Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ancestry.com is an Animal

Ancestry.com is an animal,” said Michelle Ercanbrack of Ancestry.com at the BYU Family History Conference. Ercanbrack’s session was “Tips and Techniques in Searching for Ancestors in Ancestry.com.”

“Ancestry.com is an animal. It is a huge resource,” she said. You’ll want to check back often to see new databases. Ercanbrack said that they are adding thousands of records each month. A box on the Ancestry.com home page features significant new collections.

 A box on the Ancestry.com home page features significant new collections

For more, click the link “View all new records.” (Note: The widget looks differently if you are not logged in and the link is “See all new content.” I wonder if there is a good reason for the inconsistency?)

 Ancestry.com Recently added or updated collections page

The list of collections can be filtered by country. Upcoming collections are highlighted in a box to the right of the list. Slated for this month are Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes census schedules and new mortality schedules. New U.S. Yearbooks are planned for next month. I noticed that on this page at least, Ancestry.com was moving away from the techie “database” moniker to the user friendly “record collection” terminology employed by FamilySearch to describe a collection of records. I’ll keep an eye out to see if the change is intentional and site wide.

I thought it significant that Ercanbrack took precious minutes away from her presentation to warn attendees about OCR databases. I have never done justice to my dislike of OCR databases. “These titles do not have manually created indexes,” said Ercanbrack. “Rather the computer ‘reads’ the digital image and offers matches it thinks best meet your search criteria.” She warned that “sometimes when you’re getting funky results it’s because of OCR databases.”

Ercanbrack suggested using global search (available on the home page or on the main search page) if you are new to Ancestry.com or to find “low hanging fruit.” Otherwise, you should consider searching a category or an individual collection. To find available collections, use the card catalog.

She said emphatically that we should give up old search. “New search is so much better as far as the results you get.” New search gives finer control of the search engine. You can specify geographic adjacency. (You must use advanced search and you must select the location from the Ancestry.com match list.)

  Ancestry.com can include neighboring counties or states in search resultsSelect a location from the match list  

You can specify name-matching criteria. (Catherine alone has over 800 variations.) Old-old search constrained you to exact matches; new search gives you field by field control. If you are hooked on old-old search’s presentation of search results, change the View to “Summarized by category.”

 View results summarizedby category to see results like old-old search

Ercanbrack pointed out that “member trees are a fantastic search tool.” You can use tree entries to auto-populate a search with all the information you know about a person.

Auto-fill the Ancestry.com search form from information in your tree

I’ve said that for a long time. That’s how I do most all my searches on Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com may be an animal, but tree-assisted search is the cat’s meow.

1 comment:

  1. It amazes me that governments and individuals are adding their population and individual's information on this site and they then turn around and charge everyone to go back on and see it!!

    I have also heard that people are signing up for the free 14 day trail but can't reach anyone to cancel at the end of the period. Any truth to this?

    Also, can you get anything beyond the data governments allow to be released? I don't think so, they must rely on the data submitted by individuals in their family trees since that data is made available before governments are allowed to. In other words, individuals are posting personal info and then paying to see each others submissions. What a plum way to make ?????????

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