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Subject: [SR-NEWBIE] How to use Rootsweb's new,more effective archives search engine
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2007 15:33:16 EDT


THE NEW ARCHIVES SEARCH ENGINE
By Joan Young


Until recently, if you wanted to search the archives of a RootsWeb
mailing list from within RootsWeb, you had to search one list at a
time and search year by year for keywords or surnames of interest.
This worked just fine if you knew you were looking for ROBINSONs on
the ROBINSON mailing list, for example, although searching year by
year could become cumbersome at times, especially if you were not sure
which list you wanted to search--or if you preferred to search all
lists.

RootsWeb has retired the veteran ISearch or Interactive Search engine
and unveiled a spiffy new search engine. It is able to search the
nearly 31,000,000 messages posted to all RootsWeb mailing lists over
their entire history--all at one time.

An easy and convenient way to access the new Archives search engine is
to click on the Mailing List tab in the RootsWeb masthead on any
RootsWeb page (you will be taken to a page with a search box labeled
"Search the mailing list archives") or go directly to:
http://lists.rootsweb.com/

The new Archives search engine can also be accessed by clicking the
"Archives Search" link under the Mailing List heading on the RootsWeb
home page: http://www.rootsweb.com/

And finally, the new search feature is linked from the main Archiver
page under the link "Search all of the archiver listings." This search
engine uses the same Archiver database that has been used for quite
some time to browse through the list messages subject by subject and
month by month: http://archiver.rootsweb.com/

To perform a simple search of the full text of all lists for all time
periods, enter keywords or surnames in the Keywords field on the
search page. Matches to your search criteria are returned in order of
relevancy.

AND, NOT, and EXACT PHRASE SEARCHES
Archives searches understand the commands AND and NOT. For example,
you can search for John AND ROBINSON or ROBINSON NOT John. The former
would be a search for a complete match of the words John and ROBINSON
within the message, and the latter would be a search for messages that
include ROBINSON but exclude the word John in the text. The searches
are not case sensitive.

Archives searches also understand exact phrase matches, which are
shown within quotation marks, such as "John ROBINSON". The difference
between using an exact phrase search with quotes and using the command
AND is that with an exact phrase search only exact matches to John
ROBINSON are returned. If you enter John AND ROBINSON, the search
engine will return hits where both words appear somewhere in the text
being searched, but not necessarily together as part of the same name.

WILDCARD SEARCHES
Wildcard searches always require a bit of practice and experimentation
when first using a new search engine. The "*" and "?" wildcards may be
used with the Archives search engine with the * (asterisk)
representing zero or more missing or unknown characters and the ?
(question mark) representing a single missing or unknown character.
The wildcards are intended for use anywhere within the keywords or
surnames, but the catch is that they will only work in situations
where there are not too many possibilities to be searched.

For instance, if you are looking for a surname that ends in "ONES" but
you don't know how many leading characters are missing or unknown, you
will find that searching for "*ONES" results in an error message
because there are too many possibilities for the search engine to
check. However, searching for "?ONES" does yield results for surnames
where one leading character is followed by "ONES." Trial and error is
the best method of finding what works and what doesn't.

The question mark symbol can be used more than once in a keyword or
surname, but in each case it only represents one missing character.
For instance, a search for ROB??SON produces hits for ROBERSON,
ROBINSON, and ROBARSON, but will not find ROBERTSON since there are
three missing characters in that name. A search for ROB*SON will find
all spellings where any number of missing characters are matched.

ADVANCED SEARCHES
In addition to the simple searches in Archives search, there is an
Advanced tab with more refined search options. Specific fields may be
searched using the Advanced capabilities. Searching with the BODY
field will return matches from both the message body and the subject
line. Searching with the SUBJECT field will return results that match
the subject line of the original message.

The FROM field may be used to search for posts made from a specific
e-mail address. For example, you may wish to search for all posts you
have made to the lists. Or you may wish to search for messages posted
by a cousin who has listed information on various lists pertaining to
your mutual family history.

The LIST field is for narrowing down your searches to posts made to a
specific list, and the DATE field is for limiting the results to posts
made within a specific date range, in the format dd mmm yyyy or: 10
Jan 2006.

By using the LIST and DATE fields together you can duplicate the old
listsearch functionality; that is, you can search a single list and a
single year. Just enter a list name into the LIST field and a year
into the DATE field. Or, if you want, narrow your search further by
entering a specific month and year in the DATE field: Jan 2006, or
even a specific day by entering: 10 Jan 2006.

You can use one or more of the fields in combination when entering
search terms in the Advanced search feature. For instance, if you want
to search for posts you made to the SMITH surname list in January
2006, enter your e-mail address in the FROM field, SMITH in the LIST
field, and Jan 2006 in the DATE field.

RootsWeb mailing lists have always provided a huge amount of
information, but in the past the trick was locating the information
you needed. Now, through proper use of the new Archives search engine,
the information is easily accessible and at your fingertips.

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 25 April 2007, Vol. 10, No. 17.




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