Ancestry.com Changes Search Functionality and Removes Old Search

ancestry ends old search

That’s right! More changes in genealogy technology! This time changes to various search functions at Ancestry.com and the end of Old Search. Despite what the cover above looks like, there is no reason to panic and there are good reasons for change . . .

What The Changes at Ancestry.com Will Mean

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with Ancestry.com product managers and saw a demo of the changes to search.  Not only was I impressed, but I was actually blown away by some of the new ways in which search results can be displayed.  For me, the most important features were those where you could customize what you did or didn’t want to see.  With any site that relies on Big Data and ways to display it,  I appreciate it when I site doesn’t “assume” what I want right away but allows me to select the data fields I want.

As noted in the email from Ancestry.com to its users (see full email below), here are the anticipated changes:

  • More relevant search results with the best results at the top
  • Easier refining and control of your search results
  • Keeping a better history of the work you have done
  • Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
  • Performance improvements to return results faster

The Death of Old Search on Ancestry.com

One change, which some might see as radical, is the removal of Old Search. I have to confess that I am still among the 2% of Ancestry subscribers who still rely upon Old Search.  I know that things changes, that platforms have to change in order to improve performance.  PAF is going away (understandable), Google Reader is going away (still blows my mind), and now Old Search.  I’m actually surprised it took so long; I know it isn’t easy to support two different search mechanisms and then continue to make changes to each.

During the conference call, I and other genealogy bloggers on the call urged Ancestry.com to “manage expectations” when it came to announcing the removal of Old Search and to get input from the community.  From the email below you’ll see that and I urge those users passionate about Old Search to click the survey link and send your feedback.

Technology Changes – Get Used To It

I’ll admit it isn’t easy even for a tech guy like me to keep up with changes in technology, and yes I get frustrated too.  But I’ve come to realize that I need to evolve and “change with the changes.” I also think about how my ancestors reacted to technology changes: the automobile, the telephone, etc.  Yes the changes seem to come more rapidly nowadays, but we use way more technology than our ancestors.

I look forward to the changes in search at Ancestry.com and I’m keeping an open mind, especially knowing that they want feedback and want search mechanisms that best serves its user community.

* * *

Here is the text of the Ancestry.com email to its users:

Ancestry.com is continuing our efforts to improve the search experience across Ancestry.com and will be making changes to our search functionality in the upcoming months. Some features will be added and some will be discontinued. As part of the 2% of our subscribers that use the old search function on the site, we know that you are passionate about the search experience on Ancestry.com and we are reaching out to you to get input on potential improvements. We hope you will take the opportunity to share your insights and feedback on our plans.

To identify which areas of the experience we should focus on this year, we have drawn on customer input, usage data, usage patterns and our old search function for inspiration. From all of that, we are looking at making your time on Ancestry.com more productive by improving these areas of the search experience in 2013:

  • More relevant search results with the best results at the top
  • Easier refining and control of your search results
  • Keeping a better history of the work you have done
  • Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
  • Performance improvements to return results faster

As we begin to make these improvements, we will no longer maintain two separate search systems for the site. Maintaining two systems limits the resources we can use to make improvements and increases the complexity of every improvement we try to make. Additionally, continuing to maintain the two systems limits our ability to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting existing collections.

Based on that, as a part of the work this year we will be bringing together the two search experiences into a single search experience on Ancestry.com. We hope to bring forward the best features of both the old and new search systems into the consolidated experience to facilitate the transition for our users and to improve the overall search experience. We expect to discontinue the old search function as a separate experience within the next 6 months.

As a user of the old search feature, we wanted to give you advance notice and let you influence the changes we are making in search. Please take this survey to share your feedback and ideas on key features to improve.

Best regards,
The Ancestry.com Product Team

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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23 thoughts on “Ancestry.com Changes Search Functionality and Removes Old Search

  1. I’m guessing from conversations I’ve had with others, that the 2% is not an accurate number, but it is what Ancestry wants us to believe. That said, I’m willing to give any new process a chance. However, it really needs to be flexible to work in a number of ways. The “new search” used now isn’t user friendly/or helpful at all.

  2. One of my biggest pet peeves with Ancestry.com is that when you go to search instead of bringing up actual records all I seem to get are stories written (more like cut & paste) “stories” by other Ancestry members rather than actual census records, birth, marriage or death records first. I sincerely hope that these new search changes will be more records friendly versus “story” friendly!!

  3. I’ve almost never used the new search, and a lot of people I know use the old search too. There are always complaints that the library edition will not allow you to use Old Search. I didn’t get the email, although I have a worldwide subscription! I use the old search for census particularly as I am gathering images for census returns found years ago and I can enter the piece and folio number instead of a name. I hope this facility will be on the new New Search.

  4. I was soooo disappointed when the “wonderful and glorious” “new search” came out and then I went eagerly back to old search. New search ended up with so much stuff I didn’t want and so little of what I did want….and that found only after working through piles of junk.

    Library versions omit so much that I have wondered why folks like it…guess for non-subscribers, it’s better than nothing.

