Posted by on March 12, 2009 in Content

Here’s a summary of today’s U.S. Content releases:

  • 1880 U.S. Federal Census
    • Over 99% of the 1,085,847 images were replaced today with higher quality images scanned from earlier generation microfilm. We’re looking closer at the images left to be replaced.
    • In many cases, the improvement in quality is the difference between completely illegible to complete legibility (see example below).
    • This update is a product of our partnership with FamilySearch.
    • The free index, which largely consists of the work of GSU/FamilySearch volunteers many years ago, was not updated today.  Several known errors in the index will be fixed in coming months.
    • New vs. Old images – extreme case (old on top, new on bottom):

      1880-edmond-millerner-small.jpg

      1880-edmond-millerner-small-enhanced.jpg

  • U.S. City Directories
    • Over 2,000 1935-1945 city directories were added today.
    • This is the first installment of directories from this time period to this database.  Hundreds more will be added in coming months.
  • Obituary Collection
    • Now twice as many contemporary obituaries are being added to this database on a regular basis, with significantly fewer duplicates.
    • Our technology to extract the data from these obituaries has greatly improved, parsing the information into several more fields to allow for more accurate search results and more relevant family tree hints.

All in all, today’s U.S. content releases contain tens of millions of new records, many of which were never before accessible online.  Please let me know if you have any questions or if you find any issues with these releases that you’d like me to address.

P.S. The Iowa State Census 1925 missing images problem was fixed and rolled live yesterday.   Thanks to those of you who brought this to our attention.

44 Comments

Ida French 

Great to see a U.S. update. I do have a question Chris. Why do they jump around on the directories. Why not start with the oldest to the newest. I am glad to see them added but the older ones are more interesting. Plus why aren’t they all in one place. Example: U.S City Directories vs Louisville, Jefferson county 1832. They all need to be together. Ida

March 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm
Mike 

Chris,

In line with previous comments I have made about better explanations and not just playing a marketing game with vague, misleading or no numbers, I would like to suggest that you need to add to your post a ballpark percentage of how much of the total 1880 images were updated, even if it is part of a series of updates. And what total percentage of previous images will be replaced when it is all done.

Otherwise you risk being used by your marketing department to play the newspapers title game where only a handful of issues were added per title, but they tout “we just added hundreds of titles!!!”.

March 12, 2009 at 1:29 pm
Dawn Wetzel 

I made an error on Barbara Miller and added children that are not Edmond Morphy’s or hers. They had eight. I added more by mistake. Today I changed the parents to unknown as under edit there was no delete. I tryed it on Dennis Murphy and now it places him as the parents. Is there a way to total remove these names? Thank you,

March 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

Mike, 99% of the images were replaced with higher quality images scanned from earlier generation microfilm.

March 12, 2009 at 4:31 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

Ida, we released the 1935-1945 year range to help improve record coverage in that time period. Thousands more city directories are coming, going back to the 1800s.

Concerning your question about why so many U.S. city directories reside outside the U.S. City Directories database, because that’s how they were produced years ago. We’re looking at pulling all of them into this one database.

March 12, 2009 at 4:39 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

Dawn, what are you referring to? A database? A family tree? Please include a link to a page you’re having trouble with.

March 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm
Ida French 

Chris, Thanks. I do know how to search other ways to find them but new people might not. Also the 1936-37 directory for Louisville only goes up to the name Mack. The first few pages are the Y’s. The order is messed up.

March 12, 2009 at 5:00 pm
Ida French 

Chris, Sorry to be such a gripe but I looked thru all the new directories for Louisville and I have to say the way they are listed are messed up. Each year range you click on has the last part of one year first part of another. And when you get to the last year posted you only get part of the directory. By the way where does all this scanning and updating take place?

