Posted by on September 11, 2009 in Content

 Last week I was fortunate to be one of the hundreds of family historians who descended on Little Rock, Arkansas for the 2009 Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) annual conference. I want to thank everyone who stopped by the Ancestry.com booth to chat with us. It was great to see so many first-time attendees.

I spent a lot of time at the conference doing one-on-one consultations—brainstorming with some of you over your ancestral brick walls. Most of the people I talked to had gone through census records for the years their ancestors were alive. They had done “global” searches of all the databases on Ancestry.com and picked up most of the best results. We needed to dig a little deeper.  Since many of the consults were centered in states where I don’t have much research experience, to begin I did a little canvassing to familiarize myself with what records are available for that area. I started with the Card Catalog and was surprised to learn that many of our visitors had never used the Card Catalog and several wanted to know what they could find in it.

Similar to the catalogs you find in libraries, the “Card Catalog” is where you look to find what books–or in this case database titles–can be found on Ancestry.com. There are currently more than 29,000 titles within Ancestry.com. When you perform a search from the home page or from the Search tab, you are searching all of those collections at one time. However, as we all know, sometimes the records of our ancestors don’t show up quite like we expect them. Sometimes we have to finesse the database a little bit to locate that particularly elusive ancestor.

To do that, we have to know what collections we’re missing–what collections are available that might be hiding your ancestor. The Card Catalog is your guide to those collections. You can access the catalog by hovering over the Search tab to bring up the drop-down menu. Then select Card Catalog from the bottom of that menu.

The Card Catalog is searchable. You can search by title or keyword. Searching by title will only search the words in the title of the database, whereas searching by keyword will also search the extended description of that database, so that’s going to typically bring back more results.

A more effective way to canvass what’s available for a particular state is to use the filters below the search field. Here you can search geographically, and then perhaps narrow your search by selecting a particular collection (e.g., Immigration and Emigration; Birth, Marriages & Deaths; Stories, Memories & Histories; etc.). Date filters let you specify a particular decade or century so you’re not looking for your twentieth century ancestor in colonial records.

The geographic filters allow you to drill down to the county level, but I like to browse by state as well. Sometimes resources from neighboring areas can spur ideas as well.

As you add filters, you’ll see the results on the right change in response to your selections. Using the drop-down box at the top of the results page, you can choose the listed databases by popularity, database title, date updated, date added, or record count.

Sort

Once you locate a title of interest, searching the database directly allows you to explore the content within and by focusing your search, you can create more powerful searches. In some cases you’ll find search forms that have been tailored specifically for the content within that database.

So what are you waiting for? Click here to search the Card Catalog and see what collections your ancestor may be hiding in.

About Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 16 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

38 Comments

Reed 

Dear Juliana,

Isn’t it interesting that your post on the Ancestry Card Catalog has been up for over 24 hours, and yet not one Ancestry.blog reader has bothered to comment? Compare that to the reaction to posts on search, collection development, user interface and other software issues: quite a contrast. Why should this be?

My guess is that the “card catalog” in its current state is such a user-unfriendly mess that most Ancestry subscribers avoid it as much as possible. In particular:

• Why not have a REAL online Card Catalog with, for example, true Subject, Author, Title and Keyword searches?

• And how about true Boolean searches, including Boolean operators that really *exclude* unwanted hits?

• Why not display hits with a uniform cataloging style, in both short- or long-entries (at the user’s discretion)? The short titles currently returned by Ancestry’s card catalog search are often too short and uninformative, often requiring one to click on each title and scroll down for additional data to determine whether the title is relevant to one’s search.

• Why don’t “Exact Search by Phrase” keyword searches *exclude* close-but-not-quite-exact hits?

• And, of course, Ancestry’s long-standing issues with inconsistent and/or inaccurate cataloging and indexing compound the problem of finding what one is searching for.

The Card Catalog could and should be the easy-access portal to huge amounts of useful data, but its current interface and search engine are unintuitive, unexact, unwieldy and unergonomic (too much clicking and up- and down-scrolling required to sift through potential hits—a pandemic illness in Ancestry’s user interfaces).

