We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable.
Rather than a record, per se, today I consider darned search results from Ancestry.com. A reader, Jim Castellan, shared a search result from Ancestry.com that he saw a couple of years ago. The search results have seemingly zero to do with his query.
This behavior has not changed. If you perform the same search today, you get the same result (with the exception that Mary Brown has moved out of New York City?).
Here’s a partial explanation. Look at the search sliders on the left side. The “Lived in” New York City slider has been pushed all the way to the right. This requires that all results be located in the specified place. All the rest of the sliders (except last name) have been pushed all the way to the left. That means the search results don’t necessarily need to match all of those criteria. If you examine the results, all meet a couple of them:
- name is a nickname of William
- born within several years of 1871
- born within one state of Connecticut
- married within several years of 1895
To receive more reasonable results, fiddle with the sliders. If you move the name sliders to the “Exact and similar” position, you get zero results, which might be what you expect if William Pinkerman died or moved out of New York City. If you then move the Lived In slider to the left to “Country,” there is the possibility that you will find where your William Pinkerman moved to.
The search sliders are one of the most powerful aspects of the Ancestry search system. They provide a degree of control lacking on other websites, which pick these settings for you and then don’t tell you what they chose.
Yes, search results sometimes say the darnedest things!