March 12, 2009 at 5:20 pm
Reed 

Chris,

I would love to be excited by this, really, I would. New City Directories! — great! I need more of these — and look, I found one that might be really useful for my research:

Search>U.S. City Directories > Illinois > Evanston; North Shore > 1937-1939 > Evanston; North Shore, Illinois 1937-1939

I’ve had success with several older City Directories in Ancestry’s databases so, using the New Search interface I manage to (1) find this directory —not an easy task — and then (2) I manage to find the search template (but only the template for ALL City Directories, not just this one) and then (3) I try to find listings for some of my BAKER relatives. (Oh oh! Baker a common name AND a common profession. Could be trouble in big city directory…)

Now, I consider myself a fairly experienced Ancestry user. I’ve even had previous successes with Old Search, and I’ve developed some techniques that make New Search **almost** useful. But I’ll be darned if I can find my specific BAKERs in this directory (did I mention that it is 1009 pages long and divided into multiple sections — street finders, alphabetical listings, neighboring towns and unincoprorated areas, etc. — so I can’t just skip through as I might with a straight alphabetical listing?).

I have tried every combination of Exact Search (Not one “BAKER” in Evanston, apparently!) or various combinations of non-exact searches (You Have 700,000+ Hits!). Limits on place, residence, keyword or date seem to have either NO effect or COMPLETELY ELIMINATE the possibility of finding a match.

So please, **please**, TELL US: How can you find someone in a City Directory in a specific place, in a specific period of years without hundreds of thousands of false hits or no hits at all?

I suspect I’m not the only one wondering.

—Reed

March 12, 2009 at 10:15 pm
Reed 

Chris,

Here’s are several related City Directories index/search questions.

In larger directories, the typesetters often saved space by using this format:

BAKER, Albert, 123 Main St.
” Bill, 456 Oak St.
” Charles, 789 Elm St
and so forth on down the column, perhaps for 20 or more “Bakers” until…

” Leonard,1257 Fibonacci St.

and further on down, past many more [ " = ditto = Baker] to…

” William, 1066 Conqueror St.
” Zebulon, 14115 Pike Ave.

I assume that Ancestry’s indexing algorithms will probably correctly index Albert Baker, and might also get Bill and maybe Charles, due to their close word-proximity to the column header of BAKER. But, will the later BAKERs, like Leonard or William and Zebulon be indexed as BAKERs, or will the index calculate their names to be “Leonard Fibonacci” and “William Conqueror” and “Zebulon Pike”?

Further, how about the city directories that give the resident’s profession after their given name? Such as:

BAKER…
” Leonard, mathematician, 1257 Fibonacci St.
or
” Zebulon, soldier, 14115 Pike Ave.

Will Ancestry index these as “Leonard Baker” and “Zebulon Baker” or as “Leonard Mathemetician” and “Zebulon Soldier”?

In a similar vein, my search results often have a related problem. Let’s say I’m searching for surname BAKER, in a specific time & place. I will get many hits like this:

MANN, Muffin, baker, 1666 Drury Ln.

or, as with the “ditto” Bakers, above:

MANN…
” Muffin, baker, 1666 Drury Ln.

In both cases, Ancestry returns hits of Muffin BAKER.

Has Ancestry taken steps to deal with this? Are there special techniques we can use with the search interface for City Directories to avoid the False Positives and, what shall we call them — False Negatives?

City Directory users await your advice and illumination…

—Reed

March 12, 2009 at 11:30 pm
Reed 

Erratum correction for the detail-minded. Of course the correct address should read:

BAKER…
” Leonard, mathematician, 12358 Fibonacci St.

Late-night typo…

Cheers,
—Reed

March 12, 2009 at 11:40 pm
Jo 

Reply to Reed’s #10 post:
Reed, I wish the City Directories were indexed but I don’t believe they are. I think they use OCR technology and it’s hit or miss if the technology picks up on the name you’re searching for. One of my surnames is Harrison and I get more hits for Harrison St. than the surname. I have not found a way to limit the hits to surnames only. I also found that in order to have the “save to a person in my tree” functionality available, the page I want to save has to be the direct result of a search hit, not a page I have navigated to via the previous and next page options. That stinks as sometimes that’s the only way to get to the person in the directory that you’re looking for, unless you have nothing but time on your hands and can check each hit out of hundreds or thousands to find the one that is for your person. Indexing would be better than this.

