Did you see the new search improvements?

+144 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

Some major improvements to our search engine just went live. Search is fundamentally important to our single family tree mission, and these are significant improvements, so I'm very excited to announce that they're finally online.

There are behind-the-scenes efficiency and ranking improvements, but what you will notice is that you can now limit results by:

1.) birth or death location(s).

2.) parents' name(s).

3.) gender.

There have also been improvements to the handling of last names. In addition to ranking improvements, you can:

4.) Exclude last name variants, e.g. so Smyth and Smits matches are not included with Smith matches.

5.) Limit last name matches to the last name at birth or married/current last name.

You can combine search criteria in creative ways. For example, you could search for all the Aldens born in Plymouth between 1670 and 1730. Or all males named John born in Mass* in the 1620s or 1630s.

There are some things we're still working on. Most of the changes only apply to the main search engine, not the automatic matches when creating new profiles and in GEDCOMpare and FindMatches. We are also working on the ability to page through more than 100 results, and improved handling of certain non-Latin characters in certain fields.

If you spot any bugs, or if you have other ideas for improvements, post them here and Jamie will collect them.

Onward and upward!


asked in The Tree House by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Thanks, I'm afraid my email has been deleted because I seem to not exist on WikiTree anymore.  Hope to find a solution.  I can see some of my work but not much without being able to sign on.  I had a question re my Great Great Grandfather and I'm shown as "Anonymous" Tasker!
As a living person your info will be very private now, so you won't be able to see much of your own profile when you aren't logged in.  Doesn't mean it's gone away.
Jerry, it appears that your account was closed. I can't tell what happened, but Google Search identifies Baxley-291 as a profile you created, and the page history now shows that it was created by a closed account. Members of the Team are the only folks who can explain what happened.

Another bug?  If I am trying to search for a woman by maiden name and select the "

Yeah, the secondary sort clears out all the new fields. A fix for this is ready, it just hasn't been pushed to the live site yet.

Any idea when we'll have it Jamie?  Really annoying to see something we've been wanting and it has bugs from the get go.  sad

Probably Monday.

A few more search improvements have been made live.

  • Sorting the search results will no longer reset the parents, locations, or last name match type.
  • If you omit the first name and search for a last name + other data, it will no longer send you to the Genealogy page for that last name. For example:
    • You can search for all people with the last name "Nelson" that are living.
    • You can search for all people with the last name "Nelson" that are female.
    • You can search for all people with the last name "Nelson" who have a father named "Samuel".
  • The total number of people that match your query is shown. Previously, the number maxed out at 100. (Edit to clarify: being able to page through all the matches is coming in a future update.)

Thank you Jamie  laugh

The improvements should save a good deal of time and confusion.

27 Answers

+33 votes
Best answer
This will be a great help. Thanks for all your work, Tech Team!
answered by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (387k points)
selected by Fann Fann
+34 votes
Wonderful, Just had a quick play with it and it is going to make life so much easier. Thanks.
answered by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (618k points)
+25 votes
Possible bug searching on parents' names. I was searching on Stavers and tried to limit my search to father's name Peter. The first that came up on the list was a David Stavers with father William. Tried some other variants in the parents' name fields and the result did not change.
answered by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (618k points)
Right now a last name and no first name search directs to the Genealogy page (like it used to). An exception was made for last name only + place. In the next round of changes, last name only + additional fields will be added.
Jamie, Thanks for the explanation. I tried again, putting a first name in as well then filtering on father's name. That worked fine.

I expect there may be a few G2G questions about this filter as people start to experiment with the new search, so worth noting the limitation.
You were right... ;)
+34 votes
Wonderful!  I've been waiting for the location search!
answered by Nan Lambert G2G6 Pilot (202k points)
+26 votes
Great news, looking forward to trying it out.
answered by SJ Baty G2G6 Pilot (294k points)
+26 votes
Great job, very useful.

How does this differ from Wikitree+ when searching the text?
answered by Richard Devlin G2G6 Mach 8 (88.5k points)
Oh I see, You can combine different fields.
It also includes private profiles on your trusted list, that WikiTree+ doesn't.

This will make search on WikiTree+ almost obsolete. I will have to add some additional capabilities.
The name search in WikiTree has always included private profiles. This is not a new feature. And it will return private and unlisted profiles that aren't on your watchlist, but match the search parameters.
Ellen, I was explaining the difference to WikiTree+
+23 votes
answered by Martin Allen G2G6 Pilot (251k points)
+23 votes
The improvements are quite useful. Good job.
answered by Bill McCormick G2G6 Mach 5 (53.7k points)
+24 votes
Thank you!  This is a big improvement.
answered by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Mach 7 (73.4k points)
+24 votes
This is great! I will definitely be using this! :)

I noticed after I search and wanted to sort by name or birth date it reset the parent name.
answered by Sarah Rojas G2G6 Mach 6 (67.6k points)
+21 votes

HUGE improvement. Thank you so much!!

answered by Pip Sheppard G2G6 Pilot (890k points)
+19 votes
Great improvement to search! Thank you, Chris and the team.
answered by David Selman G2G6 Pilot (545k points)
+18 votes

A suggestion for future improvement: given name variants. For example, I recently added a duplicate profile because the existing profile for "Maud X" didn't show up as a possible match for "Maude X".
answered by Sharon Casteel G2G6 Mach 8 (85.9k points)

If we are aware of the possibility of first name variants, we can use asterisks as a wild card in name search.

To search for Maud or Maud, you could use Maud*.

