29 June 2012

Frustrations and Requests for Ancestry.com

(this is the text of an email I posted to the APG mailing list earlier today--so if you are on that list, quit reading now).

Ancestry.com's "new" or "changed" databases without any indication of what is "new" or what has been added is a continual source of frustration to me:
When changes or updates are made to an Ancestry.com database , it would be nice to know what changes were made to the database on the search page itself (records from "new years," improved images, etc.). Otherwise how do I know whether I need to search this database again or not?

The ease with which online tree submitters can create trees violating contemporary laws of biology:
"Leaves" that didn't pull up some rather obvious matches on this English native made no sense to me either:
I don't use the leaves myself, but I know that many do and I do like to have at least a broad understand of how these matches are obtained in order to be able to answer questions from readers and others.
The "automatic" list of place names that Ancestry.com "pulls up" when performing searches of some records is NOT complete and is a continued source of frustration when using "new search." While I know there are workarounds to this, the fact that this place name database continues to be incomplete is irritating.

I'll be honest. I don't like the "smart" searching that tries to guess what I want and I don't like the seemingly constant tweaking made to the way online searches work. I realize I'm in the minority. Part of genealogical documentation is the search process--NOT JUST what is located or not located. I'm not at the stage in my research where I'm "glad to get results" regardless of how remotely realistic they are.  It is extremely difficult to document the PROCESS when the researcher is not certain of how the process is being performed and when understanding how to change search terms when there are "negative" results is not easy. Citation is not just indicating what was located and where it was located. Process (in my view), especially when searching online databases is crucial to citation. Of course the date of the search should be a part of the documentation, but when changes are not always clear it is difficult to troubleshoot.

I know these issues are the responsibility of different deparements and individuals. The fact that they remain unaddressed is somewhat frustrating.

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