Jo

March 13, 2009 at 6:13 am
Chris Lydiksen 

Jo, The city directories are indeed OCR’d, which converts letters/characters on the image to text that gets indexed. Along with every recognizable word, first names, last names, months, years, places, etc. from this text are extracted, but it is an imperfect science and the quality of the image plays a roll.

Regarding your concern about not being able to save a browsed-to image to a person in your tree, yes, you’re right. As it is now, the site architecture does not support saving an image without an associated record. Your characterization of the malodorous aspect of this functionality is noted. To attach an image without an associated record to someone in your tree, you can save it to your computer and then upload it to your tree.

March 13, 2009 at 8:33 am
Jade 

Reed, re: your #10,

They are indexed by keyword, not by surname-firstname, just as they did with the California Voters Registration lists.

Makes searching for individuals nearly impossible. The only way I found one relative in the Calif. lists was to locate his residence street in the 1930 US Census, then search for the name of the street in the voters’ lists. Would never have found him otherwise. Just “too bad” if your California people lived rural and not on streets itemized in Census enumerations.

But jeez, look at all the names (as Chris would say).

Regrettably, TGN is still stuck on “how wonderful we are to give you 8,000 Barker images to search through” rather than on helping find specific individuals.

Someone should tell the marketers and indexers that genealogists are looking for specific individuals, not for all the persons named Zachariah.

March 13, 2009 at 8:41 am
Chris Lydiksen 

Jade, From my post above, “Along with every recognizable word, first names, last names, months, years, places, etc. from this text are extracted, but it is an imperfect science.” Searching for individuals is not “nearly impossible.” In many cases, it takes one search query. In others it takes five. In yet others it may take 50, and in some browsing may be required. Last night it took me 10 minutes to find my grandparents in Nutley, New Jersey. Yes, I was frustrated that an exact search for “Lydiksen” resulted in ZERO results, but I kept iterating with wildcard searches and finally found them using the new search UI where image snippets are displayed in the search results. I was pleased and grateful I didn’t need to go to the Library of Congress or another library stocked with thousands of city directories to find this record.

March 13, 2009 at 9:22 am
Chris Lydiksen 

Ida, We’re looking into the issues you’ve raised about the Louisville directories.

Concerning your question “By the way where does all this scanning and updating take place?” I’m not sure what you’re asking. These city directories were microfilmed from original hard copies years ago. We acquired the microfilm, scanned it and OCR-indexed it, with other augmentations mentioned in this blog.

March 13, 2009 at 9:26 am
JP 

Obituary Collection

“with significantly fewer duplicates”

I’m not so sure about this.

Dominic B. Danuski 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Dominic B. Danuski 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Dominic B. Danuski 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Dominic B. Danuski 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Jamestown, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Westfield, NY, Us Shirley
Warren Times 98 2 Jul 1907 abt 2005 Dunkirk, NY, Us Shirley

The results page says there are 101 entries – I didn’t count what is shown here.

This is an obit for Mildred Gadsby. I don’t see her name mentioned anywhere on the index. At least it’s better than the 200+ entries that I found for one obit once.

March 13, 2009 at 10:07 am
Jade 

1) The first 461 pages of the City Directory for Fairmont (Marion Co), West Virginia 1941-1945 are missing. What’s posted commences with surnames at the end of the S’s.

2) Re: update of 1880 US Census images but **not**, you say, the index: the page listing added and updated databases specifically says that the Free Index was updated. What gives?

March 13, 2009 at 10:07 am
Chris Lydiksen 

Reed, I understand your frustration. Please read above about my experience searching for my grandparents. Ancestry.com is trying to help, not hinder, its customers find success.

Ancestry.com knows (via usage metrics, user surveys, etc.) our customers want online access to more historical city directories. The company has opted to invest in buying the microfilm, digitizing it, OCR-indexing it and making it accessible anywhere, anytime to subscribers online. The index is not perfect, but it helps greatly and much of the time finds exactly the persons being searched for. Such was not the case in my search.

