Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Searching the Ancestry.com Library with Google


Randy Seaver, in his excellent GeneaMusings blog, wrote about the difficulty of searching the Ancestry.com Library Archive in Using Ancestry's "Learning Center" is Frustrating .

The FREE Ancestry.com Library has thousands of articles written by genealogy experts such as Richard Eastman, Juliana Smith, Michael John Neill, and Kip Sperry but because of the poor search engine many of the articles are virtually inaccessable. Randy asks:

This library archive is a marvelous resource. But the Search capability is badly broken. How can we get it fixed?

I don't know how to get Ancestry.com to improve their Library Archive search but I do know a work-around for better searching.

The Ancestry Library can be searched using the Google site search. There are two ways to use Google's site search.

  1. You can use the site search on the free Google Toolbar.

  2. You can use this command in the Google Search Box site:ancestry.com/learn followed by the search term; i.e. site:ancestry.com/learn/ 20th century Note the space after the site URL and the search term.
So, using Randy's example of searching the Ancestry Library for the term "20th century", we can compare results.

Search term : 20th

  1. Ancestry Library Search Engine - 158 hits
  2. Google Site Search - 87 hits
    site:ancestry.com/learn/ 20th

Search term: 20th century

  1. Ancestry Library Search Engine -1,511 hits
  2. Google Site Search - 33 hits
    site:ancestry.com/learn/ 20th century

Search term: "20th century"

  1. Ancestry Library Search Engine - 1,511 hits
  2. Google Site Search - 23 hits
    site:ancestry.com/learn/ "20th century"

The Google Site Search does a much better job of narrowing results than the Ancestry Library 's own Search Engine. Plus when using the Google site search, you can use all of Google's operators such as the +, the -, the tilde , quotes, and the year range. So it would be possible to construct queries such as:

  • site:ancestry.com/learn/ "20th century" 1941..1945
  • site:ancestry.com/learn/ "20th century" -war
  • site:ancestry.com/learn/ "20th century" ~military

See Google Operators for more about Google Operators and their uses.

I personally use the Google Toolbar to do Google site searches. There is less typing involved plus I don't have to remember the command syntax, but both give identical results. Using the Google Toolbar to Search Genealogy Sites

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