My local town library (rural New England college town) has a more sophisticated Card Catalog both in it’s software architecture, ease of use and graphical interface.

Ancestry could and should do better.

—Reed

September 12, 2009 at 11:23 pm
Pat Secord 

I’ve used Ancestry.com for several years now, and initially didn’t even know the card catalog existed. I really only started trying to use it for searches when it was mentioned in some other article. It’s extremely difficult to use. Unless you know the EXACT way the title is written, you get nothing. I’ve had no luck with “keywords”. And, as in most of the Ancestry searches, tons of names come up that I did NOT request. I know there is a wealth of informaton in there, but I’m just not having much luck with it. Usually, I can search something in Google (since you don’t need the EXACT title), then once I find it, I can put that in the search box. Dumb, huh??

September 13, 2009 at 9:16 am
Juliana Smith 

Do you have a specific example of a database you’ve tried to find unsuccessfully? I’d like to try to duplicate the problems you’re seeing.

September 13, 2009 at 9:27 am
Mary L. Bevers 

What on earth have you done with the STATE LOCALITY selection again? I was using it earlier and came back a few hours later and IT IS GONE!!!!

LOCATION is the very first thing to consider — no matter what type of record. Any experienced and knowledgeable researcher knows this, so why is Ancestry always trying to do something to make research more difficult??? And please don’t tell me to use the awful card catalog!!!

September 13, 2009 at 9:30 pm
Juliana Smith 

Mary, I just checked and I’m seeing the state filters now. Are you still having trouble?

September 14, 2009 at 9:06 am
Carolyn W. Harvey 

I use the Card Catalog several times, but would like it to be in alphabet order. It would make it more user friendly. You waste time searching the catalog instead of searching for your family.

September 14, 2009 at 5:59 pm
MikeF 

Juliana,

I am pretty sure that your #3 is in response only to #2, but it helps if you explicitly say which post you are responding to, even when responding to multiple posts.

But I would be interested in your reply to Reed’s questions. Note that he is asking why certain functionalities commonly found in a card catalog are not present with Ancestry’s, and is not asking why he can’t can’t get a certain result in a specific search. That is, he is asking for replies to his general questions and is not asking you to try to hack or workaround the current unwieldy card catalog in a specific instance.

MikeF

September 14, 2009 at 6:25 pm
Juliana Smith 

Hi Carolyn,
You can sort by function to sort the database titles alphabetically. There’s a drop-down menu at the top of the results. (See the image toward the bottom of my post.) Just select “Database title.”
Have a good evening!
Juliana

September 14, 2009 at 6:27 pm
Jerry Bryan 

The glass is half full or half empty. The title part of the Card Catalog actually works quite well. The keyword and filtering part of Card Catalog is pretty much worthless. Here’s a simple example.

Search on the word “indiana” (the search is not case sensitive, so you don’t have to type “Indiana”). You get 359 matches. So far so good. Well, you only get to see 25 of the matches at a time. I would like (as an option!) to be able to set the number of matches to display at one time much higher, say to 500 or 1000. I realize that a number that large would not work well on slow connections, which is why it needs to be an option. The issue of showing too few matches at a time permeates all of ancestry.com, not just the card catalog. And the Card Catalog display is a little fluffy with wasted white space, but not as bad as many of the other search displays in ancestry.com.

Next, use the Filter on Dates option and click on 1990s. We appear to be making great progress. The number of matches is now 47. I’ve taken the default of sorting by Popularity, and the first item in the list is entitled “Indiana genealogy”. Great! Let’s open it and see what’s inside.

It says: Indiana genealogy : articles appearing in the Indianapolis Sunday star : 1st series beginning June 26, 1926 thru Jan. 25, 1931, 2nd series beginning April 5, 1931 thru Jan. 22, 1933.

I don’t see anything about the 1990s in there. As I said, the Card Catalog’s keyword search and the filters are worthless. Stick with titles and you are fine.

