Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Search, Site Features

Why have we changed the search form?

Over the past year, we have been working with a wide range of Ancestry members, from some of our most experienced members to relative newcomers. We’ve had a lot of help (including over 10,000 responses to the preview we published in April).

Based on this feedback, we’ve been making some changes to the forms over the past months, and this month we’re beginning to roll out one of the most significant changes.

What’s changed?

Previously, we’ve asked you to enter the name of the person you’re looking for, together with the birth and death dates and locations.

One of the requests we’ve had is for location to be more flexible – perhaps you don’t know where your grandparents were born in 1905, but do know they lived in Melbourne in 1952.

So we’ve added a single box that asks for any “place your ancestor might have lived”, and which searches our records for any life events that match that location, including birth, residence, marriage, military service and death.

Most importantly, in our tests with volunteer members, we found that in a number of cases, this change enabled us to surface relevant records higher in our results than was possible before.

Of course, you can still specify birth and death places by clicking on “Add an event”. In fact, these links give you a much more flexible way to add in any of the details you know about the life events or relationships of the person you’re looking for. We’ve tried to make it a little bit easier to enter as much or as little as you know.

Estimated birth year

To search the right collections, we need to know roughly the period of time in which your person was alive. To help us find the most likely records for a person, enter the approximate birth year, or click on “Calculate it” to make an educated guess if you’re not sure.

Show advanced and clear form

The links for advanced search and clear form are now located at the bottom of the form next to the Search button.

Looking for Old Search?

Old search is still there. Go to the search homepage : Under the navigation bar on the right, you’ll see the link “Go to Old Search”. Click on this, and you’ll be back on the Old Search form.

Happy Searching!


  1. Margo Canavan

    that all sounds good but what about people who changed their names, as eg convicts when free did.
    Another example I have a ggf born and married as one surname, known as another for at least 40 years and died and buried as ?????
    My FIL born one name changed his name by common usage in 1940’s
    This name thing creates enormous challenges

  2. Ron Lankshear

    Could you please look at a search problem that has appeared recently – the search used to make sense but now there are too just too many hits.
    The problem seems to affect all the databases in the BMD UK collection.
    Here are some examples

    Old Search with Exact ticked

    London Marriages
    search for name John Lankshear
    result 48 records
    I expected this to be for any marriage of a John Lankshear
    but only 6 of the 48 are for a John and of course also another 6 repeated as spouse name is John Lankshear.
    that leaves 36 which are not John Lankshear getting married
    of these in 8 the father is John Lankshear – if I wanted these I could put John Lankshear in the father field.
    The remaining 24 are where the spouse not a Lankshear has the name John or the father of not a Lankshear is John

    which include Charles John Causley 25 Dec 1915 to Lottie Ellen Lankshear
    very good to see my Aunt’s marriage but how does it meet a search for name John Lankshear – her father is Thomas.

    In new search same search has 24 results – at least the marriages when no John Lankshear is involved are not shown BUT the marriages in which John is a father are shown. This is better than the results in Old Search but still conflicts with what the fields seem to mean.

    of Course my name is fairly unique but when you start getting into more widely used surnames the results list are large. The precision I expect from the search is lost.

    One more example London BMB 1538-1812
    Charlotte Parker gives 54 results in New Search – 9 are where a Charlotte is mother.

    In Old Search results are 63 – extras seem to be where mother is Charlotte but not shown as Parker. Presumably Old Search assumes mother is a Parker and adds it in. This seems strange that new search does not show these.
    There is also a Charlotte Shuttleton marriage to a John Parker. Ok She becomes Mrs Parker

    Please can we fix the BMD search so that name means the main person in the event and father, mother etc are not added to the results but I wanted marriages of Charlotte Parker not those who become Parker


    Hi Ron. Thank you so much for your feedback and for bringing this issue to our attention. We have passed your comments on to our Search team so they can investigate further.

  4. Ron Lankshear

    Thank you for passing that on – ay news of when the search team have an answer for the BMD search problem.

    Could you please also get them to look at
    England & Wales, Death Index: 1916-2005

    The years 1916-1968 do not show any birth year and yet the age at death is in the detail. The Deaths in the other database 1837-1915 can be searched with birth year but this does not work in 1916-1968 block which must make many customers think their ancestor is not there.

    Also the Year of death registration shows BUT not the months – yet the heading is “Death Registration Month/Year”

    Please have the structure of this database checked and re-built as needed.
    It really does not look very professional.

  5. Ron Lankshear

    Further to 11916 deaths problem
    There is a difference between the ways the 1837-1915 data is shown
    in both Old and New Search
    1837-1915 index has
    B – year and quarter with 3 months on hits but no district – its in detail – the district is important
    M – only year shown on hits – detail has quarter with 3 months
    D – only year on hits – detail has quarter with 3 months

    For M and D having the actual quarter in full hits list is important

    Could you please ask Search team to look at this
    so that results are consistent across databases

    Of course It is good that deaths has calculated birth year

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