Site changes: name variants, middle names, secondary roles, reviewing purchases

Some changes have been made to the site:

  • Name Variants: We used to manually add multiple variants of each name in each data file that we uploaded. This was time-consuming, limited to just a couple of variants for each name, and depended on us remembering to do it (and I’m sure we missed some when we were tired.) The site has now been restructured to have a giant master table of names and their variants, which will be consulted by each search and updated by each new data file. Customers will see more results from their searches, as a wider variety of spelling variants will be consulted for each name. For example, a search for Amelia will find always find Emilia and Emelia, a search for Smurthwaite will always find Smurfit and Murthwhite, a search for Wandless will find always Wanlace and Oneless, and a search for Halliburton will always find Allyburton. Also, not having to manually index each new file should enable us to get data online more quickly.
  • Include Variants: New checkbox to turn on/off the use of the new variant tables, as described above. If you find that including variants produces too many results, you can always turn it off.
  • Include Initials: If you check this box, the search is expanded to include records where the name is just an initial. For example, a search for Robert Parker Brown will now also return records for Robert P. Brown, R.P. Brown, and R. Parker Brown. A search for Elizabeth Smith will also return records for E. Smith. Note that invoking Include initials automatically turns on Include Variants.
  • Middle names, which used to be searchable by entering a name in First Name and then checking a “search as middle name” checkbox, have been given their own Middle Name search box. You can still enter a first name and middle names in the First Name box (and the search engine will split them apart for you), or you can enter a middle name in the Middle Name box, which just seems a little clearer to us. Multiple middle names separated by spaces are allowed. Treating middle names separately allows us to search for variants of middle names, which was previously impossible, so now a search for “William Henry Parker” will now find a record that is entered as “Wm. Hy. Parker”.
  • Secondary role search expanded: A search will now find abbreviated names (such as Jas. for James) and other spelling variations (Jim, Jimmy, Jamie) in secondary roles (godparents, grandparents,¬† marriage witnesses, employers, and other people who are mentioned in the record but are not the primary person or their parents or a spouse).
    • A search for middle names will now find them in secondary roles. This is useful for finding people who have a family surname as their middle name, or an unusual middle name that is passed down through several generations of a family.
  • My Orders page
    • now changes the row color to a light blue¬†gradient immediately after you have viewed a record. When you are reviewing numerous records from your list of purchases, this makes it easier to find your place in this table when you return to it after viewing each record. The highlighting persists until you log out or timed out.
    • now includes a column for the date a record was last modified, so when we announce changes to a data set (such as updates to our Easington district records), you can sort your My Orders table by the Modification date and see the recently-changed records at the top of the table, and then review them to see what changes were made.
  • Review Record has a new clickable link, below the record, to return to My Orders, My Matches, or the search results table, depending on where it was called from. This is more reliable than using the Back button and more efficient than clicking My Account and then My Orders or My Matches.
  • Search form: We rearranged the search form a little bit to make accommodate the new features. The checkboxes for searching in secondary roles and “include marriage bonds even when a District is selected” are now at the top of the Parish Record Filters section. The new “include variants” and “include initials” checkboxes are to the right of the First Name and Last Name area.

The new variant table is intended to compensate for the many ways clerks wrote names. It does not imply that all the variants are in fact the same name. For example, Raper and Roper have different origins, so they are not truly variants of the same name (as Smith and Smyth are), but clerks often wrote Raper for Roper (and vice versa), so they “appear” to be the same name. This can happen because the clerk didn’t correctly hear what the informant said, or didn’t know how to spell the name, or wrote it first on a scrap of paper and later transferred it to the register (or from a census schedule filled out by the householder to the census book), misreading it in the process, or it may simply be that a particular clerk’s handwriting makes the two names indistinguishable and we have observed that the same family is sometimes written as Raper and sometimes as Roper.

In making such sweeping changes to the search code, it is quite likely that we broke something, so please let us know if a search or anything else does not behave as expected – and please be patient while we fix any problems that occur.

Planned for the next code update:

  • on the My Orders page, you will be able to enter a note about each record, so you can keep track of whether it was relevant to your family, you’ve saved it to your tree, you’ve sent it on to your collaborators, this is Aunt Sally’s stepdaughter, or whatever you want to note about the record. This will probably include a button to show/hide all the Notes on the page.
  • the ability to delete searches that did not turn up any relevant records