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Monday, March 10, 2014

Digging for the Date of Added/Updated Databases in New Search now Primary Search

One aspect I preferred in the "Old Search" experience was that information or details seemed to be more in the open. With "New Search" or as Ancestry.com started calling it today "Primary Search" those details seem more buried and require digging to find what should be visible.

Have you ever checked to see what database collections have been recently added or updated?

From the Main Search page in Old Search one would scroll to the bottom on the page and select the "recently added" link at the bottom of the right-hand column. From there you landed on a page (I wish I had a screen capture of this from Old Search), where you could see in one spot/list what had been added or updated to the website. Besides the database collection name, it clearly showed a graphic indicating updated or added AND gave you an actual date that this took place. So if you knew you last checked the list on a particular date, you could easily and quickly scan the list until you spotted that particular date. If needed, you could narrow the list by a particular country or show all countries at once.

Does New Search/Primary Search have this list? Yes, but it is not as convenient to use or to scan for updates/additions. Why?

Well, from the main search page you now have to click on the "view all in catalog" link at the bottom of the right-hand column. But this just takes you to the catalog page. So then you have to change the "sort by" from "Popularity" to either "Date Updated" or "Date Added."  What once was one list is now two lists!

Now as far as figuring out what is new or added since you last checked that requires more effort. Instead of a column in each list giving the actual date the addition or update took place (like in Old Search), Ancestry.com thinks you should roll your mouse over each database title. Then you have to wait for a pop-up bubble to appear giving you: the title of the collection, the date it was published, the date it was updated and a very brief line or two describing the database. This takes considerably more time having to wait for each pop-up to appear to learn the date. (And to be honest, I discovered this pop-up bubble by accident when my mouse slid off my lapboard one night.) Oh, the lists can be narrowed using location filters in the left-hand column.

To me as a user, if I am looking to learn what has been added or updated recently on the website SEEING the date added/updated is more important than seeing how many records are in each database or in what category the database was placed. Because the goal of my task is to learn what is new. Wouldn't logic say that date should be clearly visible rather than hid?

Yes, there seems to be "spacing issues" on the catalog page. But I suspect the information appearing in each column are values tied/coded to each database. My programmer brother says it is not that hard to re-program a column on one or two pages to "read" another value. (If it can appear in the pop-up bubble it can appear in a column and vice-a-versa.)

I have used the Ancestry.com Feedback (and an old survey a long time back) to point this and other things out. I just thought to share with other "Old Searchers" how to do what we did quickly and easily in Old Search days in the New Search/Primary Search albeit not as quickly and easily.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ancestry.com Old Search is dead -- March 6, 2014 -- it is a Sad Day for Me

I logged in today at about 3:35 p.m. and made the horrible discovery that Ancestry.com has killed "Old Search."  It was still there earlier this morning and now it is not. 

My friend the little switch link (new search/old search) in the upper right hand corner under the line of tabs is now gone. I wish there was a cheat code like they have in many computer games for infinite lives.

And NO Ancestry.com still has not fixed either the New York Passenger Ship List or the Hamburg Passenger Ship List specific search interfaces. Both still lack the age/birth year search parameter. (See my earlier post.)

Not looking forward to crawling instead of running through the passenger lists.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mourning the Coming Death of Old Search -- New Search Still Lacks in Areas

A blue banner appeared on top of the Ancestry.com search pages a few weeks ago, informing users the final death of Old Search is very near. March is going to be a black month. Perhaps the banner color should have been black not blue.

Yes, I still use and prefer Old Search.

I tried New Search when it first came out. My experience -- lots of junk results that simply slowed down my research. I went back to Old Search and went back to being very happy. Much later I tried New Search again after announced changes. Again, too much junk in the results. There was a bit more control but not enough for me. Click on the Old Search link on the right under the page tabs -- back to happiness.

When the option to use Old Search was removed from Ancestry.com LibraryEdition, helping people while volunteering at the library became frustrating for me. I made sure to bring my own laptop so I could do a search using my subscription on my laptop and then figure out a way to make the result come up for the patron in LibraryEdition on the library's computers.

Another round of tweaks to New Search seemed to lessen the junk in the results list some more but New Search is still lacking, especially in one area: the specific search engine interfaces for the New York Passenger Lists database and Hamburg Passenger Lists database.

What is lacking? The ability to use Age/Birth Year parameters in your search on these databases in New Search. The ability is there in Old Search. Why, oh why, is it not there in New Search?

Yes, the ability appears to be there in New Search for the search engine of the whole Immigration Category. But you have to dive down into the category to get to the specific database (New York or Hamburg) and once there the age/birth year parameter stops working. Then you have to climb up the category to tweak the age/birth year and dive back down into the category to see the new results. A waste of time if you ask me.

When you know your person came through a specific port, why waste time sifting through irrelevant results? Instead, focusing your search on a specific database immediately eliminates those irrelevant results so you can concentrate on the real potential answers to your search quest.






I lecture on searching for German ancestors and I do a lot of passenger ship list searches. But essentially for any nationality there are three major elements you need to know, have and use in order to find your ancestor(s) on a ship list:
  • Name of Ancestor(s) (as much as possible including nicknames)
  • Birth Date/Age at Arrival/Departure (as much as possible)
  • Arrival/Departure Year (it may be a specific year or range of years)
  • A fourth element that is helpful is knowing the Nationality or the State/Province of the Country your Ancestor(s) came from (i.e. Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Germany)
These are the elements that you need to plug into a search engine to find the result that is your ancestor. By not having the ability to use an Age/Birth Year parameter in searches of the New York and Hamburg Passenger Lists specific databases in New Search, Ancestry.com is tying a user's shoelaces together and slowing down research success. I want my searches to run not tip-toe so I've stuck with Old Search.

Being able to use an age/birth year parameter is important. Got a difficult ancestor(s) to find? One tip I have for researchers when they are trying to locate a family traveling together on a ship is to concentrate the search on the children not the parents. There seems to be less children compared to adults traveling in any given year. Having the ability to use age/birth year in a search quickly eliminates a whole bunch of people from the results list and increases the chances of spotting the desired ancestor.
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Please Ancestry.com fix New Search's deficiency in the search engine interfaces of the New York Passenger Lists and Hamburg Passenger Lists databases. And while you are at it, fix any other specific search engine interfaces that have had their wings clipped in New Search. (At present, I know of just these two.)

Ancestry.com recently announced a new feature in New Search ... sliders to widen and narrow one's search. I'll be investigating that feature soon. I have a suspicion these sliders are going to be more like what Dad called the "idiot" lights that started appearing on a car's dashboard long ago instead of traditional gauges. You'll only know something has changed not why it changed. I hope that is not the case. I'll sum up what I learn about the sliders soon.

©2014, goneresearching. All text and photos in this post are copyrighted & owned by me (goneresearching) unless indicated otherwise. No republication (commercial or non-commercial) without prior permission. You may share (tell others) of this blog as long as you give credit and link to this site (not by downloading or copying any post). Thank you.