September 15, 2009 at 7:26 am
Pat Secord 

Jerry #9 – Maybe I just don’t know a better way to use this, but unless you know the title EXACTLY, it’s usless. I thought the titles would pop up in a general search, but I don’t ever seem to find them. I’m not talking about the usual census, ssi, etc. But for Church Records (for example), I’ve found that searching for a name doesn’t necessarily bring up any of those publications. Am I missing something?

September 15, 2009 at 11:57 am
Jerry Bryan 

Re: Pat #10. You don’t have to know the title exactly.  You have to know WORDS IN THE TITLE exactly. It sounds like the same thing but isn’t. For example, if you search for kansas census you will get 10 matches – such things as Kansas Territorial Census, 1855 and Riley County, Kansas, 1885 State Census.  For that matter, you will get the exact same result if you search for census kansas as if you search for kansas census.  So your search is sort of “key word like”, except you are searching for exact words only and you are searching in the title only.  But you are not searching for an “exact title”.

Another thing you can do to help your search is to use wildcards a little bit. For example, you can search for marriage* to search for both marriage and marriages.  You probably don’t know whether you are looking for Kansas marriages or Kansas marriage index.  Arguably, the search engine should be smart enough to handle the distinction automatically, but it isn’t.  Just try searching for kansas marriage* vs. kansas marrriage and kansas marriages to see the difference.

September 15, 2009 at 9:26 pm
Juliana Smith 

Good tips Jerry. Thanks! I would add that the fewer words you use, the better your results. I like to start wide and narrow using a combination of words and filters.

Have a good day everyone!

September 16, 2009 at 8:33 am
Reed 

Juliana,

My questions (reply #1, above) have still not been addressed. Please tell us:

(1) Why does the Ancestry Card Catalog not have true Subject, Author, Title and Keyword searches?

(2) Why does the Ancestry Card Catalog not have true Boolean search functions?

(3) Why doesn’t the Ancestry Card Catalog use uniform (say Library of Congress) cataloging data and style for its contents and their display?

(4) Why don’t “Exact Search by Phrase” keyword searches *exclude* close-but-not-quite-exact hits?

(5) Why do search strategies for the Card Catalog center around the “drill-down” and “filter-more” strategy that is so (beloved by Ancestry and) dependent on pull-down menus and clicking buttons, rather than more flexible and intuitive methods focused on items #1,2,3,4 above?

I’d appreciate a response.

Thanks,
Reed

September 16, 2009 at 3:21 pm
Pat Secord 

Jerry #11 – Thanks! I appreciate the extra help – I’ll give it another try!

September 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm
Tony Cousins 

OK, this may be a tad off topic but I need to know what was updated in the 1871 UK Census collection.

On the home page the UK 1871 census collection is being ‘touted’ as new, it isn’t new at all.

I’ve read all the way through the description and I can not find what was updated. Why don’t Ancestry tell us what is happening?

TonyC

September 17, 2009 at 9:28 am
Joanne Sholes 

I have one comment.. It is a nuisance to use. I do 99% of my searches through the old search option. The page is cleaner and much more user friendly. From there I can access the old card catalog. I recommend folks check out the old card catalog view.

September 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm
arlene miles 

I would think you could condense some of the similar titles together to make finding an area to search and maybe even be able to search within results like the “Big One”, Google
Maybe if you had more library knowledge or librarians on staff your catalogue would be a sinch to search.
Uniformity and consistancy are your friends, do no waver from using both.

September 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm
Polly 

Hi Juliana,

I, too, find using the Card Catalog to be cumbersome at best. If I knew the name of the Data Base to use, would I even need the Card Catalog? When I resort to using the Card Catalog, I rarely find useful information. However, I must admit that I have enjoyed perusing some of the material that pops up in response to my searches. There are some rather interesting topics out there and sometimes I read them out of interest or curiosity, but always with a hope in the back of my mind that I’ll find a tidbit of “useful-to-me” information.

