Sunday, March 23, 2014 - Thinking Outside the Box

Did you ever watch Ken Jennings play on Jeopardy? How did he out think the computer and his competitors? He played seventy-five games and won over $3,000,000. Even playing against the computer "Watson" he held his own though he did not win. Recently another contestant Arthur Chu won almost $300,000 in twelve games. People were upset that he did not play using normally expected strategies, but was able to think outisde the box of ways to play. In today's world one must be mentally prepared to think outside the box and especially the computer box.

For genealogists who are working with online providers of materials in searching out ancestors for themselves or others, they must be prepared to adapt when these providers change formats for researching. While the material in their database collections is the same, getting to the information in a timely manner will require some ingenuity and creative thinking.

A friend recently suggested that it would be interesting to see how the search results have changed in the searches performed on Last year at this time one of my new class power point presentations focused on using in both the new search and the old search. Today these searches can be performed in the primary search and the advanced search. At the present time the results of those searches are not exactly the same as what happened previously, but they are coming closer every day. Working out the glitches is the job of the computer programmers. Computers only do what they are programmed to do.

Over the past two weeks while helping our daughter and her family move, watching the granddaughters in the process, working on my mother's probate estate and doing some client genealogy research there has been limited time to play with the new format at One thing that seemed to help in searching under the advanced search is to enter only the surname and the place where they lived. When entering a first name as well often no results are found.  Like the old format there are four categories available for searching: Historical Records, Stories & Publications, Family Trees, and Photos & Maps. This search is done with exact results and historical records checked.

My ancestor Daniel Tidd is the name used in most of my demonstrations as there are very few people found in the United States with that name. He is one of my favorite ancestors and there are only two others that come up in the census results, one being his son.  I actually named my first son after him. So in advanced search his first and last name and the place of Massachusetts are entered for the first trial in exact search. There are 143 results, the same as what was found under the old search.

The results for Daniel Tidd in Massachusetts include:
Census & Voter Lists 20 results - 1800, 1830-1880, 1900-1910,  Massachusetts State Census 1855&1865, Iowa State Census 1895
Birth, Marriage & Death 92 results
Military 6 results
Schools, Directories & Church Histories 17 results
Tax, Criminal, Land & Wills 11 results
Reference, Dictionaries & Almanacs 4 results

Searching just for the last name Tidd in Massachusetts the results include:
Census & Voter Lists 1,423 results
Birth, Marriage & Death 4,709 results
Military 291 results
Schools, Directories & Church Histories 4,210
Tax, Criminal, Land & Wills 285 results
Reference, Dictionaries & Alamanacs 91 results

While the individual databases may allow for a second search with both first and last name, this can slow down the process. The search results now appear to include some spelling variations. The shortcut keys at the bottom left side seem to allow for highlighting the next or previous record, which helps the researcher to identify those databases that have been reviewed. By clicking on Collections on the left side allows for searching in a particular country or ethnicity.

In two week's time the search process has improved to the point that the results more clearly reflect the old search format. For those who never used that format this will be a new method of researching. There are videos, webinars and other instructional tools to use in learning how to make the system work. Working within the search parameters we must learn to make the system work for us to achieve the results quickly, concisely and incorporating the thinking outside the box system. There is no wrong way to search, but there are some great suggestions to make it better.

Wishing everyone the best in exploring and Both have a wealth of materials to use in discovering our family histories. Please share any search ideas that you may have discovered. Serendipity can be found among the gems located at these websites.

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