Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Improved Search Filters in

New filters implemented in give you the ability to filter your search results by:

  • Birth (and birth-like event) date and place
  • Marriage (and marriage-like event) date and place
  • Residence date and place
  • Death (and death-like event) date and place
  • Other event date and place (such as immigration, military service, etc.)
  • Gender
  • Category (record type)
When you do a search, the filter options appear on the left side of the results. Here is a screen shot showing the new filters:

So, I decided to try out the filters with my perennial ancestor, Henry Tanner. My initial search for Henry, without anything but a name produced 17,992 results. Now, before going much further, I have to tell you that I happen to know Henry is in the database multiple times. However, a search on the name only produced no hits on the first pages so I gave up. Now I could solve the problem easily by the simple expediency of adding his birth place or death place, but I wanted to see how the filters were going to work.

So I started down with the filters. I understand that you can apply multiple filters and narrow the results. So let's see what happens. I add each filter and record the results:

Birth Place -- The selections limit me to the US, Canada and Mexico. The number drops to 7,437. Still nothing like my Great-grandfather. So let's add another filter:

Birth Year: 1800. The number drops to 5,453 but still no luck.

Death Place: Canada, USA and Mexico and the returns drop to 241. However still no luck finding him in the list. I determine that I am not going to go through all 241, so I apply another filter.

Death Year: 1900. Guess what only 147 left. I am tempted to go through the entire list, but after a few pages, I opt to impose yet another filter. This time I choose:

Gender: Male which has almost no impact on the results, which drop to 132. Back to the filters, but I am running out of options. I choose:

Residence Place: Canada, USA and Mexico and the number drops to 68. I go through all 68 entries and guess what? He isn't there.

So now I go back to doing the whole thing over again. I turn off all the filters by clicking on the little "x" next to each one.

So now I go back to the main search fields and add one teeny tiny bit of information, his middle name. Voila! Without any filters at all, he shows up as Numbers 2 and 5 out of 28,708 results.

Hmm. So what does this mean? The filters obviously work and do what they are supposed to do, but unless you have enough information from the start, you may still not find what you are looking for. Improvement? Probably, but not immediately evident.


  1. Excellent summation. I have had these feeling, but you express them so well.

  2. It seems like most people (at least those who commented on the FamilySearch blog post) hate the new filters:

  3. One thing that I think that you might have missed with the filters is that with most of the filters you can continue to "drill down". For example, after selecting "US and Canada etc", you can select the state that you are interested in. Just a thought.

  4. The search engine's not finding your target Henry, with entries including a middle name, seems like a bug.

    The filter options should all have been put on the main search page. Some are redundant: one can specify location in the main search page. I don't get the point of each filter's requiring a separate click and search.