I call the two types tree decorators and tree growers.
Their search needs and requirements are different, which explains why some people like Ancestry’s New Search and some hate it. It explains why some people like the classic.FamilySearch.org more than the current FamilySearch.org
Relevance ranking is a feature of Ancestry.com’s New Search and FamilySearch’s record searching. Search results don’t have to match everything you search for, but the more things that match, the higher the record appears in the search results. The more you specify, the more results you get. More importantly, the more things you specify, the more the good results float to the top.
I’m a 5th generation genealogist, the inheritor of a complete, seven generation, largely undocumented tree. (The bug may have skipped one generation; I don’t have any indication that Alma did any genealogy. But I digress…) I spend a lot of my time hanging documentation on my tree.
I’m a tree decorator.
When I search, I search with a complete set of information about my ancestor. I search using every single fact or guess I have about an ancestor. The Search software uses the information to find every single record about my ancestor. Relevancy ranking works spectacularly, even where records have been misindexed, parts of a record were not indexed, or the record creator got some information wrong.
Relevance ranking works great for tree decorators.
Exact search is the way the classic.FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com’s Old Search worked. Every result must exactly match everything you searched for. The more you specify, the fewer the results and the better they are.
I split my precious genealogy time working on a brick wall. (Five generations of researchers have failed to break through, I must point out. This is more like a nuclear-bunker wall than flimsy brick. But I digress…) I am trying to grow my tree.
I’m a tree grower.
I am searching for people who are not yet in my tree. When I search, I search with precious little information. With relevance ranking, the less information you know, the worse the software performs. You’ve probably seen the messages: “If you add a name or other information, we’ll give you better results.”
Relevance ranking doesn’t work for tree growers and it knows it.
Exact search does. Tree growers don’t know much about an ancestor, but we do know something and the results we get darn well better match.
Further, tree growers need rich collection-specific search forms. We might know a neighbor’s name instead of a parent’s, or a slave owner’s name instead of the ancestor’s, or a profession instead of a birth date.
Two users. Two search requirements.
Tree decorators and tree growers.