which has been inactive for months.

Frankly, if is going to publish articles like Tony Macklin's, they should also mention it in their Ancestry Weekly Discovery and Ancestry Monthly Update newsletters, at least more than in a sidebar as it was in the email I received. Articles like these should be put on the blog too - they are worthy!

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