Ancestry.com: Why Did A Good Idea Go the Way of the Flash Mob?

It’s close to midnight
Some sap is dripping from my family tree
Under computer screen light
You see search results that make you want to flee
You try to shriek
But a zillion family hits just blur your vision
You scroll through pages you don’t need
As the NEW search engine stares you in the eyes
You’re keyword-ized.

‘Cause this is filler
Filler all right
And only G2G can save you
From the hits about to spike
You know its filler
Filler all right
You’re wishing hard for your old search engine
Inside a filler
Filler tonight. Yeah!


A truly responsive search engine HAS GONE the way of the flash mob and the buggy whip.  It gave me pause in June of 2103 to wonder: why is a good thing going to disappear?  This blog post is in response to Ancestry.com’s ending of their OLD SEARCH.  Today, along with many other long time genealogy researchers, I complained on their Facebook page, and called the Ancestry.com customer service department.

For months after the NEW search engine was put in place (around 2008) I complained through the usual channels–usually a response box inside Ancestry.com, and some times through polls that were offered to me.  Every single time I made sure to complain about the NEW search engine,  letting Ancestry.com know I was still using the OLD one, which thankfully the programmers left there hidden behind a few vague links.

Most of my regular blog readers know I’ve been ‘at it,’ researching genealogy for over thirty-five years.   Always fascinated with computers and technology, I was a member of the early internet genealogy groups, and then one of the first subscribers to Ancestry.com. Today I test and use the latest technologies (including the phone app)  and social media, so I am not caught in any dead space where outdated genealogists go to retire.  I use (and pay for) ALL of Ancestry.com’s other products and services including Fold3 (formerly Footnote), Archives.com, Newspapers.com and Rootsweb.com, their software and DNA products.

Many times I have presented programs about researching genealogy for historical societies and libraries.  When I do, I have often mentioned one or more of these products, and promote them.  I don’t get a kick-back of any kind for activity.  I am not an affiliate vendor for any of their products or services.

With these preliminaries presented, now I move on to the ‘meat’ of this post.   Today it became known that Ancestry.com did away with its “Old Search.”  The people who seem to be upset and protesting the most are those who are long-time users, who are also expert researchers, professionals and amateurs included.  I’m a sure there are ‘some’ people who are satisfied with the NEW search engine.  But unequivocally, watching the response on Facebook today, the long time researchers were horrified that the OLD search engine was being removed.  Yaya, I have heard folks say all I need to do is take a class on how to use it and I’ll think its better than sliced bread.  Why is Ancestry.com using a search engine you have to take a class to use? Honestly, I think several people at the company must have snoozed through their Marketing 101 class.

When Ancestry.com’s NEW search came out in 2008, I really did my best to use it.  I checked off various “tick boxes” to see what would happen.  No matter how long I spent with the NEW search, I always ditched it and returned to the old.  Why?  Because it was simply more responsive to the advanced genealogist.  The results were MORE specific to my search.  The NEW search engine seemed to me to be something made to boost the ratings of return, where in fact the returns were vague, not related to my search, and often redundant.

So think about it, why did a search engine begun in 2008 not become effective until 2104.  I can tell you — because its a poor product.  Just bring back the OLD SEARCH engine and keep the NEW one for the noobie researchers who might not know the difference.

So how did this happen?  I am not an insider, I don’t know the specifics.  All I know is that someone created what I consider to be a sub-standard search engine (the ‘NEW’ one) and apparently the Ancestry.com hierarchy bought into it, even though its honestly a poor product.   I don’t like it, I won’t use it.  I feel that strongly about it.  I heard that Ancestry.com was acquired by a private equity group in October of 2012, long after the ‘New’ search engine was put in place.  Will they be savvy enough to take another look at an essential part of their service that just doesn’t work well, or not?  Time will tell.

In the meantime, I have begun shopping for a better home for my genealogy. My family tree is immense, well documented, and with photographs.    Its really sad that the “largest for-profit genealogy company” may not be listening to its customers.  AOL and a few other “largest in the world” did that too, and we know what happened to them.

Janice

Legend:
(you get the idea by now I hope, apologies to Michael Jackson!)
G2G = Genealogist to Genealogist, networking of  like-minded research friends.

*ADDITIONAL READING*

Reflections from the Fence: What I Want in a Search Engine

ANCESTRY.COM, ‘NEW SEARCH’ AND THE C.H.O.P. PRINCIPLE

Ancestry.com Old Search is dead — March 6, 2014 — it is a Sad Day for Me

Mourning the Coming Death of Old Search — New Search Still Lacks in Areas [A MUST READ]

Confession of a Genealogical Fuddyduddy Revisited – from West in New England

Ancestry.com Changes Search Functionality and Removes Old Search – from Geneabloggers

 Flash Blog Mob – from Nutfield Genealogy

 Time to Suck It Up and Say ‘Goodbye’ To Old Search – from Begin with ‘Craft’

Ancestry.com to Retire “Old Search” Capability – from Genea-Musings

The 2 % Rant, NOT Feeling Special, And After All It Is ALL About ME! – from Reflections from the Fence

Genealogy and Tech: Google and Ancestry – from TranslyvanianDutch: Genealogy and Technology

Ancestry.com’s 2% Speak Up – from GenealogyInsider

Ancestry’s Old Search to Go in Six Months – from British GENES

I’m a 2 Percenter – from Gene Notes

**PLEASE NOTE** This post was originally published on June 27, 2013, and updated today due to the fact that Ancestry.com today made the OLD SEARCH engine unavailable.  You are now forced to use the NEW (HORRIBLE) one.

==Older Posts, but related==

Ancestry.com Rethinking New Search? – from The Ancestry Insider (January 2013).  Notice the responses to this post and how many use and prefer the “Old Search”

 

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7 Responses to Ancestry.com: Why Did A Good Idea Go the Way of the Flash Mob?

  1. Bill West says:

    LOL, Janel, love “The Filler”.

    And I agree 100% with your evaluation of “Old” vs “New”.

  2. Joan Powers Bell says:

    Please let us know what search engine you decide to use. I just became a member of Ancestry.com and have the same problem you speak about with their search engine – bringing up hints that don’t even resemble names, dates, etc., I have put in. Quite expensive considering the rate of return. Thanks, Janice. I still follow you on the “Things …” page!

  3. Greta Koehl says:

    I agree and love the lyrics! I have so little time to spend on research, and now I’ll have to wade through reams of useless returns? I can’t believe how absolutely irrelevant the vast majority of the returns are, and often some of the worst are at the top of the results list. New Search is truly an appallingly awful search engine.

  4. Donna says:

    Amen, Sister! New search simply doesn’t work as well as Old. Remember New Coke? Yeah, me neither. My question is….who thought this was a good idea when nearly every genealogist has said that they find Old Search findings to be more accurate and relevant?

  5. Beverly McGowan Norman says:

    Love love love it!

  6. Robert says:

    Well said. When a company becomes the big kid on the block, it can fall under the mistaken assumption it’s okay to ignore paying customers. I remember Zynga was a rising star, but it pointedly ignored its customers. A stock that was expected to hit and stay at $15+ a share is less than $3 today and announced major layoffs. The big question now is will it be bought out, or is it too toxic?

    I can see Ancestry going the same way if they don’t start listening to customers. I doubt upper management at Zynga ever thought this could happen.

  7. Dan Ford says:

    I’m trying to envision what online genealogical searching (Ancestry, wherever) might look like in 2-5 years if we could get our wishlist. More than having New search be as good as Old search, how could Future search better support the research process? Let’s set the bar high for them.

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