Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Changes at FamilySearch Coming Soon

Jim Ericson of FamilySearch posted Search Feature Changes in Upcoming FamilySearch Releases yesterday that describes what's going to happen soon with searching the FamilySearch historical record collections.  The changes include (the FamilySearch summaries are edited a bit), with my comments:

FS:  Results Layout in Rows and Columns -- We will be refining the way results are presented on screen to optimize your ability to quickly scan up and down columns of events and relationships and identify relevant matches.

Randy:  I like the idea, but I hope they don't remove the down arrow to see an index summary for the match item without clicking the name.  That works well and is very helpful to see the indexed entries, including the FHL film number in many cases.

FS:   Multiple Event and Relationship Searching -- In coming months, the basic search form will be retired, replaced by an advanced form that is even simpler, but much more powerful.

Randy:  Simpler and more powerful is good.  Will it confuse beginning researchers?  Will there even be an "advanced form?" 

FS:  Improved Filters -- We are refining filters with simpler function which require fewer clicks and allow patrons to select multiple items.

Randy:  To me, filters are useful only with a global search.  They are superflous if I'm doing a search in one specific collection.  I can limit searches for places and years in a specific collection from the Search fields, which are currently hidden in the "New Search" down arrow at the top left.  I would prefer to have the Search fields always present in the left panel showing what I've used, and to enable me to quickly edit as I refine or expand my search.

FS:  A Multiple Collection Search -- We will allow you to select multiple collections on the Browse All collections page as well as in the search form and the results filter.

Randy:  Selecting multiple collections will be an improvement, I think.  Will I be able to use it after using a Keyword to a specific place or topic?  Many collections don't have an index, and I'm concerned that a user might be misled into thinking that there are no matches in their selected databases because there is no index.

FS:  More Matching Options (Exact Search, Close Search, and Missing Search) -- The default search currently displays exact results, close results, and then results that may have one or more of your search parameters missing. You can specify that you want only exact matches, but you cannot specify only exact and close. Shortly you will be able to specify Exact, Exact+Close or Exact+Close+Missing on a field by field basis.

Randy:  This sounds good in principle, but is not really an improvement, I think.  I didn't know that they found "missing" results before.  What is the algorithm for surname spellings for the "close" category - is it only Soundex (or similar)?  Will "Close" find years outside of the date range input?  Is there a dictionary for nicknames, initials and spelling variations of given names?

FS:  A Billion More Records -- The new release of FamilySearch gives you access to nearly twice as many records as the Record Search Pilot. With Record Search Pilot, you had access to 1.2 billion records. With the new release of FamilySearch, you have access to 2.1 billion records. This number increases weekly as millions of new records are added to FamilySearch each week.

Randy:  What is a "record?"  Is it an index entry for a person?  Or is it also an image (in browse-only collections)?

There are currently 696 historical record collections on the FamilySearch list ( and only some of them are indexed.  Many of them came from the "classical" FamilySearch International Genealogical Index (IGI) collection of extracted records.  More and more historical record collections that were on microfilm are coming online as "Browse Only" collections without indexes, such as the "Kentucky Probate Records, 1792-1977" released today.


Anonymous said...

In answer to your question whether they use only Soundex: the Standard Finder

FranE said...

Excellent summation. I was concerned about "that a user might be misled into thinking that bout there are no matches in their selected databases because there is no index." A place to teach new users.

Geolover said...

The new search form looks designed to change from looking for ~records~ to looking for a ~person~ (as in a tree).

There is no way to specify what type of record one is looking for. Fine to be able to put in a birthdate and place, but what if you want a birth record instead of myriad US Census items?

Lisa S. Gorrell said...

I hate that it is impossible to get back to the list at after you have been searching without having to go to HOME by clicking on the tree and starting from scratch.

Randy Seaver said...


please read my post where I covered this problem.

Diane Gould Hall said...

So many changes going on right now, Ancestry DNA, MyHeritage DNA Policy and now this. I have been nearly 100% happy with how the FS search works. It works for me.
Anytime these companies say they are "improving" things for us, I find, they are incorrect and it often makes searching more difficult and labor intensive.
I hope I can still go to a specific place on the world map, bring up collections and look. That is a very common way for me to search and I find it very useful.
Deep breath.....let's see what happens.
Thanks for sharing this info with us and your thoughts.