Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Genealogy Search Engine is only as Good as its Form

The search forms at Genealogy Today have been on my to-do list for quite a while. When I work on the search engine, I tend to focus on the results and the speed by which they are delivered.

But, as I was thinking about it recently, what good are quick and relevant results, if a genealogist gives up before they even make an attempt! So, this week I've released a new search engine form that will appear everywhere on the sites (GenealogyToday.com and LiveRoots.com) where a surname is involved.

For another week or so, you'll still see the old forms; and there are many of them. Over the years, with different databases being added to the site, a variety of search forms have popped up. Now there will be just one; a smarter type of form that understands how the various searches work, and allows you to easily jump from one collection to another.

Here's a quick rundown: The basics... Name, Time Span, and Location. Click on the Time Span or Location link to make the fields appear. I need to do some more work on making location more "global"... right now its limited to the US states. Following these three are Scope, My Surnames and My Notecards.

Scope is a totally new option to the search form; allowing you to switch from the Subscription Data collection to the Free Data Archive (also known as the Live Roots Index). AND it will also let you switch to many of the 3rd party searches that are supported (including Ancestry, Footnote, et. al.). Very easy, no retyping your query, no clicking around the site to get to the other collection.

My Surnames is also new; for Team Roots members who use the surname tracking features on Genealogy Today, the search form presents you with a list of those surnames that you're tracking. So, to perform a search you can simply select one from the list -- no more typing in the same surnames time and time again as you return to see if there is anything new.

My Notecards is similar to My Surnames, and is also a member-only feature. If you've contributed to any of the "query" type databases and/or added Ancestor Notecards in the project management area, the search form will offer you a list of the notecard names to select from. Since, for many, the notecards represent brick wall ancestors, it's likely they are names you've typed over and over again.

I have six other planned options, but wanted to get the form out there for visitors to test out. As always, feedback is appreciated.

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