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 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:
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:
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:
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.
- 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 Ancestry.com about things that don’t operate the way you want. Ancestry.com 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.