On 27 June 2013, Ancestry.com announced the retirement of its “Old Search” search engine. “We expect to discontinue the old search function as a separate experience within the next 6 months,” wrote Ancestry.com. This is “S.O.S. Week” at the Ancestry Insider Offices while we examine the issue.
You may recall that Ancestry.com held briefings with bloggers in early June about coming search functionality. (See “Ancestry.com Revisiting Search.”) We were briefed then on the retirement of the Old Search engine but were embargoed on writing about it. While the core functionality of the Old Search engine is present in the New Search engine (the “primary experience,” as Ancestry.com calls it), they have found that it is mostly hidden. They wish to provide a mode that better exposes the old search experience. They were calling it “Category Exact mode” since it presents search results in categories and uses exact matching. They showed a mockup of a possible search form, containing just first name, last name, location (country or state), and date range.
An interesting contrast is the Real Old Search form on the home screen back in 2004:
The Real Old Search results page looked like this:
The total number of matches was given as well as the number of matches in each category. Categories were sorted in perceived popularity. The advanced search form appeared underneath the results, pre-filled with the search terms.
Information entered in search forms had to match exactly, except surnames could be set to Soundex matching.
One or more categories could be expanded to show the five databases with the most number of matches, as well as links to pages containing all the databases in the category.
Clicking on a single database showed a list of sorted matches:
The full width of the window was utilized, showing as many columns as feasible. Columns and sort order were intelligently chosen for each database. In the example above, seven columns fit the available space, sorted by state, county, city, and birth year (which tended to group families together).
Happy 4th of July everyone. I’ll return Friday showing how these same screens look today, using features currently available in New Search.