2018 Jul 18 Wed

What is Ancestry.com Good For? – Part 2

What is Ancestry.com Good For? – Part 2
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A couple days ago I wrote the first part in this series to address the things that Ancestry.com is actually good for. I touched lightly on some things that were good, that were bad, and that were the ugly parts of using that web site. This idea has been born out conversations I’ve had with other genealogists who are of the old school type, referring to themselves with amusement as the ‘bc’ people, before computers that is.The unfortunate thing about Ancestry is that it’s flaws are so bad, that even though it is a great and helpful web site for a lot of things, the bad parts about it really put a chink in your abilities.

Old Search vs. New Search

I’ll start off with one of my pet peeves: old search versus new search.

I couldn’t tell you why this was implemented, but since the new search has been available, I have found it to be generally useless in virtually any way. Perhaps it’s just my own experience, but the results generally never match what the search parameters are.

When using the old search, I feel that there is greater control on getting exactly what you are looking for. It might be a slight pain to navigate around in comparison to the new search, but I feel that’s a fair trade off.

Ancestry Hints

This was supposed to be the crowning achievement of Ancestry’s existence and yet, it sadly is one of the most disappointing features of the entire web site!

You’re probably wondering what it is that I’m referring to. I’ll explain. Everyone should be familiar with the little leaves that pop up beside of a person’s name with suggest hints. The primary things that the leaves suggests are:

  • Member connect
  • Census records
  • Birth (sometimes)
  • SSDI (if available)
  • Death (sometimes)
  • Marriage (US or International, this rarely happens)
  • Draft records (more times than not)

Out of this list of suggest hints, which two are always popping up?

Yup, you guessed it. Member connect and census records. There are literally hundreds of indexed databases connected in and through Ancestry and yet, these two are the most sought after and suggested.

Whatever engine it is they are using to drive the comparison is either slow, sorely outdated, linked to just a few things, or all of these. The problem comes down to that when I go searching for someone, I look at the suggest hints first and then I go pull each of the databases available for that area or timeline and do a manual search.

Even their general search results are poorly done and rarely give all the true results for your query.

Search Results

That leads me into the next part. Their search results are lacking as a whole. For example, if I put in a name like “”John Jones”” without making it exact, I am liable to get back a search result for a “”William Vanderhoof””. The name John is no where near close to William in any way. I can’t even image how it computed Jones and Vanderhoof as having any resemblance at all.

Okay, maybe that example was a little crazy but it sadly is not that far from the truth! How often have you done a search for someone and got a list of names not even remotely close to what you’re looking for? It really makes you wonder who and how it was programmed!


Not all is bad. There are some really great points, but we’ll get to those pieces later. Look for the next new post in a day or so!

Read Part 1 here!                                    Read Part 3 here!

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