02 May 2009

More relevance at Ancestry?

Earlier this week ancestry.com, and presumably ancestry.everythingelse, announced changes to the way dates are handled in searches. It's a step in "what you’ve told us is the most important – getting relevant results; and relevance is our top priority this year in search." That's a quote from an Ancestry blog posting.

The changes are:
  • If you are searching for someone and you just know a birth year, we will assume the person lived about 100 years. And we will only return records from the birth year - 5, and birthdates + 102.
  • If you are searching for someone and you just know a death date, we will again assume the person lived about 100 years, and we will only return records from the death year - 105 to death year+2.
  • If you put in both a birth year and a death year, we will return records between birth year - 5 to death year + 2.
Rather surprisingly this news provoked an avalanche of more than 100 comments, the majority complaining about the service. One had family members who lived more than 102 years and wasn't happy about the "early" cutoff. Several felt they didn't want Ancestry to nanny them by extending the date range specified.

Ancestry is being open by telling its clients what they're doing, facilitating public comment, and responding to the comments publicly. That's more than can be said for most government organizations.

Comment 105 was not related to dates but the non-appearance of some databases in some searches, something I've been puzzled about.

The comment is why is the Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, database listed under a regional search for Ontario, but is omitted from the search results.

"For example, in the regional search, if I search for Albert Barber in Ontario, the Canadian Passenger List is not included in the results. When I clicked onto the database itself and searched for Albert born England, he is there."

Being a subscriber I obviously value what Ancestry offers. I recall the old days, am thankful for Ancestry's, and other's, indexed online databases, and look forward to the improved relevance.

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