Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Search versus Old Search on

Some time ago changed its default search engine from "Old Search" to "New Search". While New Search was meant to be an improvement, in fact it is rather annoying and more cumbersome to use than Old Search. Anecdotal reports from several mail lists that we subscribe to suggest that this feeling is widespread. Given that searching effectively is critical to finding people in ancestry records, I thought it was worth a closer examination of the differences between these two search engines.

Both searches allow you to tick a box that returns exact matches only. This is useful because you can use wildcards to control your search results; for example, if you know your KIRBY ancestors might have spelled their name KERBY, you can ask for K*rby. This is useful when looking for Harr*t (Harriet; Harriett, Harriot, etc) or War*sk? (Warchinski; Warchinsky; Warshinski, etc) or other such variants. 

However, New Search does not allow you the same flexibility with use of wildcards in locations. This is often a useful feature because spellings were so variable in the 19th and earlier centuries. For example, if you are looking for someone born in Pipewell, Northamptonshire on the 1871 census and you use New Search, it fails to recognize Pipewell as a place. Using Pip* fares no better. It does however suggest:

  • Pipestone County, Minnesota, USA
  • Pipestem, Summers, West Virginia, USA
  • Pipestem Valley, Stutsman, North Dakota, USA
  • Pipestone, Berrien, Michigan, USA
  • Pipestone, Manitoba, Canada
  • Pipetorp, Kalmar, Sweden
  • Pipe, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia
  • Pipe, Braga, Portugal
  • Pipe Creek, Madison, Indiana, USA
  • Pipe Creek, Bandera, Texas, USA
  • Pipe Ridware, Staffordshire, England
  • Pipe Springs, Bent, Colorado, USA
  • Pipea, Mures, Romania
  • Pipeira, Evora, Portugal
  • Pipeiras, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
even though you are searching the UK census. 

Old Search is much more straightforward for this - you can put Pip* in as place of birth and it will give you hits for Pipewell or any other place starting with Pip.

Another thing we don't like about New Search is that you have to click back a page if you get no results in order to re-search. On Old Search, the search box remains at the bottom of the page even when there are no hits, so you are not continually clicking back and waiting for the page to reload.

We continue to use Old Search because it is more efficient and we find it faster than New Search. In fact, we can't see why ancestry changed it. If you want to compare New and Old Searches for yourself, look for the small "Go to Old Search" link at the top right of the default New Search page - ancestry appears to be discouraging us from using this option by practically hiding it from view.

There must be some family historians who prefer New Search - are you one of them? If so please comment and tell us why you like it better. And if there are other important differences please let us know! 

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