Thursday, May 19, 2011 Announces New Web Search

Announcement from

Last October we launched Ancestry Labs to test a few new ideas, and we’d like to thank all those members who contributed a lot of great feedback and discussion around these.  Today we’re excited to announce the introduction of one of the ideas, Web Search, into the main search.   

Why are we launching Web Search?

We’ve heard from many members that although has the broadest collections of historical records available, it certainly isn’t completely comprehensive. Every day, digital records are being published on sites across the web, many of which are free to access.

These sites can be a great resource in helping break through brick walls, however, it can be hard to know where to find sites that are relevant to your ancestors, and it also takes time to work out the best way to search them once you do manage to track them down.

To help solve this, we are launching a new feature that searches select websites and brings back any matching results we find, along with a link to the site to enable you to go straight to the original record. Where relevant, we will include these results into your main search results. We will also list each collection we have within our card catalog, which will allow you to search those collections directly from within

Principles we will follow

As we’ve been developing Web Search, we’ve spoken with many members within the genealogical community to try to make sure we approach this in the right way. We recognize that this content is really important to every single site owner, and we believe it’s important we respect the wishes of these owners regarding links to their content.

From these discussions, we have developed some principles on how this service will work:
·         Free access to Web Records – Users do not have to subscribe or register with to view these records.
·         We will always strive to follow web standards for web crawling permissions.  For example, some websites have a robots.txt file that instructs search engines (like Google) to not crawl the site, or to only crawl certain areas.
·         Proper attribution of Web Records to content publishers - we will link prominently to the original site within the search experience.
·         We have in place processes to remove content from the index if a website owner requests us to do that and we will publish how to contact our team to do this.  Website owners can also contact us to ask questions or to request their site be indexed – see this page to learn how to contact us:
· users will be able to save key information to their trees but it will list the website as the source and will have an easy way to link back to the original site.

How does it work?

When you do a search on, if we find a relevant match in a record on a site we have indexed, we will include that match in your search results. 
You can view the essential information in the search results list, click on a link to visit the website, or click on the information to view a little more and save it to your tree.  You don’t have to subscribe or even have a guest account with to find and view this information or to get to the source website.  Of course, if you want to save it to your online tree, you will need to login or create a free account so we know where to save the information.
To designate which of these records are from and which are found via web search, we are prefacing the source information with “Web:” and then the name of the collection.  For example: “Web: Rootsweb Obituary Index”. There is also an icon next to the name indicating this is a web record.

You will also see a link under the title that will go straight to the website.  If you are using new search, you will also find a special icon next to the title. 

When you click on the name of the collection, you will get to this page:
This page only contains the essential information needed to find the information and to make sure it is the person for whom you are searching. 

In the same way you should always check the image when you look at an index, make sure you go to the web site to see what other information is there.  You will usually find additional information – reference and publication information, grave site locations, ways to order the original record, notes, and sometimes even images.

Going to the Original Website

The first time you click on a link to go to an external website, you will see a message that looks like this:
We want to make sure users know a few things about this experience.  First of all, the content is not on and the site will open in a new tab, or a new window (depending on your browser.)  Secondly, when you get to the website, you may have to search for the record.  Some sites have static URLs so we can help you get straight to the record.   Other sites dynamically generate the page for the record so you have to search when you get there.

If you don’t want to see this message in the future, just check the box in the lower right hand portion of the screen “Don’t show this message again.”
Can I search just one collection of web records, like I can with Ancestry content?

Yes, you can do this.  There are a few ways to search just one set of records from a website.
If you are looking at a single record on, just click the title of the collection and it will take you to a search page for that collection.
This will take you to a search page that will look something like this:
You can also find the individual search forms by going to the card catalog and searching on the name of the collection.  If you don’t know, just search on the word “web” in the title since we will include the word “web” to denote they come from an external source and not from

How fast will we grow the Web Search service?

We plan to add sites to our index gradually so we can learn about how useful they are to users. Today, we are launching Web Search with select websites but expect to add many more websites to help our users find more information about their ancestors.

Go try it out

The best way to understand this is to try it out.  Since we are starting out small, you may not see these results in your search results for your ancestors, yet.  (If you do, please let us know if it was helpful.)
You can see it in action by doing a search for Louise M Chrisman, died in Indiana, USA or click here to see the search results.

In the example above, the first result is for Louise in “Web: Allen County, Indiana Deaths 1870-1920."
We would like your feedback

We hope this answers many of your questions.  We have appreciated all of the feedback we have gotten so far and look forward to continuing to learn from our users, from web publishers, and from others in the community.

We have a page with general information on this service at  On this page, you will find a summary of some of this information as well as ways to contact us. 

If you own a website or publish content, we have a special message board where you can ask questions and share your suggestions with us at

If you publish family history records on the web, you can ask your site to be searched, or request your site not be searched, by emailing us at

We also invite any of our users to share their thoughts and suggestions with us at the same email address –

Happy Searching!

Copyright © 2011 by H R Worthington

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