What is the Ancestry Card Catalogue ?
The Ancestry Card Catalogue is a little used section of the Ancestry website and holds a great number of hidden genealogy secrets. Many Ancestry.co.uk users confine themselves to going to the front page, filling in the name of the person they are seeking and pressing the search button. However they are definitely missing out on some potential useful information by ignoring the Card Catalogue. Basically the catalogue is the same as one that you would find in a library or archive, it lists all the different material that that institution holds. In Ancestry’s case think of them as an archive, but remember that what you find in their catalogue comes to you via the internet rather than you going to the archive. In other words everything you find in the card catalogue is available online.
What can be found in the Ancestry Card Catalogue ?
The items that can be found in the Ancestry Card Catalogue are wide ranging, there will be usual well known records such as civil registration and census as well as more unusual and/or hard to find items such as parish registers, local histories, out of print books, peerage and heraldry texts, directories, gazetteers, transcripts of government papers, chancery proceedings, probates and much more. You really won’t appreciate what is included until you start to search.
How can I search the Ancestry Card Catalogue ?
It is really easy to search the catalogue. Let’s go step by step.
1. On the front page of Ancestry you will find a box headed “Records Collection”. This will have a list of the UK Census 1841 etc. and then lower down will have a sub heading “More Records”. Under that heading will be the entry “Card Catalogue (list of data collections)”, click on this.
2. You will now have arrived at the “Ancestry Database Card Catalogue” page. The intro will ask if you wish to look at a list of database. If you are just browsing to see what Ancestry does hold in it’s archive this is a good option. Warning you may find yourself totally entranced by some database that you have found that time just slips away and you suddenly realise that several hours have gone past ! This happens all the time in real libraries and archives so don’t be surprised.
Another option is to fill in the search form, there are boxes for Database Title, Keywords,
Record Type, Year Range, and Date Last Updated. This last box is very handy when you have undertaken a search and gone through the results and at a later date want to check if anything new has been added. A research diary is good to keep as you can check back and see the date when you last made a search.
When searching in Ancestry you need to remember that less is more. If you put too much information in then you may miss out on items that would be helpful because you had made too tight a circle around your search parameters. Be generous with time periods especially.
Here is an example of what you might find with a wide search of the database. If you have interests say in the county of Berkshire then simply type in the word Berkshire in the keyword box, leave all the other boxes blank.
3. The results page will appear and show that there are 246 record sets with the keyword Berkshire in the description. This doesn’t mean that there only 246 records, but that there are 246 databases. Each dataset will have a large number of names of individuals in them, for instance the 1901 census has 30,580,800 names in it for Berkshire.
At the top of the page you will see that there are the usual datasets that family historians are familiar with such as Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) and the various Census. As you work your way down the list you will see entries for Employment Records, Criminal Registers, Alien Arrival into the UK, Directories, Royal Navy Medic Records, Gazetteers, a book of British Artists, Surname databases, Heraldic & Peerage publications etc.
Once a database is identified as being of interest then simply click on the title and a search box will appear on your screen. Fill in the details of the person you are searching for and click search and a list of the occurrences, if it does occur, will come up. Clicking on each entry will take you to the page on which the name appears.
You may chose to search for all datasets that have a reference to a family name rather than a place, this is as easy to search for as a place name.
If you want to get the most out of your Ancestry subscription then searching the card catalogue is a must. There is so much there that doesn’t get the attention that the big datasets such as census get, but the hidden secrets of Ancestry just might hold the key to enhance your family history.