Incidentally, would you be interested in keying in the names from city directories as a World Archives Project? We actually have a small project live now to key city directories from the Jacksonville, FL area: http://community.ancestry.com/project.ashx?pid=31559

Regarding your question about “ditto” entries, we are looking into ways to effectively and accurately assign surnames for these instances. For now, the experienced searcher has several tools at their disposal, like search term iteration, wildcard searches, exact vs. ranked search, choosing which fields to leave blank, and perseverance.

Finally, yes, you are right, all words that match names (first or last) in our name dictionary are tagged as names, but they also remain untagged keywords as well.

March 13, 2009 at 10:17 am
Chris Lydiksen 

JP, the new de-duplication is for obituaries published in 2009. The new technology is being used to gather the new obituaries.

March 13, 2009 at 10:25 am
Chris Lydiksen 

Jade, the new releases list displays the words “Free Index”for all DBs with a free index, which 1880 has. It also lists the words “Updated” in a different color for all databases that have been updated, which 1880 has.

I’m forwarding your comment about the Fairmont directory to QA.

March 13, 2009 at 10:28 am
Jim Livermore 

Chris, in your #15 you state:

“but I kept iterating with wildcard searches and finally found them using the new search UI where image snippets are displayed in the search results”

This right here is in my view the only redeeming feature of New Search. A great feature.

Now take that feature to the California Voter Registrations searching for my surname, any given surname of your choice. Alameda County, if you would.

Good luck.

64 days and counting…

March 13, 2009 at 11:18 am
Jim Livermore 

Oh, rats. That should read:

“any given name of your choice.”

March 13, 2009 at 12:25 pm
Peter 

Chris,

Yea for more city directories.

Hope that the existing city directories get integrated into these new ones as a single DB soon.

Took a quick peek at Brockton, MA 1941-1944 and it seems to be a single large scan set. I can live with that, but prefer the breakdown into letters. Of course would rather have more single large scans than fewer easier to use ones.

March 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm
Reed 

Jo (#12) & Jade (#14) and Jim (#22):

Thanks for your comments. Our experiences seem to be quite similar

***************

Chris (#13, 15, 19):

Thanks for the replies. I did have several reactions and a few questions about your comments. Please respond to my items 4-9, below :

(1) Chris: “Ancestry.com knows (via usage metrics, user surveys, etc.) our customers want online access to more historical city directories.”
Reed: I also agree.

(2) Chris: “The index […] helps greatly and much of the time finds exactly the persons being searched for.”
Reed: This has only occasionally been my experience, and usually in the oldest, smallest directories.

(3) Chris: “Incidentally, would you be interested in keying in the names from city directories as a World Archives Project? ”
Reed: No, thank you.

(4) Chris: “Regarding your question about ‘ditto’ entries, we are looking into ways to effectively and accurately assign surnames for these instances.”
Reed: Good. You know, it wouldn’t hurt for your search template to carry some sort of explanation of this issue and include some details of how best to search such directories. Speaking of which, your comment continued:

(5) Chris: “For now, the experienced searcher has several tools at their disposal, like search term iteration, wildcard searches, exact vs. ranked search, choosing which fields to leave blank, and perseverance.”
Reed: I am well aware of all these strategies (although what DO you mean exactly by “search term iteration”?). The fact is these strategies do little to help those of us searching for a common name (which is also often a street name and/or a profession or trade). And ranked search produces—even in a geographically limited area, and I do NOT exaggerate—hundreds of thousands of “hits” on common names. See (7), below.

(6) Chris: “Finally, yes, you are right, all words that match names (first or last) in our name dictionary are tagged as names, but they also remain untagged keywords as well.”
Reed: And as in no. (4) above, your search template should carry some sort of disclaimer/explanation of this issue, too.

(7) Reed, here: It seems to me that so many of these issues could be worked around if only (A) one could do a truly BOOLEAN search, including exclusionary searches (B) results could be SORTED more easily, especially BY DATE or (C) when search delivers thousands of hits or more, one could SKIP AHEAD dozens or even hundreds of pages.

