What I learned at FGS 2008....
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I think the first thing that I learned was that I may be a bit of a history geek. I snuck away from the festivities for a couple of hours and visited the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Standing in the same room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were partially crafted and signed was awe inspiring for me. I love stepping through the doorways of history ... that may be why I love genealogy, huh' I also learned that if you can't enjoy the thrill of breaking through your own brick walls, watching someone else do it is pretty fun. At our booth, we had 4 computers logged into ancestry, and people would come up and do searches. This one guy found a Canadian Census, with what I believe were his great grandparents on it. He was giddy...hopefully all of you know that feeling as well. :-) (And no, I don't know if he was using old search or new search. ;-) ) The third thing I learned, as I watched people use new search, by far the most interesting and useful piece to most people I worked with was the ability to turn exact on for different types of fields. And as I watched many people do many searches, it would appear that you will get the most mileage on your searching if you choose exact date ranges and exact locations. Toggling between different combinations of what is exact and not exact is also useful in bringing up different sets of information. My anecdotal evidence shows that choosing all exact fields is just not all that great. Meanwhile, back here at the ancestry.com ranch, we've been digging and working on some issues around the new search user interface:

  • Marriage records. Many of our marriage record data sets are, to be technical, quite foobar-ed in the new search user interface, as some of you know. And we know why. Some of these data sets were created many years ago, in ways that we don't store our data sets anymore. And while we hacked around it back in the old search interface, we don't hack too much in the new one. And yes, I know what some of you are thinking or muttering, well just go back to the old way and it'll all be fine. No. Not the answer. I truly believe that fixing the data and standarizing is the way to go. No word on when things will be reformatted...you have no idea what goes into (that would probably make an interesting post), but I'll keep you up-to-date. And remember, you can always go through the old search ui for now.
  • Soundex and matching algorithms. We are currently working on the back end pieces to bring you that option back..stay tuned.
  • State and country pages. We are working on bringing those up-to-date and giving you a way to easily access those. For example, try looking at the Virginia Database Page or the Italy Database Page. Also check out the Sources pages and the How To's pages. Now would be a really, really good time to tell me what you think is a must have on those pages and what you really don't care about. So start voicing your opinions now!
I'm still too tired from all of the traveling and the hot muggy weather to finish commenting on my previous post. I'll finish it off before the week ends. And if you have civil war ancestor's in your past, I recommend the previous post by Jeanie Croasmun : Why So Many Names'. I know I learned something new.