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 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 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, 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.
Please 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.) 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.

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