After reading Reed’s (#1) inquiries and comments I have become VERY interested in seeing Ancestry’s response to each point raised. More specifically, I’m wondering whether a response to each is being prepared and will be forthcoming in the near future or if it’s just being brushed aside as off-topic or inappropriate. (Yes, I’ve read “Ancestry.com blog Terms of Use and Guidelines” and understand about legal liabilities, risks, etc.) The lack of a response from Ancestry in this column makes me wonder what, specifically, is off-topic or inappropriate. If those comments are off-topic or inappropriate I think Ancestry needs to re-evaluate its priorities and remember that we are subscribers, and as such, should get some kind of response, whether we have a gripe or a compliment.

I have noted with some interest that Ancestry has replied to inquiries made several days after Reed’s, but I have found nothing at all directed toward Reed by Ancestry. If it has been done privately in email, a note to that effect in your column would be helpful and would let your column readers know it has been reviewed and considered. To do otherwise makes it look like no value is placed on any of our comments or inquiries.

I truly hope Ancestry cares about the successes and failures of its subscribers and is interested in working to improve the responses to the most basic searches you have available. In addition, it would be nice to know that you take our suggestions for improvement seriously and that they are at least presented to the appropriate staff for review and discussion. I also think Ancestry needs to recognize that many of us are professionals in some rather complex fields (or retired from them) and can undoubtedly offer valuable ideas and comments that could prove immeasurably profitable for Ancestry.

For right now I will continue working with the search methods that work best for me, even though they are often extremely time-consuming. But I also look forward with optimism to a stream-lined “search and response” system at Ancestry. Hopefully that’s just around the corner.

I would be greatly appreciative of a response to my comments, either publicly or privately. And I thank you in advance for that. :-)

Polly

September 20, 2009 at 5:59 pm
Andy Hatchett 

Polly Re: #18

You find that the more specific a question is about the reasons for certain aspects of Ancestry policies or procedure the less likely they are to be answered-either in public or in private.

It is the corporate version of Plausible Denial that is practiced by Governments and Politicians.

September 20, 2009 at 7:03 pm
uzay 

The page is cleaner and much more user friendly. From there I can access the old card catalog. I recommend folks check out the old card catalog view.

September 21, 2009 at 8:13 am
Anne Mitchell 

Juliana is out for a bit, so I’m going to step in here.

Reed, we could have subject, author, title searches. No one has asked for anything that specific, but it’s doable. Also, we are reviewing boolean type searches. Very few people actually use that kind of thing. As for 3, the purpose here is to find data collections, not to emulate a library catalog search. Give me an example for #4.

Andy, I’m not following you.

September 21, 2009 at 9:44 am
Reed 

Hello Anne,

Thank you for your reply to my comments above.

Re my item (4): “Why don’t ‘Exact Search by Phrase’ keyword searches *exclude* close-but-not-quite-exact hits? Here’s a test example:

Using only the Ancestry card catalog’s Keyword and/or Title search boxes, try and locate non-census databases that are specific to Washington County, Wisconsin.

Ancestry has at least 4 items that I have found through other kinds of searches. But you’re going to have difficulty finding them amongst the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of hits that are produced with the various “Washington” Keyword and Title searches.

Now you may suggest that all I need do is “drill down” with the catalog’s state and time filters, and I have done so when I need to return to a title I may have found earlier. But let’s say I knew I had ancestors who lived in “Washington County” but I didn’t know what state or what decade the record was created. Just try and locate relevant titles re: “Washington County” (state unknown). “Washington”
is a word that returns a lot of hits.

Oh, and you said (#21): “As for #3, the purpose here is to find data collections, not to emulate a library catalog search.” Well, without uniform/standard cataloging (especially by Subject), were you able to find the 1881 “History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin”?

I couldn’t find it with the Ancestry card catalog, but when I typed “Washington County, Wisconsin history” into the Book search at http://www.worldcat.org (the former OCLC) that title came up as the 6th hit, and I suspect this is due to Worldcat using Library of Congress standard cataloging data, including Subject terms. How are we going to “find data collections” if they are not indexed and searchable in ways that are consistent with the other library and database sources that we use all the time?

Finally, I find it remarkable that you could write “… we are reviewing boolean type searches. Very few people actually use that kind of thing.” Really? I’ve spent enough time on these Ancestry-blogs (including more that a year following your blogs, Anne!) to know that many, many subscribers have asked for true boolean search capability.

