On Monday, October 29, we officially released the advanced search for the Civil War Washington database. The advanced search will enable users to perform more sophisticated queries and to focus their searching. Unlike the keyword search, which returns results matching words or phrases across the entire database, irrespective of where the word or phrase occurs, the advanced search allows users to create queries according to more specific criteria within various contexts. The advanced search therefore offers users significantly more power and flexibility in crafting their searches. We imagine the basic keyword search will continue to have great utility for many users of the site, especially users interested in finding a person’s name in the database—wherever it may occur—as well as those users who want to see a broad overview of the available records, how the database is constructed, and so on. On the other hand, the advanced search will offer users more control over their searches, including the ability to set how expansive or fine-grained the search should be. For example, users now have the ability to return records for people identified as being of a specific race, of a specific occupation, or matching other criteria, separate from—or in addition to—a keyword search.
A description of how to get the most out of the advanced search is coming soon. In addition, we are planning an update to the advanced search for early December, which will bring further improvements in functionality, including the ability to show all results within a category. A longer term project is increasing the number of records and the quality of the information in the database. In order to get the most out of the database, we need to enrich the existing records—particularly in documenting known relationships between entities—as well as add new records. In the near future, we plan to add all of the people mentioned in the petitions filed in response to the DC Emancipation Act, and we hope to import detailed information about the person-person and person-place relationships embedded in the petitions.
We are eager to hear from users about how the search may be further improved—as well as what features you especially like. Please send feedback to the Civil War Washington project team.