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April 25, 2009

Ancestry's new search and hot keys option

Yesterday while using website, I saw a notice at the top of the main Search Page "Try out the New Ancestry Search". There was a small arrow labelled "Try it" and another labelled "Tour".

Since I am on dialup I know that the Tour is probably too bandwidth intensive for me, so I clicked on Try It.

There was an explanation of the new Search features including the following:

* Type-ahead tools

As you type information into a search field, Ancestry will forecast what you’re typing and fill in the remaining fields based on information already in your tree.

* Image snapshots

View sections of newspaper and journal images highlighting your search terms to see whether a match is relevant.

* Site-wide search

Search all of Ancestry at once without sacrificing a thing. Then narrow down to new and improved categories of information.

* Contextual search tips

We’ll give you ideas to help you enter the best information possible.

I immediately got a choice of searching all of Ancestry's records or a nice list of topics and specific records I could search. That was a nice touch!

I decided to search all of Ancestry's genealogy databases. As soon as I put my cursor in the field for first name, a little comment box appeared with tips to help me. When I started to type in the Location Field for birth, a drop down list appeared (the same as the Pilot Family Search website) from which I chose the location I was about to type. I didn't ever get the Type Ahead Tools Ancestry mentioned.

Then I chose from the options of what country's collections I wanted to have as priority matches. I chose Canadian Collections, expecting that any matches would be shown with Canadian Collections first, then others. When I searched all of Ancestry's website I only got hits in Canadian collections! That's not prioritized, that's an exclusive search of one Country! Ancestry missed any matches for my ancestor (who was born in Ontario) living in the USA. I expected "priority" to mean just that - a list of matches from all databases, with the prioritized country at the top. Had the option been to search ONLY in Canadian Collections I could understand the only matches showing being from those collections.

Refining my search to PRIORITY ALL COLLECTIONS brought up the same matches as PRIORITY CANADIAN COLLECTIONS. Not good as I know from using the "old" search engine yesterday that this particular ancestor appears in several Virginia City Directories and the 1920 census for Michigan.

When I narrowed my search to search only in BDM databases, Canadian Collections as priority, I got 2 sets of England records first, then an Australian one, then American and finally at the bottom matches in Ontario Canada.

On the left of the page was a REFINE SEARCH box, where the researcher can click the fields already filled in, and quickly change them or refine them. Yesterday this feature would not work for me. Today it does. Probably just glitches so I'm not going to get too excited that it didn't work yesterday. It's quite a nice feature, very similar to the Refine Search uses.

As I scrolled down the Refine Search options, I saw, at the very bottom left of the page, a list of Hot Keys:

Hot Keys

* n - New search
* r - Refine search
* p - Preview current record
* > - Highlight next record
* < - Highlight previous record

This I really liked! I only used "r" for Refine Search and it was quick and reliable. Using hot keys meant I could look for an ancestor and if I didn't like the results I got, I could just hit "r" on my keyboard and bingo, up popped the spot where I could refine my fields. However my complaint about the Hot Keys is that the list is too far down the page! Not many people will see it, so it may have been better had Ancestry moved it up nearer the top.

That's all I've played with so far but I'll keep you posted on other discoveries, good and bad, as I make them

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I've searched many times on the new site. Some days I have no problem at all and realy like the new search screen. Then there are days when I know the information is there -- like a census record that I want to look at again. But the new search screen does not bring up the record. One day I went to Heritage Quest just to make sure and foudn the record I want. Back to Ancestry with no results. After entering several different city and county combinatins, the record finally appeared. Very frustrating. I usually have no problem with computers and new programs, but this new search system is not always that easy to use.