Thursday, August 18, 2016

Crista Cowan and Searching on – #BYUFHGC

Crista Cowan and Searching on Ancestry.comCrista Cowan presented “Supercharge Your Ancestry Searches” at the 2016 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.

Crista is the corporate genealogist for She announced that Ancestry now has more than 17 billion records. Crista said that six to eight years ago she was the indexing manager and had the single largest line item in the budget. Back then they indexed 1 to 2 million records a month. Now, they do that much in a day.

I’ve written before about this presentation. (Crista asks me, “Why do you keep coming?”) To read my articles about previous presentations, see

Here are some additional thoughts that struck me this time around:

Looking first at hints (shaky leaves) to other people’s trees might prejudice you. Look at record hints first.

“In some cases the only thing the archive will provide us is indexes,” Crista said. “Where an image exists, always look at it.” Ancestry indexes enough information to get you to the image. There may be additional information in the image. You can also discover indexing errors. You can see nearby people on the record.

When you are going through a person’s hints, to dismiss a hint you previously had to choose either Yes or No regarding the applicability of that record to that person. But sometimes you don’t know yet. Now you have the choice of selecting Yes, No, or Maybe.

Suggested Records are displayed right of a recordCrista has a love/hate relationship with Suggested Records. Those are the records listed to the right hand side of a historical record. [She said love/hate, but it was clear it was a love/love relationship.] She loves it when there is a bunch of suggested records. She also loves it when there are no suggested records. That happens when she is plowing new ground. 

“Our core search has not changed in years,” she said. What they are doing is adjusting what happens when you search from your tree. Depending on the amount of matching information, and what that information is, they rate and order the results, giving you the best records at the top.

When you launch a search from a person in a tree, smart filtering allows you to eliminate from the search results all the records you have already found and attached to that person. (Look for this setting at the top of the search results.)


  1. Thank you for this post. Even just the few comments you made about your take aways and smart filtering are awesome and time savers.

  2. Many of the suggested records are already saved in my tree.

    Also, many records say "This page can’t be found" when I try to view the record and yes, they are actual images. And it's not my browser as I asked a friend to try to look at the image and had the same result as I did.


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