Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A problem with the sliders but a shout out for great customer service

Ancestry.com - I am looking for any documents with the name “Stephen Oliver Perry” that were generated in the state of Mississippi. I have the given name slider set at EXACT, I have the surname slider set at EXACT and I have the event location slider set at EXACT. Here is what the Ancestry search comes back with. Do you see any Mississippi records?


Wait! There is a button under Schools, Directories & Church Records to see more results! Maybe my Mississippi hits are hiding there!


Nope. This one bothered me a bit because the ability to filter is very important when doing searches. I of course took a look at the hits just to see what might be there. Wow, Ancestry is having a really hard time with whatever OCR program they are using. It sees the TYPED words Butts and house as Perry. Yeah, that’s close. It also picked up the words Stephen (or Oliver) as many as 10 words away from word Perry. That doesn’t work for me either. It picked up place names that contained Perry. Even if I could overlook their OCR issues (and they really need to get that fixed) I can’t overlook that I told the search to restrict to the state of MISSISSIPPI. There is no excuse for this one.

I asked Ancestry why the filtered search does not work. I posted on the Ancestry Facebook page and one of their representative responded in less than 5 minutes which I have to say is pretty good at 8:50am on a Saturday morning. So far they get an A+ for customer service. They told me to send my login info to them via private message so that they could look at my search internally. 

Here is their response:

“We believe the reason you're getting the results you're seeing is because you've selected everything to be exact so the search algorithm on the site is trying to bring you everything that you've asked for. What we did was select Mississippi to be the only exact piece of information and that really improved the results we got.”

I am very happy that they answered my concern so quickly but I am not as happy with their answer. My problem is that Perry is a very common surname and Stephen is a very common given name. My strategy is to make the search as tight as possible and then I can loosen it it increments to pull in more results. They answered again:

“Hi again Michele, we will flag this with our development team because it is odd that you would get results for Rhode Island when specifying Mississippi to exact. We apologize for any frustration that may have been caused and we appreciate your understanding.”

Now I am happy (at least for now). They responded very quickly and they acknowledged that there is a problem. I will just live with the search issues until their programmers can address it.  I will be keeping an eye on it though.


Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis


  1. Ancestry personnel should test their search engine; this is a very common problem that I have experienced many times since becoming a subscriber.

  2. I think you may have gotten those results because you used Any to enter the state. I try to always use Lived In. I found that Any will return results for different lived in states but the person may have been born, died, married or some other event in that state while living in another. Good luck. Whatever it is, I hope they fix it.

  3. Hi Michele, I do similar searches as you do but for West Virginia but everything under the sun but what I am really wanting.

    Very frustrating when you have heaps of John Boleys or Jacob Amicks etc.

    HelenG, Western Australia