Thursday, June 27, 2013

And the changes at Ancestry just keep on coming!

My record of teaching an Internet and Genealogy course, finishing it, and have the various websites that I taught in that class make changes is still 100%. Yep, those funny folks in the Product Development Team at are at it again.

So now you guys who took my class last Spring remember the night we talked about old search and new search at Ancestry. Well the old search is going the way of the Dodo bird. Yep, the famed old search engine will be history in the next six months. The good news is at least they have done away with the result pages that had those gold colored stars. Those stars were suppose to rate the results you received based on the search criteria you put into the new search engine.

I'm sorry Ancestry, but that was the dumbest damn thing I have ever seen you do in the nearly 13 years I have been with you as a paying customer.

So the search engine below that has been around literally forever will be history soon.

So will the results page that was associated with this search engine (below).

The new search engine now looks like this.

On the results page you will have two different views of the search results depending on which tab you select in the upper right hand corner. Here is a view when the record tab is selected.

And here is the new search results page when the category tab is selected.

This second results page is more like the old search engine results page and for that I will applaud the Product Team at Ancestry. The other thing that I mentioned above is you got rid of those juvenile star results pages.

If you want to switch between the two search engines follow my instructions below.

First look at the toolbar at the top of the Ancestry page. Click on the search button.

You will then get a second screen that dumps you off your Ancestry home page and puts you at the current search engine you are using. Look at the upper right hand corner and there is a link that lets you select between the two different search engines (see below).

In my screen capture above clicking on the Go to Old Search engine in the upper right hand corner will take you to the old search engine.
Bottom line the old engine will be history soon so time to get use to the new engine. Here is the email I received from Ancestry about this situation this afternoon.
Tell us what you think
          Dear Larry, is continuing our efforts to improve the search experience across and will be making changes to our search functionality in the upcoming months. Some features will be added and some will be discontinued. As part of the 2% of our subscribers that use the old search function on the site, we know that you are passionate about the search experience on and we are reaching out to you to get input on potential improvements. We hope you will take the opportunity to share your insights and feedback on our plans.

To identify which areas of the experience we should focus on this year, we have drawn on customer input, usage data, usage patterns and our old search function for inspiration. From all of that, we are looking at making your time on more productive by improving these areas of the search experience in 2013:
  • More relevant search results with the best results at the top
  • Easier refining and control of your search results
  • Keeping a better history of the work you have done
  • Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
  • Performance improvements to return results faster
As we begin to make these improvements, we will no longer maintain two separate search systems for the site. Maintaining two systems limits the resources we can use to make improvements and increases the complexity of every improvement we try to make. Additionally, continuing to maintain the two systems limits our ability to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting existing collections.

Based on that, as a part of the work this year we will be bringing together the two search experiences into a single search experience on We hope to bring forward the best features of both the old and new search systems into the consolidated experience to facilitate the transition for our users and to improve the overall search experience. We expect to discontinue the old search function as a separate experience within the next 6 months.

As a user of the old search feature, we wanted to give you advance notice and let you influence the changes we are making in search. Please take this survey to share your feedback and ideas on key features to improve.

Best regards,
The Product Team
So there you have it folks. Hey Ancestry now that we are focused and you have made improvements how about a DNA Chromosome Browser and improved ethnic DNA admixtures. Maybe a Xmas present, hint, hint!

Here we go again Ancestry is tweeking their search engine!

Dear Ancestry Product Development Team.,

I got your most wonderful and heartwarming email today informing me that your programmers as restless again and going to make some major changes to your main search engine - Again! I'm now informaed that I only 2 percent of the total users of Ancestry who continue to use the old search engine you decided needed changing several years ago to the piece of junk you now have called a "new search" engine.

Oh how cute and warm and fuzzy that new search engine is. It gives me stars to let me know the relevance of the results of my search. And oh look at this. On the right hand side of the page I have "filters."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Be careful when using tombstone information in lew of vital records.

I'm sure most of my readers are aware that tombstones can contain erroneous information from time-to-time. Personally I prefer a vital record (aka death certificate) if it is available as a primary record for someone's death event. But in many cases as we go back in time that will not be possible. But you should use tombstone information with a grain of salt. Case in point below is the tombstone of Joe Rob Redus.

Joe Rob Redus was the son of John Clement Redus Sr. and Hazel Ann Slater. According to the tombstone picture posted to his Find-A-Grave memorial # 28257374. He was born 14 Apr 1929 in Medina County, Texas and according to his tombstone died 12 July 1929. But that is not the entire story. The Texas death certificate tells us something different.

The death certificate  above shows that Joe Rob died at 10:15 pm 10 Jul 1929 and was buried the next day 11 Jul 1929. Bottom line the death certificate should be the primary document used in any lineage and the tombstone should be documented with the exceptions noted above.