Monday, June 6, 2011

Navigating - Post 4: Old Search, Advanced Form

In the first two posts (Navigating - Post 1: New Search, Advanced Form and Navigating - Post 2: New Search, Basic Form), I highlighted using the Basic and Advanced Search Forms using the "New Search" features. I advocate using the Advanced Search Form because it is much more flexible and the results are organized better than with the Basic Form. Some readers have pointed out that "it's too complicated."

Not everyone uses New Search - some users like the Old Search capability on because they think that it is simpler to use.   In the third post (Navigating - Post 3: Old Search, Basic Form), I highlighted the simplicity of using the "Old Search" with the "Basic Form," although there are some disadvantages to using it.

When users access for the first time, the system will probably come up with the "Basic Search Form" in "New Search." Beginning users will not know about differences between the "New Search" and the "Old Search" capability, and finding the "Old Search" capability can be a challenge (it is on the Search Tab when in "New Search"). Therefore, a new or beginning user will not be using "Old Search" unless they happen to click on the link in "New Search."

Assuming that a user is intentionally or accidentally in "Old Search," here is how to easily navigate "Old Search" using the "Advanced Search Form:"

1) The subscriber home page looks something like this (a user can customize their home page):

The screen above has the "Basic Form" on it, even though I tried to make it show the "Advanced Form" by logging off and logging back in after using the "Advanced Form."  Apparently, if a user is in "Old Search," the user will see the "Basic Form" on the screen.

2)  The "Advanced Search" link is on the home page just under the orange "Search" button:

There are many more fields for data entry on the "Advanced Form" above. The include:

*  A check box for "Exact match only."
*  Given name (with an "exact" check box)
*  Last name (with an "exact" check box).
*  Birth year (with a year range box - select from plus/minus 0, 1, 2, 5, 10 or 20; and an "exact" check box)
*  Birth Country (select from a dropdown box; if you select "USA" then "State," "County" and "City" fields appear; all have an "Exact" check box.  Note that the locations must be selected from a dropdown list).
*  Marriage year and location fields (similar to the Birth fields)
*  Death year and location fields (similar to the Birth fields)
*  Residences  (select from a dropdown box; if you select "USA" then "State," "County" and "City" fields appear; all have an "Exact" check box).  There is a link to add a number of Residences.
*  Keywords (with an "Exact" check box
*  Relatives: Father, Mother, and Spouse (fields for given name and last names, with an "Exact" check box for each field)
*  Categories (select from the list which categories - the broad categories are Historical Records, Family Trees, and Stories and Publications).  The Photos and Maps category is not listed here.

The "Advanced Form" in "Old Search" gives the user maximum flexibility to select exact or non-exact matches for each field.  This is good, but introduces significant complexity to the search.  The user has to be careful here because will remember these settings the next time the user goes to the "Advanced Form" page in "Old Search." 

3)  I entered Isaac Seaver, born 1823 (plus/minus 2) in Massachusetts in the screen above, and did not check any "Exact" check boxes.  The results I received are:

Without the "Exact" match box checked, the results are "Ranked Matches" based on a five-star system, with the highest ranked matches listed first.  The number of items on the Match list is not known - a user can go through thousands of them if they care to. 

The first four matches on the screen above are for Ancestry Member Trees, including my own.  The Historical Records that match the search request are further down the list.  This is why I don't like the "Ranked Searches" results, at least when I am searching for historical records.  A user can narrow the search to a specific record type by using the list on the left-hand margin.

4)  There is a "Refine Your Search" link at the top of the Results page (above), and clicking that takes you to the bottom of the page where a user can modify entries on the "Advanced Search" form.  Instead of using the "Refine Your Search" link, a user could scroll down to the bottom of the Results page to see the same "Advanced Search" form:

The screen above has the same information in the search fields, but I've selected the "Exact matches only" check box.

You can also see the Categories selected at the bottom of the screen above.

5)  I clicked on the "Search" button on the screen above, and the results were:

There are five entries in the "U.S. Census & Voter Lists" for 1850 to 1900, one Military record (a Civil War Draft Registration), and two entries in "Private Member Stories."  All of those apply to my specific Isaac Seaver (1823-1901).

 If the name had been misspelled in the index of a record, that record would not have appeared because I selected "Exact Matches."  If a user cannot find records using the exact match, they should make one or more fields non-exact on the "Advanced Form."

6)  One more thing - I wanted to check the "County" location for the "Advanced Form" so I entered "Worcester" in the Birth County Field with an "Exact Match" check box, and received:

There are no census matches, although Isaac Seaver was in Worcester County from 1860 to 1900.  Why did this happen?  Simply because the "Birthplace" on the census index is only "Massachusetts," not "Worcester County, Massachusetts."  It is a Birth place field. The search engine has a limited number of indexed search fields, and Birth County was not one of them.  The appropriate field for the County is the Residence field.  When I deleted "Worcester" from the Birth County field, and added it to the Residence field, the search found him in 1860 to 1900.  However, when I entered "Westminster" in the City field for Residence, with or without "Worcester" in the Residence county field, I received no matches.  Why?  Probably because the City is not indexed when the search is conducted.

The lesson here is that the user needs to really think about the information entered into each search field - don't enter information into a Birth field that is not indexed in the records.  Don't enter "too much information" in the search form fields, either. 

See - even the "Old Search" is complicated!  You don't always receive matches that you expect.

7)  I still find it easier to use the "New Search" "Advanced Form" search - I have much more control and flexibility to choose "exact" or "non-exact" and it searches all collections (and I can turn on or off specific collection sets).  It is more complicated, but not much more than the "Old Search" "Advanced Form" search. 

The user in "New Search" does have to mind the different search options for the name and location fields.  The user also has to use the location field dropdown lists to select a location that is in the location database.

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(c) 2011. Randall J. Seaver. All Rights Reserved. If you wish to re-publish my content, please contact me for permission, which I will usually grant. If you are reading this on any other genealogy website, then they have stolen my work.


jhm said...

THe old search seems to be non-exisent. It disappeared as I was researching this afternoon (6-7-2011).

Geolover said...

Randy, interesting series on New/Old Searches at

You could point out that you have been working only with the "Global" search form (the search engine does not really search all databases).

It is in trying to search particular databases or groups (say, Military records or even Revolutionary War records) that there are really big differences in the two modes.

And it still is not possible to search records ~for~ just a given locality (say, Pennsylvania) in either mode.