Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ancestry.com Web Search is a winner

DearREADERS,
For over a year, the programmers at Ancestry.com have worked on the newly released "Web Search" involving members of the geneablogging community such as Ol' Myrt here in the "thinking" process. Entries in an Ancestry.com "hit list" for your progenitor may include items on other websites that may mention your ancestor. You'll have to go to that other website to obtain all related information. Please also note:
  • Each web entry on the hit list is clearly labeled with the prefix Web:
  • Each web entry on the hit list has an "external link" icon, as shown above.
  • When clicking to view the Web Search information, researchers are faced with a page that explains the item to be visited is on another website.
Some geneabloggers are concerned, yet Ol' Myrt feels Ancestry.com has this Web Search 99% right. (Yes, Ancestry Insider, there are always problems with citations, aren't there?) Ancestry explains:  "We follow web standards for restricting crawling (robots.txt files). If a website has a robots.txt file that prohibits crawling the genealogical records, we don’t search those records. If records from your website are included, but you would like them removed, simply send your request to websearch@ancestry.com or call our member services team at 1-800-262-3787."

The genealogy community has become more internet savvy, and is accustomed to Google searches since Ancestry.com's publication of the very different (100% scraping!) Internet Biographical Collection that went down in flames several years ago.

Here's an opening screen shot I took this morning of an Ancestry.com Web Search page.

LEGEND:
From this screen shot above:

Note the use of the prefix  "Web:" (circled twice) clearly indicating this is not Ancestry's content.
A = Reference to the location of the data, including clickable URL for the non-Ancestry.com site.

B = Explanation of Web Search, including a clickable link to more information including answers to such questions as:
  • Do I need to register or pay in order to access Web Records?
  • Which records are included in Web Search?
  • What if you wish your website to be included (or excluded) from Ancestry.com's Web Search.
C = This icon clearly tells the story that the content is external to the Ancestry.com web site.



When I searched for the marriage of Mr. Smith Brown and Lorene Wilson circa 1925, I received this detail:


LEGEND for the screen shot above:
1 and 3 = While it is possible to save the "record" to my tree or shoe box, any responsible researcher prefers to get to the "source" of the information, and not take the deriviative information summarized in this page.

2, 5 and 6 = This is clearly labeled as being "not from Ancestry" and that a new page will open. 

The following is a screen shot of the notice "You are about to view a Web Record" page, again stating that this record is not from Ancestry.


Once on the Marion County, Indiana website, I typed in the name of S Wilson and found the following marriage entry, listing the reference to new information, not found on the Ancestry.com website: Reference Book 126, page 72. With this book and page number, I can obtain the marriage record from the Marion County Circuit Court clerk. (Responsible genealogists don't rely on indexed entries, but strive for the first, original publication of info on events in an ancestor's life.)


Would I have found this entry without Ancestry.com Web Search? Probably. But I'd have to know the marriage took place in Marion County, Indiana, AND I'd have to figure out where to find this index on the web. Both components of that equation often elude researchers.

Does Ancestry.com's Web Search simplify things for researchers? Most definitely.

Ancestry Insider says "I think web page owners will be more amenable to Web Search than to the Internet Biographical Collection. And I think Ancestry.com haters and conspiralists will like it in their own way; it gives them more fodder." 

Ancestry.com explains  that if you have a website with family history records, Ancestry.com wants your feedback on their message board. If you would like Ancestry.com to consider linking to records on your family history site, contact websearch@ancestry.com.

Say what you will, conspiralists -- I think the new Ancestry Web Search is helping researchers by pointing to possibly relevant ancestral hits throughout the internet, and clearly providing links to that information. It is important to me that the bulk of the info to be obtained remains on that other website. Wisely, Ancestry.com is keeping access to Web Search free.

THANKS, Ancestry.com for making internet genealogy research easier for this dedicated family historian.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
DearMYRTLE,
Your friend in genealogy.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks, MYRT! I love using Ancestry.com but had been struggling with the new search engine and sticking with the old. It's wonderful that they are listening to their users and making changes because the old search won't be around forever! Great post!

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  2. Thanks. Myrt, I haven't had time to explore this yet so appreciate your rundown.

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  3. It sounds like another useful tool. Now can you get them to work on their own search engine for Ancestry.com so when we say we want records for people born in a certain place they only give us those records? :)

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