RootsTech 2015

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

FamilySearch.org Implements Enhancements to Search Function

In a very detailed post by Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch.org announced the implementation of several "major feature enhancements" to the search functions in the Historical Record Collections. Rather than copy the entire article, I suggest that there may be a good reason for anyone using the search function to read and study the changes. Some of the changes enhance the ability of the users to attach records to individuals in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. Other new features appear to be aimed at the power user, such as the ability to export some searches to a spreadsheet program for further analysis. There is a stream of new functions and features for the FamilySearch.org website with frequent changes to the site. If you haven't visited the site in the last few months, you will find it has changed considerably.

In the past, there has been an undercurrent of criticism of the search functions on FamilySearch.org, but the newest changes as outlined by Robert Kehrer address some of the issues previously raised. The real question is not the addition of new features, but whether or not the search engine will find individuals within the database. My analysis in a recent post, showed that FamilySearch was well behind both Ancestry.com and WorldVitalRecords.com in finding relevant information.

For example, a search for my Great-grandfather's records in the Historical Record Collection resulted in 52,342 records. The search was for Henry Martin Tanner. By marking the exact checkboxes for both his first, middle and surname, the number dropped to 8,032 records. But even with the checkboxes for exact matches, I still got a significant number of false positives for "Martin Henry Tanner" not the same person. By further filtering the records to the United States and Arizona, the number dropped dramatically to 32 records, only a few of which pertained directly to "Henry Martin Tanner." With the new enhancements to the search function, I got references to children and grandchildren and still got several false positives. Interestingly, the search only found 3 of the U.S. Census records of which there are 5. It looks like even with the enhancements, the search function could have some improvements.

It will take me some time, but I will do a more in depth comparison of the three major online search engines that contain information about my near relatives. The only way I can see to compare the three programs is to do searches with names that I know have a certain number of records and see if the three databases, Ancestry.com, WorldVitalRecords.com (MyHeritage.com) and FamilySearch.org perform with providing results. There is not necessarily competition in this area between the three record sources, but matching the results from the three companies gives an idea of what can be done with these large databases and the room for improvement. The basic question is: What is the point of having a huge number of records if what is there cannot be found?


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