Whether amateur or professional, we genealogists use boolean searching and true Author-Title-Subject-Keyword searches all the time in libraries and online. Why can’t we do so at Ancestry? If it’s “doable” I suggest it’s past time to do it.

Thanks for your attention. I look forward to your reply.

—Reed

September 21, 2009 at 11:48 am
Anne Mitchell 

Reed, the best way to do that is to use the facets on the left hand side to narrow down to Washington County.

That said, if you know that they lived in Washington County, but not what state they lived in you can’t do it. But if you don’t know the state, you have a pretty big issue anyway.

If you put Washington County in the Title text box you get 76 results.

If you type Washington County into the Keyword box (leaving title empty), you get 501 results. Let’s say you want to only look at Census’s. Click on Census & Voter lists under categories and you get 7.

BTW, these are not all books, in fact most aren’t, so I’m not sure the same methodologies apply.

As for what gets fixed when — I have to say the #1 request for search at the moment is to improve how we deal with locations and then names in search. And as far as how many people they touch as opposed to this issue, that is where we are currently focusing.

September 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm
Jim Livermore 

“Also, we are reviewing boolean type searches. Very few people actually use that kind of thing.”

You’re joking of course. Why not try and offer them before discounting them:

http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=136861

September 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm
Anne Mitchell 

Just because it’s documented doesn’t mean everyone uses it, even on sites like google, or even a majority of users do.

That said, it is on the list of items to look at and try and find a solution for. But as I previously stated, it’s not our highest priority at this time.

September 21, 2009 at 3:04 pm
Reed 

Anne,

Re your response #23, you wrote:

“If you put Washington County in the Title text box you get 76 results.”

True, but do I find any or all of the relevant titles for Subject=Washington County, Wisconsin? No. Instead I find titles for Washington County in NY, PA, IA, OH, etc. None in Wisconsin, and in particular the most useful title, the 1881 “History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties.”

Your wrote: “If you type Washington County into the Keyword box (leaving title empty), you get 501 results. Let’s say you want to only look at Census’s. Click on Census & Voter lists under categories and you get 7.”

Of course, the problem with this is:
(A) 501 results is a lot to wade through (yes, I know we all can do it if we need to, and I have done so) and
(B) I would rather OMIT census results and view all the rest, but there is no way to do this simple task.

Your remark that “BTW, these are not all books, in fact most aren’t, so I’m not sure the same methodologies apply.” actually reinforces my point. Two of my favorite online sources, WorldCat and the Wisconsin Historical Society’s genealogy indexes do admirable jobs of search, find, and filtering of all kinds of materials, in ways that are not possible with the Ancestry card catalog. Whether this is due to Ancestry’s search engine, indexing procedures or both, I do not know.

The fact is, LoC citation procedures exist for any and all kinds of databases and research materials and are familiar to many, if not most, of us subscribers. I know Ancestry “likes to reinvent the wheel” when it comes to search and such, but I think a little standardization in indexing/cataloging might benefit us all, yes?

Finally, I must admit I am more than a bit frustrated with your replies to my questions. I gave you specific information of what I was trying to do with the Ancestry card catalog, and what I perceived as the catalog’s shortcomings. You replied by running the most basic searches of my criteria and ignoring the more specific issues I inquired about. I am not a “newbie” on Ancestry, I am an experienced user of Ancestry and many online and offline sources.

Before posting to this blog topic I ran dozens of permutations of my “Washington County, Wisconsin” search, and I tried to make my queries and comments clear and specific. Your generic answers were ultra-basic and superficial, and ignored the core issues of my questions.

In previous blogs, you’ve remarked that your expertise is in “search,” meaning search engine design, I presume, and that’s fine. More to the point, does Ancestry have a bona-fide Librarian/Cataloger on staff that could respond to these issues?