(8) And speaking of dates, the New Search date field (exact, with or without the +/- years function) seems to have NO EFFECT whatever in excluding directories that are too early or late for my purposes. What’s up?

(9) And what’s up with the several “Location” search boxes? Are these for the Title of the directory? the Place of publication? Are ALL towns/cities covered in a given directory indexed in its “Location” search fields?

In sum, the different search fields of the current Search City Directories user interface are far from intuitive (and, of course, are made more mysterious by New Search’s tendency to hyper-exclude data in Exact Search mode and hyper-include data in Non-exact Search mode). We should not have to guess how much, or what kind of a surname, place name, should go in which search field to produce optimal results.

It’s like when you get that new digital camera with all the little buttons and functions and each one is labeled with a mysterious graphical icon (that made loads of sense to the MIT-trained engineer that designed it) and there is no user manual; you’re just supposed to intuit all the cool features by, what, endless experimentation? IF Ancestry’s search fields are designed logically, and IF they require specific information to function properly, please INCLUDE that information & those strategies on the search page itself.

I realize this is a long post, but it continues the discussion of many unresolved issues that have arisen over and over in earlier blog discussions with Anne Mitchell, Kendall Hulett and others. I look forward to your reply.

—Reed

March 13, 2009 at 5:46 pm
Reed 

I would like to support Peter’s comment (#24) about the usefulness of breaking large directories into smaller units. This makes searching and browsing much more productive and much less frustrating.

For example, one of my favorite spots for Chicago-area research is the Newberry Library’s and in particular the digitized City Directories in their “Tools” section:

http://www.chicagoancestors.org/#tab-tools

Here is how they have broken down a later, large Chicago directory.

1910 City Directory
Front Section – Business A-D – E-L – M-Q – R-Z
A – Ba-Bl – Bm-Bz – Ca-Cl – Cm-Cz – D – E – F – G
Ha-He – Hf-Hz – I – J – K – L – Ma-Mc – Me-Mz – N – O
P – Q – R – Sa-Sc – Sd-So – Sp-Sz – T – U –
V – Wa-We – Wf-Wz – XYZ

The word(s), letters or hypenated-pairs of letters are underlined hot links to PDFs of the relevant pages of the directory (the original underlining of the hot links did not copy into this blog post).

The PDFs can be a bit slow to load; I assume Ancestry could make non-PDF “chunks” of their directories. I have found searching through a directory divided like this to be much quicker and much, much more intuitive than using Ancestry’s search process, especially since you can easily control (1) WHICH directory you are searching and (2) WHAT PART of the directory you are searching.

Chris and fellow blog readers, your thoughts?

—Reed

March 13, 2009 at 6:51 pm
Reed 

Correction:

For some reason, when my previous comment (#26) posted, a sentence got mangled. Here’s the full version:

For example, one of my favorite spots for Chicago-area research is the Newberry Library’s “chicagoancestors.org’ and in particular the digitized City Directories in their “Tools” section:

—Reed

March 13, 2009 at 6:54 pm
Mike 

Reed,

On your #26 regarding searching through directories, I would just reiterate what I and others have said before, which is that Ancestry should provide images of all original documents in the order in which they came, blank and spoiled pages and all.

While that might be broken down into chunks, the arrangement should not be driven by either the indexing or what some person thinks is a better arrangement. This especially applies to census images.

I have seen too many mis-arrangements by year due to transcribers misreading the dates or titles of enumeration districts, in both census records and others like the Tennessee Marriage collection.

Again, break it down if need be *but based on the original physical ordering*, and then index to that.

I want to be able to browse through an image collection in the same order I would the original in an archive. And I want *nothing* missing, no blank pages, no spoiled pages. Otherwise we cannot easily check for missing pages and report same.

March 13, 2009 at 9:52 pm
Reed 

Mike (#28),

I completely agree. That is, in fact, one of the virtues of the Newberry’s “chicagoancestors.org” approach.

