Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ancestry.com wants us to create trees and not do individual searches?

Randy Seaver woefully noted recent changes at Ancestry in his post titled Ancestry.com Home Page Changes and Wild Card Search Frustrations. I think we're seeing a major shift in how Ancestry.com wishes to have people interact with the website.

To Ol' Myrt's way of thinking, the best way to provide context-sensitive search results is for users to have an Ancestry Member Tree.

Notice what's missing when comparing today's Ancestry.com "advanced" search box  on the home page and the screen shot Randy took on 12 April 2013 for his presentation two days later:

IMAGE: from Randy Seaver's blog post,
My red arrows and rounded boxes are added.

Specifically, the form now on the Ancestry.com homepage does not include search modifications such as:
  • adding multiple life events (to exclude people who didn't live in the same time frame)
  • adding the names of known family members (especially helpful when we know the spouse or children of an elusive ancestor)
  • gender (that makes it hard with my grandfather named "Shirley" and his father named "Alma")
  • race or nationality

What we are left with is a bland "advanced" research form that means we will spend significantly more time doing individual searches. The additional "length an individual stays on the site" may boost Ancestry.com traffic score, but will also boost frustration levels among researchers who know this new search is a giant step backwards:

Registered users should forget Ancestry.com's home page and click the "Search" option on the top navigation bar to find the old familiar search box, with the additional options to:

Restrict the search to any or all of the following:
  • Historical records
  • Family Trees
  • Stories and publications
  • Photos and maps

I do not know if researchers using this advanced form will experience the same wild-card search frustrations discussed in Randy's post about the home page search box

 A private Ancestry Member Tree may be your best solution.

When "de"selecting the default option "Allow others to see my tree as a public member tree" Ancestry.com advises:
What if I don't make my tree public?

  • When you choose not to share your tree, you potentially miss out on opportunities to collaborate with other members and grow your tree.
  • Even if you don't share your tree, other members can still learn if a specific deceased individual is in your tree, in addition to the birth year and birthplace of the person and your username (but no personal information about you).
  • They can then contact you anonymously through the Connection Service on Ancestry.com sites to request more information. Keep in mind that members who want to learn from your tree may also have helpful information about your tree to offer you in exchange.

Ancestry.com benefits by our posting online member trees, but so do researchers. Those trees provide the potential for more member-to-member collaboration and facilitates Ancestry DNA matches. Ancestry Member Trees may also be the only viable alternative to the poor Ancestry.com search algorithm challenges described by my esteemed colleague.

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

Blog: http://blog.DearMYRTLE.com
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  1. I am a bit confused. When I go to Ancestry.com Home and whether I use the Search Tab or Show Advanced in the Search Box, I get multiple locations, other family members, gender and sex/nationality fields. I tried with both old and new search and I cannot get the abbreviated form that Randy shows.

    1. Before responding, I went to Ancestry.com, and am looking at the home screen and see the shortened search box. I too clicked the "Show Advanced" button, and am taken to the old familiar, detailed search box.

      But I was able to duplicate Randy's findings before, hence my suggestion of work-arounds.

      NOW, as I do this, signed in as a member, I see what you are seeing.

      SO, I logged out, and there is no way to do a search on the Ancestry.com home page except by entering "Your name", etc.

      WONDER if Ancestry has been playing around with their search screens since Randy's post, and my verfication that I could replicate what he was seeing?

    2. Dear MYRTLE,

      I think what HAS changed is that we can customize our Home Pages. (Where we land, logged in, when we go to www.ancestry.com ).

      I noticed a couple of days ago, that in the upper right, just below help, was a Customize link. So, I had already done that with what I want to see when I go to that website, not what "they" want me to see, as it has been.

      The 2nd item in the Right Column is where I had already added the search "Widget". I just double checked, and it's called a Widget.

      After I read Randy's Blog and your posting, I went be to see the format of the Search Widget. The Widget is less then what you have. BUT, in the upper right of the Search Widget is the "Advanced" search screen, that we normally see.

      What I like about the redesign of my "landing page" (Ancestry.com's Home Page while I am logged it) is GREAT. I am one click away from the full "Advanced Search".

      I have not gone back to log out and see what I see, but I am happy with the MY New layout. Fit's my need and I think that most places where I would go to do some searching or my Ancestry Member Tree is one mouse click away.

      Now, I have only used this new format for a couple of days, but that is where I am at the moment.


  2. Pat,

    Which Advanced search screen you get when clicking "Advanced Search" on your Ancestry Home Page is determined by which search engine (Old Search or New Search) you have chosen on the Main Search Page.

  3. The new version is HORRIBLE! I know one must be polite on this blog; but, I am so frustrated right now ... It seems a large number of documents I had downloaded through the last seven (7)! years have disappeared!!! I have also noticed that when I do a comparison with other trees, the information I had ORIGINALLY typed into my tree has suddenly transfered over to the other person's tree, and I am left with their mediocre attempts at Geneological research. I know this is happening; because I know the person(s) who are doing this - I have already requested them to correct their errors, to no avail. I looked at one of these information blocks today, the one where there is a pencil and a check mark. I WAS ABLE TO CLICK ON THE CHECK MARK, and if I wanted to go further with this attempt, would have been able to delete the information from someone else's tree?!!! I am not a happy camper lately with Ancestry, not at all! Also, the background of the web site it white - whatever happened to the nice color, which was so pleasing on the eyes? Also, I really, really liked the newest tree comparisons that (finally) was incorporated into your web site; it was so pleasant to use. Now, the ridiculous 'search' box is so frustrating! Please ... inform me as to how I get the web page for Ancestry.com back to what it was app. one to two weeks ago. I had purchased Roots Magic a couple of years ago, and recently have been so tempted to use their program; but, what is the use, as Ancestry has bought them out? Too big to fail, eh?

  4. And it's still better than familysearch. I WISH their search box had ancestry's options. I often find what I am looking for at familysearch but it is too time consuming.

  5. I have seen numerous changes over fifteen years as an Ancestry.com subscriber, and not all of them have been good. Although the changes made may seem minor to Ancestry.com's staff, they only add to the confusion and frustration of their loyal subscribers, especially when the changes don't appear to be 'improvements' for the benefit of subscribers, but appear to benefit only Ancestry.com's traffic, revenue, etc.

    I have been concerned about the issues surrounding online family trees from the very beginning. I have never placed my family tree with Ancestry or any other online service, either public OR PRIVATE. For this reason, I started my own site over two years ago at Empty Nest Genealogy and have placed my tree on it. Anyone can contact me with suggested changes and corrections, but only I can edit the tree.

    This also safeguards against any changes Ancestry.com makes in the future, that may result in further compromising our data for their own benefit.

  6. I wish they had not removed the button which gave you a direct line descendant path from a certain ancestor to yourself. I found that very helpful in educating my children. Sorry to see it go. I only ask why was it necessary to delete it?

  7. While doing a recent search of how to have a direct line descendant path I discovered that one option is to type each descendant's name all caps.