Archive for June, 2012

Using Ancestry.com’s “New Search”

Periodically, comments will be posted on one mailing list or another, or some blog or another, by an experienced genealogist, in which they express trouble with Ancestry.com’s “New Search” and try desperately to get back to the “Old Search.”

For the life of me, I cannot understand these feelings. I have been using the “New Search” since its debut a few years ago, and find it far superior to the old search engine. I can only suppose that the problems stem from unfamiliarity with the more powerful settings.

When most people see the “New Search,” this is what they see:

I will admit that this does look quite unbearable to use. However, you will notice the “Show Advanced” link at the bottom, next to the “Search” button.

When you click on this link, the appearance of the search box changes dramatically.

To get the best search results, click that box in the upper left corner, “Match all terms exactly.” Checking this box changes the settings under each box from “Use default settings” to “Restrict to exact.” (Don’t worry, you can limit this.)

When you clink on the “Restrict to exact” link in various boxes, you get the following options:

First & Middle Name(s): “Restrict to exact matches and

  • Phonetic matches
  • Names with similar meanings or spellings
  • Records where only initials are recorded
Last Name: “Restrict to exact matches and
  • Soundex matches
  • Phonetic matches
  • Names with similar meanings or spellings

Location: “Restrict to this place exactly” “Or restrict to just

  • county/adjacent counties
  • state
  • state/adjacent states
  • country

[Note: You must have a county specified in this box in order for these options to appear.]

Wildcards (* or ?) will not work with any of these options. They only work when “Restrict to exact” is active. However, these options do allow for more flexible searching, without requiring wildcards. On first name, for example, a search for Anna with the “similar meaning or spellings” box checked will also return Ann, Anne, Annie, Hannah, etc.

Another complaint with “New Search” is that the results seem random. This is also a quick fix.

The default setting is view results by relevance, which appears as follows:

Here you see that the results from numerous record groups appear.

However, you can change the results to appear by record group. This is particularly helpful, for example, if you know that the person you are searching lived from 1863 through 1921 in New York. You can use a little genealogical reasoning to skip the record groups before 1863 and after 1921, and those that do not concern New York.

To make this change, you just have to click on the drop-down menu in the upper right next to “View”, and change “Sorted by Relevance” to “Summarized by Category.”

You can then go through and select each potentially relevant record group one-by-one. This, of course, limits the results to those in each individual record group. You can also make changes to the specific search terms within each record group. Just use your browser’s “Back” button to return to this main search results page to access other record groups.

I hope that this brief tutorial helps those who are having problems, and I welcome any questions, if I have not addressed any other issues with “New Search.” I believe that you will find–like myself–that the current search engine is far superior to the “Old Search” that everyone seems to love.

Notable Genealogy Blog Posts, 18 June 2012

[Please forgive the premature posting of an empty list yesterday. A case of auto-scheduling and sleeping in on Father's Day gone wrong. I have compensated by spending the day reading over a month's worth of blogs, so this list is longer than usual.]

The following recent blog posts are those that I consider important or notable. Unlike other similar blog lists, I cannot guarantee that they will all be from the past week. (Some weeks I simply do not have time to read any blogs.) But I will try to write this on a fairly regular basis.

Ramona Martinez, “Unknown No More: Identifying A Civil War Soldier,” NPR, posted 11 April 2012 (http://www.npr.org/sections/around-the-nation/ : accessed 18 June 2012).

John F. Cummings III, “Still Unknown… Despite Diligent Detective Work, NPR Story Makes Critical Error,” Spotsylvania Civil War Blog, posted 11 April 2012 (http://spotsylvaniacw.blogspot.com : accessed 18 June 2012).

Ramona Martinez, “Photo Mystery Solved, Then Doubted, Then Deciphered, Thanks To Readers,” NPR: The Picture Show blog, posted 17 April 2012 (http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/ : accessed 18 June 2012).

The three above articles/blog posts are brilliant examples of some historical detective work used to identify the subject of a newly-acquired Civil War tintype at the Library of Congress. Start at the beginning, and don’t neglect the comments.

Barbara Mathews, CG, “Follow Friday: Resources for Studying Genealogical Standards,” The Demanding Genealogist blog, posted 24 May 2012 (http://demandinggenealogist.blogspot.com/ : last accessed 18 June 2012). Barbara has created a new website discussing standards in genealogy research, writing, and teaching. The site will be in constant development, but provides invaluable information to those who want to study these standards.

James Tanner, “Community or Communities? That is the Question,” Genealogy’s Star blog, posted 29 May 2012 (http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/ : accessed 18 June 2012). James Tanner discusses the genealogy “community” as a series of overlapping affinity groups. I love the sociological theory of networks!

Lynn Palermo, “Mind Mapping for Genealogists,” The Armchair Genealogist blog, posted 30 May 2012 (http://www.thearmchairgenealogist.com/ : accessed 18 June 2012). I have been using mind mapping for over ten years. I usually hand-draw my mind-maps for articles I am writing or presentations I am creating, but I have also used mind maps in the way Lynn describes. A mind map provides a different way of organizing and reviewing the information you have and the information you need.

Angela McGhie, “Elizabeth Shown Mills Ten-point Study Blueprint,” Adventures in Genealogy Education blog, posted 6 June 2012 (http://genealogyeducation.blogspot.com : accessed 18 June 2012). Angela reprints, with permission, an educational blueprint that Elizabeth Shown Mills had submitted a few years ago to the Transitional Genealogists Forum (TGF) mailing list. It is interesting to note that several of these then-non-existent opportunities have since been created: notably the ProGen Study Group of which Angela has been the major engine driving it forward.

James Tanner, “Navagating [sic] the Maze,” Genealogy’s Star blog, posted 8 June 2012 (http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/ : accessed 18 June 2012). James presents seven rules for searching for information online. My favorites: Rule One, “Assume the information you are looking for is on the Web” and Rule Three, “Look for categories of records and sources rather than individual documents.”

Elyse Doerflinger, “The Genealogy Generational Disconnect,” Elyse’s Genealogy Blog, posted 8 June 2012 (http://elysesgenealogyblog.com : accessed 18 June 2012). Elyse responds to a post from the TGF list (which I have mentioned on numerous occasions) in which a young 20-something genealogist reported being largely dismissed by older genealogists. Many of you may be familiar with Elyse, whose YouTube genealogy videos while still a teenager were a huge hit. As a “younger” genealogist myself–though less so every year–I would like others of the “under 40″ ilk to start making our impact.

Marian Pierre-Louis, “The Complexity of Online Digital Records,” Marian’s Roots & Rambles blog, posted 12 June 2012 (http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com/ : accessed 18 June 2012). Marian discusses the five main types of online genealogy content, and some considerations for each.

Marian Pierre-Louis, “The Complexity of Online Digital Records – Part 2,” Marian’s Roots & Rambles blog, posted 13 June 2012 (http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com/ : accessed 18 June 2012). Marian discusses the three “views” of content: index view, record view, and image view.

I noted several other posts of interest, and have only made it through half of my unread blog posts in Google Reader. Now that I am back home from my “world tour” I hope to be able to list many more next week. Stay tuned…

Canadian genealogical society journals

Last year, Harold Henderson and I compiled “State & Regional Genealogical Society Journals,” a directory of the journals of societies around the United States.

M. Diane Rogers, editor of the British Columbia Genealogical Society’s journal (British Columbia Genealogist), has compiled and published a similar list for Canadian genealogical societies: “Canadian Provincial Genealogical Publications.”

If you are conducting research in Canada, please consider submitting your research to the appropriate journal.

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