Friday, April 26, 2013

Follow-Up Friday - Interesting and Helpful Reader Comments

It's Friday, so time to follow-up on interesting and helpful reader comments made in the last week.  

1)  On Home Page Changes and Wild Card Search Frustrations (23 April 2013):

*  bgwiehle noted:  "Not sure how consistently it occurs, but I sometimes get the 'too many results' page if the minimum 3 letters with a wild card includes a letter pair/combo that is a single sound (th, sh, sch, etc). Maybe vowel pairs like 'ea' are being treated similarly."

My comment:  I'll look into that.  Interesting suggestion.

*  Eileen said:  "My personal frustration is with exact search. I can put in a full surname and lived in location and restrict both to exact and it comes back with zero results. I can then set the location to default and get thousands of results, many of which are at the location specified and spelled the same. So why did I get zero results. I used to do this all the time to restrict my results to a single state. I wish they would stop 'improving' things."

My comment:  Can you provide a specific example that I can check out?  "Improving things" is something that every company tries to do on a persistent basis to stay ahead of the competition.

*  Anonymous commented:  "I've sworn off trying to do anything useful on Ancestry for a couple of months, or at least until they fix all the unintended consequences they have created with all the unwanted changes they've crammed down user's throats recently."

*  Unknown offered:  "One inconsistency I find is that Ancestry (I use the UK site) throws out variations of a name - but not all matches of those variations. 

"For example, I recently did a search for a Golesworthy - often mis-spelled as Goldsworthy.  Along with Golesworthy I got a lot of Goldsworthy returns - but not the one I needed. It *had* been entered under the mis-spelling, but Ancestry hadn't listed it, even though the date and place of birth matched. It *had* listed a lot of others, where the dob / place were completely different. This can be really confusing for amateurs like myself!"

My comment:  The results are often confusing for professionals also!  

*  Barbara Snow commented:  "I too have been irked by the problems with I've practically given up teaching people in my class how to search it. And untangling the long long list of ranked results is so time consuming. I feel like I spend about half my time on Ancestry trying to outwit the challenges it gives me. I appreciate your specific and well documented examples of some of the many problems."

My comment:  That's why I usually use the "Summarized by Category" view when I do a global search for a specific name.  I teach to do the global search, then narrow the search using an estimated birth date and a known birthplace, and then a spouse's first name if appropriate.  Then pick and choose the record collections listed.

*  Geolover noted:  "I, too have had problems with recent changes in the search protocol, including from trees. The results constantly are for wrong names, places and dates placed at the top, supposedly "Sorted By Relevance."

"In Firefox20, on Win7 running as 32-bit, I tried 'Isa* Sea*' on the purported home-page global search form (not advanced search).  I got 20,257,838 results. 'Sorted By Relevance,' the top item was the 1940 US Census enumeration for Abel Cruz De Seatrajo (what happened to the 'Isa*'? Some user had submitted "Isabel" as an alternate).

"The next few results were various 1940 US Census items for various Isabels with Sea* surnames.  So your problem with this particular search might be browser-related, but I could not guess why."

My comment:  Thanks for trying... interesting results too!  I wonder why the alternate name matches always show up at the top of the list.  Perhaps it's alphabetical on surname?

*  Desta Elliott said:  "Ancestry search seems to rely on producing thousands of 'hits'--by ignoring search parameters. I can put in name, birth, death dates, locations, gender, and restrict to US records. Results are from all/any dates, all/any locations, and non-US sites. If I search for Abraham Lincoln, I'll get a hit on a record that contains the word Abraham and Lincoln, anywhere on the page. The preview window often reveals that the names are not connected. I wish I could eliminate search results...say my ancestor is not related to Massachusetts records; why can't my results suppress those hits as you can in a Google search? Can't the searches return hits based on proximity? So, find only 'Abraham Lincoln' or 'Lincoln, Abraham'? The stars set by ancestry are useless. If I set the death year as 1865, let's skip all 20th century hits. All those Reno, Nevada newspaper hits and high school yearbook pictures.

"In the realm of dreams, I wish we could sort records by field....I swear this used to possible. So, in a list of, say, census records, I could sort so that all VA hits would be sort together. 

"I am curious, does anyone really search 2000 records? Yet, I worry that, buried, 1600 records down is the one I want.  Now, if we could suppress all those useless Family Data Collections...."

*  Anonymous ranted:  "Ancestry gets away with such shoddy service because they are a monopoly and they essentially have no competition - and they know it. The bean-counters running the company now know there's nowhere else for you to go.

"For now... for now... FamilySearch is coming up fast now, though... and I for one will cheer when they put Ancestry out of business in a few short years.'

My comments:  An interesting set of views here!  Thank you all for trying to help with my "isa* sea*" problem.  

2)  On Sorting Out Ancestry Global Search Matches (24 April 2013):

*  Linda Schrieber said:  "I hadn't explored the 'by categories' sort, and this may help a lot!"

*  herzogm commented:  "I guess I am a real Luddite, but as long as 'old search' is available, I'll stick to it. I can get the results I am looking for with a couple of clicks and don't have to go through all the manipulations that you are talking about."

