Friday, April 29, 2011

One Step Backwards, Wait, Wait, Wait, Wait, One Step Back

The search form had spaces for both birth and death eventsWith the release this week of search filters, FamilySearch can breath a sigh of relief. Search filters allow users to cut the number of search results by dynamically adding search criteria.

Prior to December 2010, users could keep search results to manageable numbers by specifying birth and death events in the search form. (See the screen image to the right.) When replaced, a new, simplified search form restricted searching to a single event. This increased the number of results, often to unworkably large numbers.

“RecordSearch pilot validated the search model of doing an initial search with…a single event and then filtering the results by secondary events and parameters,” said Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch product manager. Unfortunately, while filtering was not ready for release in December, there was some advantage in immediately adopting the single-event search forms according to Kehrer.

“This was a very difficult decision,” said Kehrer in a statement at the time. “There will be a short interim period between releases where searching on multiple events will be [unavailable], but we've decided to move forward with the new forms now because…this represents the shortest development path to the target search experience. To those who need to restrict results based on multiple events or relationships, we understand your need, please be patient over the next weeks as we put in place the tools you require.”

“Filters are now our highest feature priority and we intend to deliver this key function after the holidays,” he said.

The holidays came and went. Weeks turned into months. Short stretched into very long.

“I feel it was a poor decision,” a user told Kehrer last December, “to activate a partially developed search page…and decrease the functionality of the site.”

In his defense, I’ve met with Robert many times and can assure you he is top notch. I expect one day he will be stolen away by an obscene offer no sane person can pass up. He’s that good.

Which raises some questions I’d like to ask him—maybe when things are not so hectic. How did a four week project balloon into 20? How helpful did it turn out to be, the December elimination of multi-event search? If he knew then what he knows now, would he do it differently?

In any case, now that filters are available I’m sure he’s breathing much easier.


For more information about search filters, consult this article on the FamilySearch Blog: “Take a Sneak Peak at New Search Filters in”


  1. "RecordSearch pilot validated the search mode of doing an initial search with…a single event and then filtering the results by secondary events and parameters."
    This is utter nonsense. All it validates is his OPINION that a two-stage search using filtering is better than a one-stage advanced search. I am of the opposite opinion. A two-stage search takes longer, and is a pain in the neck compared to an advanced search that allows the user to specify multiple secondary parameters up front. All that freakin' clicking just to specify one single parameter - it's ridiculous!! Anyone who values form over function does not impress me.

  2. I agree. I teach genealogy, and one of the most important things new genealogists need to understand is how to focus their research by looking for specific information, not just randomly seek whatever pops up. Filtering after the fact encourages really bad genealogical practices.

  3. A high-function 'advanced search' is crucial. It can't be easy to design, but that capability is almost a make-or-break for the more experienced, or those looking for specific individuals.

    On the other hand, I can see the filtering concept that is being worked on here as being very useful, eventually. Once the filters are not "US, Canada, Mexico" but rather "North Dakota" or "Quebec". Not "1700" or "1800" but a tighter date range. But the system doesn't seem to be ready for prime time....

    I can only figure this is being worked on.

  4. What a hot mess!! Before you put in a name and a date range and then when the results came up you could quickly scroll to the states pertinent to your search that were delineated by the years covered. It's almost worthless now unless you're prepared to give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome.

  5. Interesting to note - you can filter further than USA, Canada, and Mexico - click on it again when it shows up in the left. It's not obvious though, and that's a problem!

  6. The new filter setup is a bit silly. It all should have been provided on one search form. Some of it is redundant. The prior and present 'advanced search' form allow specifying a location and date range. And there was no need to hide the search form behind a clicky arrow after the first search.

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  8. I used to think I was a pretty smart feller with regards to searching on familysearch. With the arrival of the new filters, I'm lost. How can a filter for "US, Canada and _____"
    be better than the old "State, County, Town"???

  9. What I'd like to see, is the ability to search for a surname ONLY at a
    particular location.


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