—Reed

FYI, as a nice example of nice online indexing of varied source materials, try going to the Wisconsin Historical Society’s research page:

http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/genealogy/

and click a link and run a search, for example try:

Wisconsin Genealogy Index: Search more than 150,000 Wisconsin obituaries and biographical sketches published before 1999, as well as 1,000,000 births, 400,000 deaths and 1,000,000 marriages registered before September 1907.

September 21, 2009 at 3:22 pm
Andy Hatchett 

Anne – Re: #21

Here is a perfect example of what I am talking about…

Several people have asked in various ways why Ancestry promotes and enables bad genealogical research practices- the most glaring of which is the ability to copy, with a single click, info from one online tree to another- rather than promote and enable good genealogical research practices – such as preventing nameatherers from creating junkology on Ancestry.

To date not a single person associated with Ancestry has come forward to engage in a meaningful, candid dialogue about this subject. All that has been said are vague phrases with lots of wiggle words which basically indicate that Ancestry is more interested in getting new members than retining old member and imporving online genealogy in general.

I and several others would really appreciate a detailed answer to this.

September 21, 2009 at 8:11 pm
Anne Mitchell 

Reed, the functionality of the Card Catalog could be improved — and the systems you compare it to are quite good. Again, this at the moment is not our highest priority.

Andy, your question is completely off topic and trees are not my area. That said, it is up to each person to practice genealogy in the way they want to.

September 22, 2009 at 7:16 am
Andy Hatchett 

Anne-

Could you please direct me to a public site on Ancestry where my post would be on topic *and* likely responded to by Ancestry staff?

The trees thing was but one example of the Corporate attitude that I, and others, feel is at the root of many of Ancestry’s problems and it seems Ancestry is completely unwilling to talk about their Corporate culture at all.

Be that as it may there are problems- big problems- with search being mentioned on several boards and yet none of those posts are being responded to by Ancestry Staff.

September 22, 2009 at 10:19 am
Laura Smith 

I wish the filter process was more stream lined like FAMILYSEARCH.ORG.
How quick easy and useful filter they have! Go to school on them!

September 23, 2009 at 11:31 am
Tony Cousins 

Andy – re your #27

Maybe Ancestry could try a different approach and start a new web site……

namegatherers.com is available ;)

TonyC

September 24, 2009 at 11:14 am
Fran 

I tried to email the following to you but it did not work. Here is my email.

was searching for family members on Ancestry and discovered one in the 1885 Nebraska Census. The record was a printed index record and there was no original. I was able to find as individuals two children and the two parents named Cunningham, all living in Milford Seward County Nebraska. The page of the records is the same. Anyway, there was a third child, living at the time of the census. I found a Lizzie Cunningham (family name) of the correct age, but the place of birth is wrong. She is on the same page as the rest of the Cunningham’s. her name was Frances, but was called Fanny. I know that Lizzie is far from Fanny, but my great grandmothers last name Cleary became Clackey in one census, due to some loops from the line above getting into it. Since Fs could look like Ls one could imagine how it could happen. However, I would need to look at the original document to see if it is possible. The problem is there are no copies of the original documents in Ancestry. Could you tell me how I might get a copy of the original.

I also saw several other Cunningham’s that are living in the same place. While it is certainly possible that there are two families, Milford today is a town of about 2000 and growing, but I strongly suspect that it was much smaller in the 1880s. Probably several hundred. Thus It would seem that all the Cunningham’s might be in the same household. The original document could be helpful in deciding it.

Thank you for any assistance

September 24, 2009 at 3:04 pm
Fran 

I tried to email you but could not get the email given to work.

I was searching for family members on Ancestry and discovered one in the 1885 Nebraska Census. The record was a printed index record and there was no original. I was able to find as individuals two children and the two parents named Cunningham, all living in Milford Seward County Nebraska. The page of the records is the same. Anyway, there was a third child, living at the time of the census. I found a Lizzie Cunningham (family name) of the correct age, but the place of birth is wrong. She is on the same page as the rest of the Cunningham’s. her name was Frances, but was called Fanny. I know that Lizzie is far from Fanny, but my great grandmothers last name Cleary became Clackey in one census, due to some loops from the line above getting into it. Since Fs could look like Ls one could imagine how it could happen. However, I would need to look at the original document to see if it is possible. The problem is there are no copies of the original documents in Ancestry. Could you tell me how I might get a copy of the original.

