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Member Search

Have you seen it? Ancestry recently released an improvement to their ‘Member Search’.

I played around with it a little yesterday, and this feature has a lot of potential. However, I think a better understanding of how the search works is needed before I can use it effectively.

To access the ‘Member Search’ feature, pull down the SEARCH menu on Ancestry’s screen.

Click on MEMBER SEARCH at the bottom of that menu. The Member Search screen will open with the default search for a member by their name or user ID.

In the past, one had to pretty much know the exact name or user id in order to locate that user. This is one of the areas that has been improved. Instead of needed to know the exact name, one can search for part of their name.

While experimenting with this expanded search feature, I discovered what I believe to be a clue to a DNA match in the list of results. As part of the icon for the user, there is a small symbol for DNA on the bottom right of the circle.

I also discovered that when searching for a user by their surname, the results can be very numerous. For the following illustrations, I searched for users with a surname that I am researching to help protect the privacy of Ancestry users.

A search for CRAWFORD produced too many results – 9, 839 of them!

I then searched for BRILES. Since most BRILES families descend from Conrad Broil of North Carolina, I was hoping this would be an easy way to identify those researchers.

Not only did this pick up the Briles, but it picked up what appears to be SOUNDEX variations of the name. In addition, it pulled users with a first name of Brilee. 
A search for the Wells surname pulled up names that contained ‘well’ such as Honeywell.
The search for a member by name is an improvement over the older functionality. However, it could be improved by using fields (first name, last name, userID) along with exactness choices (exact, soundex, …)
Besides the broadened capability to search for a member, there is a new feature: the ability to search for a member by research interest. Getting to this feature is a little hidden. Note the ‘down carrot’ to the right of ‘Find a Specific Member’. That indicates there is ‘more’. Click on ‘Find a Specific Member’ to reveal the other option.

A box containing additional information is revealed. Unfortunately, it is NOT obvious that there is a second option. The faint line dividing the box into 2 parts is the only clue. Click on the bottom half of the box to get to the screen to ‘Find Members by Research Interest’.

This screen looks promising. When I first heard about this capability, I thought, ‘GREAT! now I can find others researching members of my FAN club.’

So, I started searching. My first search was for CRAWFORD in Preble County, Ohio. I quickly discovered that the YEAR info would not accept a range of dates. Since I didn’t know exactly which date to use, I opted to not put anything in the year field. There are two distinct CRAWFORD families living in Preble County Ohio. I know of at least three other Ancestry users who are actively researching one of these lines. Thus, I expected at least three results — and I got zero!

I then tried a search for CRAWFORD in Warren County, Indiana. Since both families had descendants move from Preble County, Ohio to Warren County, Indiana, I expected at least the three results. Again, I got ZERO results.

Not one to give up, I decided to try CRAWFORD in Ford County, Kansas. Again, both families had CRAWFORD descendants in Ford County. Since my line was in Ford County from about 1884 to the 1970s, I expected the results to include my cousins who not only have had their DNA tested, but also have trees on Ancestry showing their Ford County Crawford connection. Again, the results were ZERO.

So, the BIG question is where is the data being pulled from for this aspect of the Member Search since it does not appear to be pulling from member trees. My theory is that this search feature is pulling from the ‘Research Interest’ section on our profile pages. Based on that theory, I added several ‘CRAWFORD’ interests to our list of 14 Research Interests yesterday.

Thus, I turned to my ‘free’ account to test this theory. If my theory is correct, then the ‘Find Members by Research Interest’ search from my free account should pull up my paid account.

However, when I performed a search from my free account for Crawford in Ford County, Kansas, I got ZERO.

Thinking that there might be a ‘lag’ in the indexing of my changes, I then tried to search for one of the listings in ‘Research Interests’ that was there before yesterday on my paid account, userid: philbrick.

When I searched for Griffith in Kansas from the free Ancestry account, I got 2 results – neither of which was our Ancestry account.

When I looked at the first profile, Griffith was listed but there was no mention of a place.

When I looked at the second profile, Griffith was listed for Grand Rapids. Again, Kansas did not appear in the list of ‘Research Interests’

When I searched for Griffith, the ‘philbrick’ profile did come up in the first 50 hits. 
I tried a similar search for Jerby. When I searched for Jerby in Kansas, there were ZERO results. When I searched for Jerby, the only profile that came up was our ‘philbrick’ profile.
I then tried a search from my free account for a surname that is listed in our profile but not listed in the ‘Research Interests’: Minnick. There were 80 results. None of those results were our ‘philbrick’ account. I spot checked several of the results and they had ‘Minnick’ listed in their ‘Research Interests’
Conclusions:

  1. It appears that the ‘Member Search Results’ for the ‘Find Members by Research Interest’ is pulling from the information in the ‘Research Interests’ section of a members’ profile.
  2. However, it also appears that there is an indexing lag of at least 24 hours and likely more.
  3. It does NOT appear that this search pulls from the ABOUT YOU section of a member profile.
  4. It does NOT appear that this search uses any information from a tree for these results.
  5. There is a designation for DNA matches in the list of results from these searches.

Thus, I need to do a whole lot more editing of my Research Interests if I wish to be found thru this search method and hope that the indexing catches up.