Casefile Clues

01 January 2013

More Confusing Ancestry.com Searches

Let's get this straight. I pay to use Ancestry.com with this thing called money. I do not have a complementary subscription. I pay for it myself. Let me also say that I get a lot of "good use" out of the digital images that are on Ancestry.com. Generally speaking I am a fan of their images--otherwise I couldn't access that material at home while the dog sits at my feet.

However...

I am confused and irritated with the way some of the global searches work at Ancestry.com  A precise search that really should have a manageable number of hits, returns too many results.

A search today for:

  • first name: mar*
  • last name: cawiezell (exact)
  • died 1893--plus or minus 1
gave me "Too many matches."

On what planet? 

Cawiezell is one of the most unusual names I am searching. I fail to see how this search generates too many matches and overloads the system. Something simply is not working correctly with the global search feature.

If Ancestry.com wants me to perform global searches, then let's get this global search feature working and lets get it working correctly. This is not the fist time I have had this problem. Ironically, if I chance my search to:

  • first name: john
  • last name: smith
  • died 1893--plus or minus 1
I do not get an error message--in fact I get a screen showing 4,765 hits. That's "too many" for me to go through and view manually, but apparently it's not "too many" for Ancestry.com to process. 

Here's the screen shot of my results for Mar* Cawiezell just done at 2:10 PM Central time 1 January 2013. 


Now, to add to the confusion, if I change my search to:

  • first name: mar*
  • last name: cawiezell (Soundex)
  • died 1893--plus or minus 1
I do not get the same problem. This search is less restrictive than the one I just performed. If the first search gets "too many hits," then this less-restrictive search should get even more than "too many hits." This second search (with the Soundex turned on) resulted in 456 hits. 



I realize the search "worked." 

The problem is that the first search should have worked also. The fact that the first search generates an error makes the mathematician in me wonder if something's not really working correctly.

Ancestry.com subscribers rely on these indexes and some of them make conclusions based upon searches performed with these indexes. 

Results that are illogical make one question whether the search is operating in the way the user thinks it is.

And for this user, that does not make for an "good" customer experience and it irritates this paying subscriber. 

And the dog at my feet's not happy about it either because lengthy blog posts delay her outside time.