—Reed

March 14, 2009 at 9:30 am
Reed 

Chris,

I think I understand some of the substantial difficulties involved in indexing the many thousands of names in a single urban or regional directory. You have my empathy and patience (though I hope Ancestry will be more transparent about what information really **is** searchable/findable/sortable in these directories, and which search strategies work best to reduce false-positive “hits”).

What I **don’t** understand is how Ancestry can release a directory without AT LEAST properly indexing the towns or cities covered by the directory in question. For example, through a combination of luck and repetitive searching (using Old Search and New Search) I came across a very useful directory for my researches. You have indexed it as:

U.S. City Directories > Illinois > Evanston; North Shore > 1937-1939 > Evanston; North Shore, Illinois 1937-1939

Now, that is **partially** correct. If you go to the title page of the directory (image 3 of 1009) it is called:

Polk’s
Evanston and North Shore
(Cook County, Ill.)
City Directory
vol. XII, 1937.
Including Glencoe, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka

Notice that last line: “Including Glencoe, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka.” These are not just four regions of Evanston or four zones of an unincorporated township or vague “North Shore” area. These are four distinct, incorporated towns, contiguous suburbs of Chicago, running north of the city along Lake Michigan, with populations (in the 1930s) from several thousand in Kenilworth to 69,000 in Evanston. Go to image 4 of 1009, and you will find the directory’s Table of Contents, which gives the page number for the separate address listings for each of these towns.

BUT, if I do a City Directories search for “Glencoe” or “Kenilworth” or “Winnetka” or “Wilmette,” Ancestry claims there are NO results for those places. Search/indexing problems like this make me wonder, ONCE AGAIN, whether your indexers know **anything** about the places they are indexing. Anyone with even a little Chicago-area research experience knows the city and suburbs have evolved dramatically over the last 200 years. For example, many current Chicago neighborhoods began as outside the city limits as distinct towns, real estate developments, rural post offices or train depots. If your indexers aren’t Chicago area experts, couldn’t they at least look at a historical map and read the title page and/or index of the directory they are processing?

I know Ancestry is in a hurry to put content online, but if your indexes omit basic location data like this, then what’s the point? It’s as if the Glencoe, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Winnetka directory listings haven’t been posted at all. Only by a stroke of luck (and some labor-intensive guessing and page-by-page browsing) did I find this information in this directory. How many other sources has Ancestry put online that we will never find or use because the BASIC indexing information is not there?

—Reed

P. S. Chicago’s “North Shore” (more recently spelled Northshore) is not and has never been an official governmental or geographical term. It’s just a common reference to the city’s northern suburbs. I lived in the Chocago area almost 30 years, and it never occurred me that I should search for my Evanston, Wilmette or Winnetka relatives in a “North Shore” directory.

P.P.S. And, since these suburbs are much smaller than Evanston, if I could search for a given surname by, say, “Location = Wilmette” and “Date = 1937” I could omit thousands and thousands of false-positive results.

March 14, 2009 at 9:12 pm
Ken B 

It would be helpful if when additions were posted to databases it showed what was new.

Example: The US City directories have 2,000 new ones from 1935-1945. But when you go look under each State there is nothing flagging a particular one as being new or existing.

This happens with all of Ancestry titles it seems.

March 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

Regarding situations where the first image shown is not the first page of the city directory (or where the last image is not the last page), our source for these directories filmed them with multiple directories on a single roll, or single directories on multiple rolls. There are thousands more city directories to come and as we release them and piece all the partials together, these instances will diminish.

March 16, 2009 at 9:04 am
Ron 

Thanks to all involved for the updated 1880 census images. I reviewed several of those I have included as poor in my research, and now find I can read them at last.

