This week Ancestry.com revealed that they are adding the ability to let users choose how loosely or tightly the search algorithms adhere to the keywords you’ve entered. The problem with any search engine is that if you narrow the search to tightly match a keyword, you will eliminate the inevitable errors that lie in records created by human beings, variations in name spellings, typos in birth dates, or paperwork that is misfiled. On the other hand, a too loose search pattern will flood you with so many variations that you will never find the golden needle in the haystack. While one might rely on experts to choose the settings, as we Ancestry users have so far, different situations call for different parameters.
A Forest of Names
If you’re a French Canadian as I am, you need very loose search parameters to account for the various spellings and alphabets that have been used. Some people have put their trees in French using a French keyboard while others use the Americanized version of their ancestors’ names. But if you’re searching through Wrights for your ancestor, Thomas Robert Wright, you need the parameters to be very tight to keep from disappearing between the wave of matches. In that case, you might want to set the parameters very tightly and only slowly expand the rules as you get more desperate.
So in the next few weeks a set of sliders will appear on the Ancestry search page. Setting the slider to the right will restrict the search to the narrowest results. Setting it to the left will broaden the search. The default position seems to be all the way to the right giving the greatest number of results. The adjustment will be available on the main parameters on the search page to start. Things like names and birth and death dates. From the sounds of it, they plan on expanding the ability to narrow your search results over time.
DNA Relatives Search?
One thing that wasn’t answered in the announcement is whether they plan on expanding the ability to set your own tolerance levels for search results to the DNA matches search functions as well. Many Ancestry DNA customers have complained in the past about the challenges on searching through their matches. The ability to loosen the parameters for searches involving foreigners would be useful. Many people like to narrow the results of their searches and the slider adjustment would allow people to do that to some extent.
More improvements are needed even if they do add the sliders though. The ability to search for specific users would be a great start. The ability to restrict your searches by years would be very helpful. As some have pointed out, the search function used to narrow results by putting a name and a location in but it now returns results that include the ancestral name OR the location. Wild card searches would enable searches that overlook the special symbolized letters (ones with tildes or carexes or other diacritical marks.)
Image Credits: Ancestry.com blog