The room was packed. The room monitor did a great job of ushering late comers to the few free seats. Anastasia Harman was presenting this session at the Salt Lake Family History Expo on 27 August 2010.
I must say she ignored very nicely the person who took a cell call in class. (He-lo-o!) I tell my classes that I don’t care if they leave their cell phones on as long as they let me answer their phone should it ring. I’ve only answered one call. But I digress…
Harman told attendees that to understand Ancestry.com search results, you should know the five different record types among Ancestry.com’s nearly 30,000 titles. (Is that a new term? “Titles?” They used to call them “databases.” I like it. Good change. But I digress…)
One type of title has indexes and images. The indexes were hand entered, field-by-field.Another type has indexes but no images. These have value because as indexes they tell you what archive to contact to get the original record.
For printed, non-fielded records—newspapers and books—Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is used to create indexes. Anastasia only mentioned the last two types: member contributed records and image first records.
Anastasia likened different search strategies to automotive transmissions. There are manual transmissions and automatic transmissions. Manual transmissions are the ones where you use a search box and type in your search terms. (Is “box” new, official terminology? I like it when anything you wish to talk about has a name. As your mother taught you, “everything has a name and when you’re done playing, you should put every thing back in its place.” But I digress…)
Automatic transmissions are searches where you enter your ancestors in a tree and let Ancestry.com do searches for you. You don’t have to set around and wait, however. You can click Search from a person page in the tree. “To me this is a big time saver,” said Anastasia. The system fills out the search box with everything you know about the person, including spouse, parents, children, and all locations.
Manual searches have three “gears.”
1. Global searches pick off the low-hanging fruit out of all the records on Ancestry.com.
“If you take anything else away from this class, never look at every one of the 27 thousand some odd matches.”
2. A collection or category search narrows the search to records of a specific type or collection.
3. Lastly, search an individual title. The search box contains fields specific to that title.
So, gentlemen, start your search engines. And please, do not use your cell phones while you drive.
Want to see more of Anastasia? Click here to watch her appearance on the Martha Stewart show.