March 16, 2009 at 10:03 am
Kathy 

I want to thank Ancestry for the 1935-1945 city directories. They fill in the blanks after the 1930 census, and I have already spent hours wandering through them. I am tracking the many descendants of immigrants from my grandparents’ Italian village, so I have sampled a large number of these directories already.
I know the OCR scans only partially index the directories, but I have found no problem getting around them. For older resarchers who spent hours scrolling through microfilm of city directories in the past, this at home resource has that beat.
There are a couple of tricks to find your names if the index doesn’t work. You can partially search ( ie bont* for bontempo), you can find a name on the same page that is not too common, and search for that name in other years if it is better indexed ( for example, I couldn’t get Rehrey in one directory, but I could get Repp on the same page).
Lastly, you can guess by jumping around the pages til you get your name- not too different from the old microfilm scrolling!
I am of the older generation that had to travel to other cities’ archives in order to find some genealogical gem, and I continue to marvel at the wealth of information on the new and improved Ancestry. Please keep adding great stuff like city directories, passport applications,naturalizations, and state census.
By the way, any plans to add the New York State censusese that were conducted in 1855, 1865, etc.?

March 16, 2009 at 7:11 pm
Ida French 

Chris, Thanks for getting back with us on the first and last page issue.

March 17, 2009 at 6:21 pm
Bud Dorr 

Regarding upgrading the census images, I think the 1930 census images need to be replaced with clear images. The images for 1930 look as if they were photographed under water. I often have to go to Genealogy.com to read an entry. Forgive me if you’ve treated this problem before.

Bud Dorr
Casco, Maine

March 19, 2009 at 7:29 am
Sarah 

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Sarah

http://www.lyricsdigs.com

March 20, 2009 at 4:11 am
Carol Jenkins 

I’m glad to see all the additions but please tell me how to make corrections about my mother on the obituary collection. The obit content is fine, it’s the dates of her birth and death that are totally wrong in the indexing.

March 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm
John Covington 

If almost 99% of the 1880 census images have been replaced, then I must have the 1% that does not update with an image of the census page when I use the merge function in FTM 2009. Any comment as to why there are no images merged?

March 23, 2009 at 3:12 pm
Caroline M. Burke 

Why is it, when I log into Ancestry
New home page comes up,
14 days trial?

I have account with!
Please check and reply.

ccburke2@sbcglobal.net

March 23, 2009 at 4:23 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

Thanks to all of you who’ve said thanks.

Bud, the 1930 census images are going to be replaced under the TGN-FamilySearch project. 1930 will likely be the last census in this project.

Carol, at present, you can correct names on the site, but not other fields. That functionality is on the roadmap for new features.

John, concerning FTM, you may want to add a comment to the FTM portion of this blog. I’ll forward your issue to the FTM team.

Caroline, please contact customer service at 1-800-Ancestry.

March 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm
Chris Lydiksen 

All, the city directory issue where the first image shown is not the first page of the city directory (or where the last image is not the last page), has been mostly fixed (by mostly I mean most of the city directories are displaying as you would expect in the browse now). This was not an easy or quick fix. We are aware of some lingering issues that will take longer to sort out.

Again, these directories were filmed in such a way that some individual directories ran across two rolls of microfilm. The larger project consists of over 8,000 rolls. There are thousands more city directories to come and we have adjusted the requirements to catch and fix this issue in subsequent batches.

Thanks for your patience on this.

One more thing. We extract names, dates and places from free-text (OCR-captured typewritten text as with city directories, newspapers, books, etc.) When searching free-text databases on Ancestry.com, you can search just for extracted names using the names fields. However, only names that are included in our name dictionaries are extracted. Our name dictionary does not include every possible given name or surname in history. “Lydiksen” is not even included. This is done to minimize false hits on name searches. That said, there is a project to augment these dictionaries.

So, and many of you probably already know this, if you are not getting results using the name fields, try entering the name in the keyword field. That will search ALL captured text, including names, dates and places (this is how I found my grandparents in New Jersey directories).

March 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm
Ida French 

Chris I hope I see some new U.S. updates soon. I only have two weeks left on my current subscription and all I see is a ton of updates for other countries and very little new stuff for the U.S. Family search and U.S. Genweb are starting to have more of what we want than Ancestry and those sites are free.

March 26, 2009 at 5:32 am
Chris Lydiksen 

Ida, please visit this page to see the U.S. Content that has been released recently:

Please visit this page to see more of what’s coming:

March 26, 2009 at 2:50 pm