ADVERTISEMENT Promises More-Relevant Results Starting Today

By Diane Haddad

Subscription genealogy site has embarked on its quest to improve the relevance of your search results by starting with dates.

It’s not unusual to give a death date in, say, 1910, but still get search results from the 1930 census. But after today, that’ll be a rarer occurrence.

On the blog, search product manager Anne Mitchell promises we’ll start to see changes in search results around noon EDT.

Based on experience with census and vital records, Mitchell’s team has chosen “fudge factors” of five years for birth and two years for death. Searches also assume someone lived about 100 years.

I haven’t tried the adjusted search yet (it’s only 9 a.m. here), but here’s what should happen:

  • If you’re searching for someone and you know he was born in 1880, but you don’t know when he died, matching records will fall between 1875 and 1982.
  • If you know the death date was 1926 but you don’t know the birth year, matches will fall between 1821 and 1928.
  • If you enter the birth year and the death year, matches will fall between the birth year minus 5 and the death year plus 2.
  • If you pick a range for the birth or death year, the fudge factor will come in at the outside end of the range. For example, for a birth you enter 1843 with a two-year range. Search results will start in 1836.

If you give the 1902 death a five-year range, results will end in 1909.

  • You can still choose Exact to eliminate the fudge factor. If you choose Exact for a birth of 1843 with a two-year range, matching records will have birth dates between 1841 and 1845. If you specify Exactly 1843 with no range, matching records will have birth dates in 1843.

Unless you’re specifically looking for a death record, It’s best to avoid choosing Exact for a death date. Checking Exact for any search term means matching records must contain that term. But few genealogy records have death information (most of your ancestor’s records were created while he was alive).

A caveat: Mitchell says 95 percent of records are covered with this search update. The rest will be added, but if you search a data set in that five percent, you won’t notice these updates.

She answers more questions on the blog.