Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Site, Collections, Research

We have made it our mission to bring as many records online as possible, and now have over 30,000 collections for you to peruse when researching your family history. Censuses, vital records, city directories and the like are among the most commonly searched databases on our site, which makes sense as these records have the type of information genealogists need to grow their tree.

What about all of those other databases?

Having over 30,000 databases means that there are many that are not used or searched as often as others. Why is that? Well, many of them are not indexed and therefore, do not show up in a standard search query. Note: When you click “Search” on the navigation bar and enter all of the criteria for your ancestor, we return results on our indexed collections like the census and city directories, but don’t return results on collections that have not been indexed. The same is also true of our hints. Our hints generator does not generate hints to collections that have not yet been indexed.

When you do come across these collections, you can only view these records like you would a real-life book. You can flip through the pages and even skip to a particular section, but you cannot search for a specific name on a specific page.

What does that mean for you and your research? That means that there may be collections on our site that have information you are looking for that you haven’t tapped into.

How do I explore these databases?

The best way to explore our databases is through the Card Catalog. Just like the card catalog of a library, ours shows you the full list of databases available through Ancestry. Of course, you shouldn’t go through page by page reading the list of our databases, rather use the left-hand sidebar to help you filter by a variety of fields.

The Card Catalog is a great way to discover what records we have available for various criteria. Need to know if we have birth records for the state of Idaho? Narrow down the criteria and discover what we have available. (TIP: Remember you can also use our Family History Wiki to find out if records in a particular location and time period exist!).

Also use the Card Catalog to find the collections that might not be a vital or census record, but that might help you break through the research problem you are facing. We have an extensive collection of Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers, which can help you have a deeper knowledge of the geography you are searching in. Having intimate knowledge of the location you are attempting to find records can be they key to tracking your ancestors.

Using these databases to tell a story

Although most of us are always after that elusive record that will get you to the next step in your research, has many databases that can help you understand more about what their life was like and what kind of world they lived in. Having knowledge of the time, place and society that your ancestor lived through not only gives you historical context, but can give you some clues as to why your ancestors made the choices that they did.

Here are a few databases that could help you tell the story of your:

  • WWII United News Newsreels, 1942-1946 – The U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) was created during World War II (WWII). Part of its role was to oversee U.S. propaganda and promote patriotism. As part of this role, the OWI produced 267 newsreels called the ‘United News.’
  • New York City, Ellis Island Oral Histories, 1892-1976 – Starting in 1973 the Ellis Island Oral History Program started by the Ellis Island Immigration Museum collected over 2000 first hand accounts from immigrants detailing oral histories about immigrant experiences from everyday life in their country of origin, family history, reasons for coming to America, the journey to the port, experiences on the ship, arrival, processing at Ellis Island, and adjustment to life in the U.S.
  • Happy Homes and How to Make Them, 1865 – Published in 1865 in the UK, this is a guide regarding courting, marriage, and the duties of husband and wife. Chapters cover subjects like advice on courting and the marriage proposal, getting a home, the duties of the husband and wife in marriage, and special counsel for the wife on combating the “public house.”


    Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog from 1924

  • The Gentleman’s Magazine Library, 1731-1868 – In publication from 1731 until 1907, this monthly periodical was distributed throughout the English-speaking world and covered a wide variety of topics in essays, biographies, articles, illustrations, poetry, reports, and historical passages
  • Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 – Compiled from the iconic department store’s printed mailer, this collection includes catalogs starting in 1896 which can begin to show you what life was like in your ancestor’s time period. Beginning with mail order goods the company followed the railroad in America’s westward expansion and quickly became a national institution providing a wide variety of goods. This particular database contains images of these historic catalogs over the years.

This is just a handful of what is available on for you to browse – there are many more for you to peruse using our Card Catalog and there’s no telling what you might find that’s interesting.

1 Comment


Thank you for this tip. I’ve been at this many years but have never used the card catalog. I can see now how valuable a tool this will be and am going to start using it right away. Appreciate your help.

October 31, 2013 at 10:15 am