Friday, July 5, 2013

Old Search Experience in New Search Clothing

On 27 June 2013, 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 This has been “S.O.S. Week” at the Ancestry Insider Offices where Wednesday we examined the Real Old Search pages. Contrast them with today’s.

Before logging in, the home page today does not provide a search form. After logging in, it looks like this:

The home page search form

Contrasting it with Real Old Search, note that it allows specification of a full place name, specification of an estimated birth year, and a checkbox to limit results to US collections. These are the best fields for a new search, ranked result mindset. Matches are not limited to exact, so the number of results is huge and some do not match the search terms entered.

If you are an Old Search fan, do yourself a favor and go directly to exact searching: click Search, Show Advanced, and Match all terms exactly:
Turn on exact matching

To change last name from exact to Soundex, click underneath the Last Name on “Restrict to exact.”

To enter a birth and death country and year, click on Add life events. It is not really possible to enter the span used by Real Old Search. Instead, set the Any Event year to something in the middle and change the +/- box to 1, 2, 5, or 10.

Enter relatives under Family Member, clicking on Add Family Members as necessary.

To force the search results to show categories and top databases, select Categories above the results on the right:

List results by Categories

Clicking on a single database shows a sorted list of matches. Unfortunately, sort orders are not always intelligent. For the 1930 census, results are sorted by age, not location. This splits and shuffles families with other families across. Also, the full width of the window is underutilized. Many census columns could have been displayed. The results are no worse than current Old Search, but screen size has increased over the last 10 years. On my 15 inch monitor, just 5 inches are used to display results.

Bottom line:

  • Skip the home page
  • Use exact match
  • Use Add Life Events to enter birth and death search terms
  • Change the result list from Records mode to Categories mode

Finally, try New Search with these settings and complain to about things that don’t operate the way you want. is not trying to get rid of the Old Search way of doing things. They just need to retire an old goo of code, the Old Search engine, that is too expensive to continue using. They may be able to Save the Old Search functionality that is most important to you.


  1. All Ancestry had to do was to replicate the search ability of Old Search, in New Search, the myriad of options now available make even the simplest of searches, nigh on impossible, certainly many of the standard searches I have tried in New Search do not get results, I revert to Old Search and I get hits

  2. I don't like this at all and, if it results in the problems I have read about from others, I will save myself the 30+$ a month.

  3. Here is one example of how poor the new search that we are now subjected to is. Go to Search / "Immigration & Travel" then in the "Narrow by Category" box on the right select "Ship Pictures and Descriptions"

    I'm looking for a picture of the "Turrialba" at the moment. Is that the ship's first name or the ship's last name?

    OK, maybe Keyword will find it, but really? An inputbox for "Ship Name" would be a better idea. Very lame.

    Public Records database search. Where is the Zip Code field? When I find a public record for someone I used to go and search the Zip+4 given in the record with the surname alone to find spouses, possible children etc. That is history. The smallest parameters now are city and the street address in the 'Keyword' inputbox. If the record you are working from has a bad street address, well too bad.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.