It’s a holiday weekend, so you know what that means? Genealogy record websites that are usually only available by paid subscription open up some of their collections for free. Here’s where you can get access to family history resources this weekend:
providing free access – from August 31 through September 2, 2013 – to all US Census records. Click here to Search Now
providing free access to its collection of Immigration and Travel records through Labor Day including:
Now when you discover an ancestor’s record on Fold3.com, you can save it to your online tree at Ancestry.com.
According to Fold3.com’s press release: “Whenever you see a green ‘Save to Ancestry’ button above a document or on a Fold3 memorial page, you can link that document or page directly to someone’s profile on Ancestry.”
“You’ll be asked to log into your Ancestry.com account, and then you’ll see a drop-down list of your trees. Locate the tree you wish to save the document to, begin typing the name of the person to whom the record should be attached, choose the correct name from the list that appears, and then press save.”
As I mentioned in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 156 Ancestry is working on some new enhancements to the website’s search function. What I didn’t say then, but what has been officially announced now, is that “Old Search” is being phased out. More specifically, the best parts of it are being consolidated into the current search so that we are all on the same page with one search tool.
In episode 156 I also talked about technological “mayhem.” The chaos that follows changes made by technology companies to their products. If you felt your blood pressure start to rise at the news that Old Search is on it’s last leg, I encourage you to take a listen to that episode for a fresh perspective on the effects of change.
According to Ancestry this change impacts a small percentage of users. (Although from past changes in the genealogy community it’s clear that small groups can have big voices!) Are you one of those users in the 2% who still relies on Old Search? Do you consider this change another in a long line of “technological mayhem” or do you welcome the evolution of Ancestry’s search function? Read the following announcement from Ancestry (note that the bolding of the last paragraph is mine – I think it is key) and leave your comments below.
“Ancestry.com is continuing our efforts to improve the search experience across Ancestry.com and will be making changes to our search functionality in the upcoming months. Some features will be added and some will be discontinued. As part of the 2% of our subscribers that use the old search function on the site, we know that you are passionate about the search experience on Ancestry.com and we are reaching out to you to get input on potential improvements. We hope you will take the opportunity to share your insights and feedback on our plans.
To identify which areas of the experience we should focus on this year, we have drawn on customer input, usage data, usage patterns and our old search function for inspiration. From all of that, we are looking at making your time on Ancestry.com more productive by improving these areas of the search experience in 2013:
More relevant search results with the best results at the top
Easier refining and control of your search results
Keeping a better history of the work you have done
Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
Performance improvements to return results faster
As we begin to make these improvements, we will no longer maintain two separate search systems for the site. Maintaining two systems limits the resources we can use to make improvements and increases the complexity of every improvement we try to make. Additionally, continuing to maintain the two systems limits our ability to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting existing collections.
Based on that, as a part of the work this year we will be bringing together the two search experiences into a single search experience on Ancestry.com. We hope to bring forward the best features of both the old and new search systems into the consolidated experience to facilitate the transition for our users and to improve the overall search experience. We expect to discontinue the old search function as a separate experience within the next 6 months.”
Even the simplest of names can be subject to creative spelling over the centuries. In this video, Ancestry’s Crista Cowan takes on the challenge saying “Misspeld knames are a commun problem for geneoleogy reeserchors.”
If you are fairly new to researching your family history the video provides an introduction to the evolution of spelling, names, and the soundex. More advanced genealogists may want to jump in around the 10 minute mark to quickly tap into Cowan’s tips such as:
Wild card search
surname translations in search results
She also provides a helpful tip on re-setting Ancestry’s filters to the default position (16:40 min.). When you have run a search using filters, and you want to start fresh on a new search, click the “match all terms exactly” and then uncheck it. This action will clear all the filters previously used.
Name Challenges in Google Search
Common surnames and surnames that double for as common words in the English language (i.e. Green) can also wreak havoc in Google Searches. One way to deal with the problem is to use the minus search operator. In the case of the surname Green, you might try:
GREEN FAMILY TREE -ECOLOGY
Removing the keyword “ecology” from your search query steers Google away from that meaning of the word “green.” Genealogy Gems Premium Members can view the video and download the handout of my Common Surname Google Search Strategies class in the Premium Membership area of the Genealogy Gems website.
Ancestry.com is making 30 collections that were added or updated in 2012 available for free between December 26-29th. Search these records for free.
The 1940 U.S. Census represents 134 million records that were indexed and are now searchable on Ancestry.com (These records will be free on Ancestry.com through 2013). Almost 9 out of 10 Americans have a relative in the 1940 Census, making this a great resource to start your family history journey.