But the asterisk has to substitute for the entire remainder of the name, so to search for Elisabeth or Elizabeth, you need to search for Eli*, which also returns Eli, Eliza, Elise, Elijah, Elisha, and other names you may not have been looking for.

Actually, a lot of work was done on improving wildcards. They still aren't perfect, but you should be able to use wildcards in other positions, and we added the ? (single character) wildcard as well. So Eli?abeth (or Eli*abeth) should find Elizabeth and Elisabeth.
Great news about the wildcards, Jamie!! Thanks!!
Wonderful -- the improved wildcards are a big help!
+18 votes

I haven't tried it out yet, but it certainly looks like it will be more useful.

A problem I noticed a couple of days ago and have been meaning to post - is that doesn't appear to find names in non-western European languages, though I've really only tried with one name.

I tried searching for Ольга (the Russian for the first name Olga) in the first name search field to see if there were any duplicates for a very early Russian royal but it didn't find any profiles at all.

The Google search (no. 4 Search for Any Text) does find profiles with this search term and I'm wondering if it is possible to move that search box up to the number 2 position.  I suspect where it is it gets missed as an option? 

answered by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (316k points)
We are aware of the issue with non-western European characters. I think it's only an issue with the first name field.
Thanks Jamie, you are right the surname field works OK.

I'd still like to suggest the Google search is moved up in the list.
+18 votes
It works like a charm!
answered by Maggie N. G2G6 Pilot (546k points)
+19 votes
Great improvement! That we now can search for the combination of child and mother's name means a far better match. When I tried it, it looks like the first name is mandatory?

I searched Maria Spelthaen with the mother surname Gooris, it showed one result (Maria Ida), but with the surname Spelthahn her sister Maria Anna was shown as well. The search for Spelthaen and Gooris without a first name showed the https://www.wikitree.com/genealogy/spelthaen page.
answered by B. W. J. Molier G2G6 Mach 3 (35.9k points)
I think you have run into the same issue as I did, which Jamie explained when I asked about it further up the thread.
Thanks! I was very exited :D
+15 votes
It would be even better if showed “nicknames”.
answered by Sir William Arbuthnot of Kittybrewster G2G6 Pilot (149k points)
Name Search does find people by nickname -- if you search on a name that appears only in the Other Nicknames field, the person will appear in search results (but the results list doesn't display the nicknames.  (This is a capability it has had for some time. But when it searches on first names, it insists on a precise match -- it doesn't know about variant names like Elisabeth vs. Elizabeth.)
+13 votes

I'm very pleased to see these search enhancements. However, as usual, I probed for flaws and shortcomings (wouldn't want Jamie to feel that WikiTree doesn't need her any more!), and I managed to find a couple:

  • It used to be that when I ran a search for a common name, the results  page would inform me that the search algorithm found (say) 796 matches and was displaying just 100. Now it only tells me '100 matches for "FirstName LastName"' and it doesn't even hint that there were more than 100. Particularly when I'm searching to rule out the possibility of duplicate profiles, it's important to know how many matches were found, to determine whether I need to do a narrowly filtered search. Could the information on total hit count be restored?
  • The new place-name search works only for Public and Open profiles, regardless of whether (or not) the person is on my watchlist.. This might not seem like a big deal, except for the fact that the other filters do find Private (and maybe also Unlisted) profiles that match a query (but I hasten to add that the results listing doesn't show the matching details unless the profile is on my watchlist). Specifically, both before and after this recent change, date filtering results include Private and Unlisted profiles that match the requested date; and now the new parent-name sort filter shows Private profiles (but apparently not Unlisted profiles) that match the requested parent's name (whether or not the person is on my watchlist),  This inconsistent behavior is confusing (and it could lead members to misinterpret their search results)  -- I think the search page instructions should indicate that the place name filters don't work on Private or Unlisted profiles, and that the parents' name filters don't work on Unlisted profiles.
answered by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (876k points)
I've noted your first point.

For the second, it's a bit tricky. We realized while testing that there was a bit of a privacy issue with the new fields -- someone could use the search to make educated guesses about a WikiTree member and confirm where someone was born or their parent's names. So it was decided the safest thing to do would be to not index place names if the profile is private, and not index parent names if the parents are private or the profile's tree is private (I think that's the criteria -- I'll have to double check). But yeah, the docs/help do need to be updated.
Regarding item 2, I thoroughly understand that search results shouldn't reveal private details for private and unlisted profiles. My only concern was that  users should be provided with documentation on how the search function works.
+14 votes

Thanks This is Great!

answered by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (459k points)
Wow Laura,

+13 votes
Having additional search options is always a +.

I have noticed, though, that when I add in dates now, the criteria seems to loosen; whereas, before, it would always tighten on a second search using dates (i.e., initial search - forename + surname = nnn results; second search, adding dates only with no further refine = n or nn results; however, with the new engine release, I get nnn both times.).

For an initial 2nd search, it would be nice if the optional criteria where perhaps collapsed at the top of the screen with the exception of dates? Maybe the next iteration of development?
answered by Fann Fann G2G6 Mach 2 (23k points)

Possibly related to Fann Fann's comment about "collapsing the optional criteria"... 

With the insertion of all of the additional criteria on the search page, when I do a second search to narrow my results, I often mistakenly hit the "GO" button to go to the surname page (meaning I have to go back and start my search all over again ) -- because the standard search button has scrolled off the top of my screen. I think it would be nice to have a second SEARCH button below the optional criteria.

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