September 24, 2009 at 3:09 pm
Jerry Bryan 

I’ve largely tried to stay out of this particular debate. I did post once to the effect that ancestry’s Card Catalog works quite well for me. And it does. That’s because I only use the Title part of the service. The keyword search part of the service and the filtering part of the service might as well not be there for all the good they do. But even though the Card Catalog works well for me, I wanted to respond to the following quote from Anne’s #21.

“… the purpose here is to find data collections, not to emulate a library catalog search.” My comment is that the purpose should be to emulate a library catalog search. If that’s not the purpose, then the service should be called something else other than Card Catalog.

The names of things are important, and the name “Card Catalog” establishes certain expectations. Most everybody knows what a card catalog is (even if most card catalogs are electronic these days). Card catalogs, whether they are electronic or even if they are still the old fashioned cards, have proper keywords associated with each item in the collection. And electronic library card catalogs universally support very powerful keyword searching. This is not rocket science. Even teeny, tiny little rural libraries have such things.

So I think ancestry should either fix the keyword and filtering part of the service to emulate a library catalog search, or else should withdraw the keyword and filtering part of the service because they don’t work anyway, and to give the service a new name that doesn’t set “Card Catalog” types of expectations.

Finally, if the Card Catalog service is to be valuable to users, it needs to be much more visible. Despite all the clutter that most of the ancestry pages have that make things hard to find, a link to the Card Catalog should be visible on most every page. I’ve made a quick link to it for my own use, but even doing that doesn’t make the Card Catalog visible to me. Since the quick link facility was “improved” recently, you can no longer see your quick links. All you can see is a link to your quick links. Grrr.

September 25, 2009 at 7:45 am
Andy Hatchett 

Jerry – Re: #34

Bravo!!

A big part of the problem is that Ancestry tends to apply their own “daffynitions” to things (card catalog, record, etc.) and then expects the world to follow their lead.

September 25, 2009 at 10:39 am
Del Williams 

Fran,
The person you found could be the same person, the full name could be “Frances Elizabeth”, of which both “Fanny” and “Lizzie” could apply. People weren’t necessarily always listed by the same name in every census if the informant was giving different versions of the same name. You may need to look at other census years or other records to see if perhaps the person you are looking for was in fact named “Frances Elizabeth” or “Elizabeth Frances” or something similar.

September 25, 2009 at 1:27 pm
Del Williams 

As far as the Card Catalog is concerned, I’ll stick to my Old Search options and the State pages rather than wade through the garbage in those searches. Until Ancestry comes up with something that everybody can use without having to somersault twice and spin backwards on their heads while counting their fingers, I’m not even going to try using the Card Catalog again. ‘nuf said.

September 25, 2009 at 1:31 pm
Steve 

Anne #25 – “Just because it’s documented doesn’t mean everyone uses it, even on sites like google, or even a majority of users do.

“”Just because ancestry does not include this does not mean folks are unaware of it”"

“That said, it is on the list of items to look at and try and find a solution for. But as I previously stated, it’s not our highest priority at this time.”

“”I have found that people do not use Boolean operators simply because they are unaware that they exist.

I am a hero at work because I can find pertinent data very quickly by using same. They think I am some kind of a whiz and it is something so simple.

I honestly cannot believe you said this as you are supposedly “all about search”. Why are you trying to re-invent a system that has a proven track record?

Essentially what you are stating is that instead of using a system that has been proven, we have to use ancestry’s system that of late does not have a very good track record.

Would it not be better for your customers to include Boolean searches and explain how to use them rather than clogging our screens with useless search results.

Not a priority……and you are on the “search team”?…..scary indeed.

All being said, I already know the answer..you are in this for profit and need to plug all of your databases whether they pertain to our research or not.

As I have said in the past, I certainly understand this concept; however, since I am a “paying customer”, I DO NOT NEED IT!!!”"

September 25, 2009 at 6:20 pm