*  Barbara Renick noted:  "I believe Ancestry searches max out at less than ten thousand matches viewed so there is not a way to look at 287,224 matches online. FamilySearch Record Search maxes out at 5,000 matches viewed. Database sites do this to limit server time used. And, yes, I'm sure we are missing something we would like to find deeper which is why I teach alternate ways to search to find those layers."

My comment:  I refuse to test out what Barbara said...10,001 matches checked would take almost 28 hours at 10 seconds per match.  But it's intriguing!

3)  On Response from on my Wild Card Search Frustrations (25 April 2013):

*  Jay at 1FamilyTree said:  "Randy, I get really frustrated when I hear (or read) comments like 'The logged in home page was one of the slowest pages on the site and was still talking to outdated systems, limiting our ability to make improvements.'  SORRY, but companies that cater to the small percentage of persons who are on older systems are not only hampering their own growth, but the growth of all their other users!!!"

My comment:  Jay, I'm not sure of she was relating to customers with old computer systems or to old systems within the Ancestry complex.  If the former, based on my observations of genealogy computer users in my local societies, it seems to me that the majority of potential Ancestry customers are still using Windows XP and earlier. 

*  Anonymous noted:  "Randy, you're much too easy on them. They're feeding you a pile of BS."

*  On Facebook, Janice Brown commented:  "Randy,'s response may satisfy you, but it does not satisfy me at all. still has it wrong. They need to scale their web site for the least sophisticated searcher, and stop trying to pump up the 'hits' one gets in a search and instead make the hits you do get relevant. The OLD search prompts worked wonderfully. The new ones are horrible."

My comment:  I am not enough of a computer wizard to know what is BS or not.  I didn't say I agreed with or was satisfied with it, only that I appreciated the response, the workaround suggestions, and would use them.  

4)  On adds Record Matches and Smart Matches (24 April 2013):

*  Saskey noted:  "I, too, have the 'Basic' Geni account. It displays matches, however, if I wish to examine matches including trees, or contacting the associated person, Geni invites me to purchase a subscription. So, I gather that Geni takes the data I uploaded for free, and charges other users to access and use that information; however, if I wish to see what they have done with my information, I have to pay. Do I have that correct?"

My comment:  I'm not sure, you'd have to ask  You also should read their Terms of Conditions about what they can do with your information.

*  Linda Schrieber said:  "I tried, briefly. Luckily, I just added a few deceased people as a test. Then I really explored the site.  And, yes, you upload your data 'for free', and they charge other users to access it, and they can't contact you without paying. And if you want to see what the others have done, you have to pay. 

"If you really want a wild ride, check out their on-site complaints. Someone adds living children to another person's tree, and the tree 'owner' can't remove them 'without paying', and sometimes not even then. Many, many, many similar problems.... 

"And trying to contact tech support through their own system sends you into an endless loop of 'click here' screens. It literally loops back, after a dozen or so attempts, and you start over. 

"Trying to get help through the forums is interesting.... No one from the company seems to pay any attention. There are long strings of truly valid problems and complaints, and serious problems, and they just let us vent to each other.... Finally, messages like **Is anyone from Geni listening??** get no response. No other contact with Geni seems to be available.

"I avoid Geni like the plague. Everything I have seen is disreputable."

My comment:  Interesting, and disheartening.  Genealogy companies need to mind their customer relations and be responsive.  I know that I'm lucky when I get quick responses from the companies because of my blog posts.  

*  Geolover commented:  "I love it when you post transcripts of estate inventories!  The word following "Loom" on line 7 is probably "Tacklin" (or maybe "taclin"). The "tackling" was the equipment associated with the loom: especially heddles and reeds, but perhaps also shuttles that bore the crosswise yarns to interlace them, and spare parts (such as harnesses and later, temples that held part of the fabric to full width)."

*  T asked:  "OH HAPPY DAY!!!! Samuel Wilbore and Mary potter are my ancestors!! May I use your research on my family tree at If so, how would you like to be credited?"

My comment:  T - thank you for asking!  Most readers don't... Yes you may use my data on your Ancestry Member Tree.  You don't have to ask permission to use names, dates, places, etc.  Note also that my probate transcription is subject to revision and correction.  If you want to use the Probate Records I posted, then I recommend that you create a Story for the probate records, copy and paste the information into the Story, and put in big red letters that the information was provided by Randy Seaver in,  include the source I provided, and note that that permission was granted to use the information.  

Thank you all for the comments this week - there were more, but this post got pretty long.  

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Claudia said...

And I erroneously thought I was the only one with trouble with Ancestry searches.

Taco said...

As a follow up to your follow up: searching with different spelling variations is relatively easy: just type all variations you want to search for in the surname field, separated by spaces. Works very well, as Ancestry will even do variations on your variations :-)

T said...

Thank you Randy! I will do the story. Some dates don't match other things I have but that's not unusual. If I can just get it on the tree where I can find it again......just had a major malfunction with my computers here and holding my breath until my computer cousin gets here to roll them back to an earlier time. Of all my backups, something will have the right version of my genealogy folders. I hope.