Friday, June 3, 2011

Search Ancestry.com with Search Plugin

One reason you're not hearing much from me is the crash of my computer. Fortunately, I've followed the advice of people like Dick Eastman and have what I hope is a complete backup of my documents. But buying a new computer and getting all my programs reinstalled is taking a lot of time, time that is already overly busy for various reasons.

As I tried to figure out a new version of Firefox, I was reminded that it is possible to add additional search engines to the Search Box, located near the upper right corner of the browser. I wondered how easy it would be to create an Ancestry.com Search Plugin.

It was easy. The problem is, it is nearly worthless. I've mentioned before that I think a Google-type search--a single text box--would not work well for genealogy records. This experiment has done nothing to change that opinion.

It is an interesting toy to play with. To install the plugin, go to this page and click on Ancestry.com. Type in names and dates and places. Try someone famous, like "john fitzgerald kennedy." I'm certain that if Ancestry.com put their minds to it, they might vastly improve how well a single-text field search works. But I think tens of man years would never make it so usable that you would choose a single text field over separate name, date, and place fields.

I created this Firefox search plugin at http://mycroft.mozdev.org/submitos.html

This has been a nice diversion, but it is time to get back to setting up my new computer. Stay tuned...

6 comments:

  1. To install the plugin, go to this page and click on Ancestry.com.

    ReplyDelete
  2. http://usgwarchives.net/search/searcharchives.html
    The above URL is the location of the "new" search engine at Rootsweb. It seems to work very well. I bet you already knew about this.
    Keep up the good work!

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  3. bGood luck on the set up of your new computer. Crashed my a couple of years ago and still haven't completely recovered. I still thinks of things I miss from it every now and then. However, I was very lucky. I had not backed up and I was blessed enough that someone saved my hard drive.

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  4. Most famous internet auction site has single field search, with separate fields for types of results (price range, location, from particular vendor). The reason this works very well is that it allows boolean language, including allowing a very large number of exclusionary words (wild cards allowed!) that result in excluding particular types of listing titles.

    This works well to counteract vendors' plaguey tendency to salt titles with irrelevant words in effort to increase viewing traffic (for what actually is not being looked for by viewer).

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  5. Ancestry has their own search toolbar at http://trees.ancestry.com/toolbar/download.aspx. According to the description, with it you can "Save photos and attach them to people in your family tree. Save text as stories for people in your family tree. Save external web links to people in your family tree. Access your Ancestry Quick Links. Quickly access your Family Tree." Sounds pretty neat, but unfortunately it works only with Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox 3, so I haven't been able to try it out yet.

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  6. Dear Jon,

    I loved the toolbar.

    Dear Ancestry.com,

    Please bring the toolbar back. While you're at it, add a button to hook an Ancestry.com record to my new FamilySearch Tree and an entry in the new FamilySearch Tree to an entry in my Ancestry.com Member Tree.

    -- The Insider

    ReplyDelete