    Also wonder if there isn’t a wide difference what long time, serious researchers want in a “search” function vs what “newbies” want and find workable…not sure how that gap can be bridged.

    Hope they do some user testing before launching this new, new search.

  5. Sad and disappointed. All good things must come to end, sooner rather
    than later.
    the old search was so easy to use, and not frustrating like the new.
    :)

  6. Ugh! Now I know why I wasn’t able to access “old search” through my program for the last week, no matter what I did. I was going outside of FTM to the Ancestry site to use “old search”. I have NEVER liked new search and I am sorry, there track record on “improvements” have left me cold. I have tried to give them every possible reason to keep me as a customer, but this truly might be the last straw. Change is good, but what has happened to CHOICE?

  7. I,m not a paying subscripter,but I do use the free Library Edition of Ancestry.com.One thing that was just a little troublesome with the Search function was that it would show records from outside New Orleans,Louisiana,even when I specified that the person(ancestor) was a resident of New Orleans.Then I would have to wade through records of people from as far away as Boston,and New York.But otherwise,the Search function on the Library Edition of Ancestry seemed to work pretty okay,I would say,my dear people.

  8. I suspect a lot of people are using the New Search because they don’t know how to get back to the Old Search.

    But surely the main reason so many are using the New Search is because Ancestry’s subscriber base has increased dramatically, so most of the people using the New Search have never even tried the Old Search.?

  9. I live in a very rural area. Our internet is one step up from dial-up. The new census records viewer takes forever to download. I love the “old search.” If records using the coming “newer” search are hard to download, I guess I’ll have to give up Ancestry.com.

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  11. I use and prefer “Old Search” and also as a World wide subscriber did not receive the email. Thanks for letting me know

  12. I’m another one of the 2%ers who preferred the Old Search. And I too am one of the members/subscribers who did not receive this e-mail.
    I’ll miss the Old Search. I always had more successful searches with it, and found it easier to use then any of the New Searches that were introduced (and I always gave them a try).
    Sure, we all have to learn to deal with more and faster changes these days with regards to technology, but if I had a vote, I’d motion for the Old Search to become the new New Search.

  13. I am among the 2% users. I liked the groupings by census and I liked the exact search and would rather start narrow and expand than get a batch of garbage. I rarely look past the first page in a search. The soundex system did not consider all the consonants. It was generally better to use wildcards than soundex.

  14. I have used the new search since it was first introduced to a select group of users and love it! It is much more useful and I can narrow down the results quite easily. I just uncheck the box for the family trees, and user input information and make sure I change my primary record database is US or whatever other choice I want. However, Ancestry still has an issue with giving me results for long after my ancestor is dead or many years before they were even born, as indicated in my search criteria. I wish it would recognize birth and death and not give me results for dates prior to when I say they were born or after I say they are dead. That would be the most useful change as far as I am concerned. I’ll let them know.

  15. I think 2% is probably accurate because very few know how to access “old search”. They have changed the process 3 times, Hoping, I assume, to discourage those of us who insist on using it. I have tried the new search and the results are a mish mosh of things I don’t care about and seen to have no relevance to the people I am seeking. I don’t know how new users can find anything.

  16. To Dawn, you are probably using the wrong search on ancestry. You need to search Historical Records, not Stories & Publications.

  17. I hope with the changes, Ancestry will improve it’s ability to accept large GEDCOM files. I’ve had an international subscription for several years and built a large tree, but waited to download it until I had duplicates, etc.resolved. I was very disappointed when I learned that my tree was much too large to download to Ancestry. However, I was able to download to MyHeritage. I am now building a tree on Ancestry one person at a time, but hope they will expand their max size soon. I had upgraded to Ancestry 2012 to have the automatic sync between the online and FTW trees, but that is useless. It was not possible to “split” the tree as they recommended, since various branches intersected. Any changes coming in this regard?

  18. I too am a Worldwide subscriber and haven’t received the email. I can’t remember the last time I used the New Search as the results were not user friendly. For now I still have access to the Old Search. I also contacted them recently as they planned on moving the ability to display the source citation for census records from beside the image and burying it in a menu which required multiple mouse clicks to access. Apparently only 0.1% of users use this function. They graciously agreed to include a key stroke command (select ‘s’ if you are in the new interactive viewer) to turn the citation display on/off.

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  20. New search is quite woeful ………. really gets up my nose when I type in location as NSW & am asked which and given a choice of weird names . Old search knows exactly where I mean when I type in NSW
    I have a world sub and didnt get any email from Ancestry about this change

  21. In few words—and pardon the vulgarity—but “New Search” is crap; it is garbage; it is beneath contempt. And since many of the “New Search” features have already been integrated into “Old Search”, that, too, is now garbage. If I wanted 250,000 useless results, I would ask for them.

    In either New Search or Old Search, try searching for “Justus Bristol” in “New York” in the 1830 Census and select “Exact Matches only”; there are 207 results, with first names ranging from “A” to “Z”. Why on Earth would I want these useless and superfluous results, especially since I specified otherwise?

    Ancestry has really dropped the ball on this one. I don’t know how you’re going to make this up.

    I am thoroughly and completely disgusted.

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