Using The Database Card Catalog, by George G. Morgan

Ever since the Ancestry Database Card Catalog function was introduced recently, I’ve been exploring the databases’ contents in a whole new way. I’m finding more resources in the 27,000 databases than I ever could by just browsing the titles. You can too!

You’re probably already conversant with your local library’s online catalog. If you are, you’re ready to start taking advantage of the database Card Catalog. Your library’s online catalog allows you to search for materials in multiple ways: by author name(s); by title; by subject area, such as Fiction or Genealogy; and by keyword that helps narrow your search. The new tool at Ancestry also helps you quickly locate the database you want or need. To access the search template from the homepage, click on the link labeled “See all databases.”

You can search by database title, if you know it, and/or one or more keywords to help narrow your search. A drop-down menu of record types allows you to search “All” records or only one specific type of record. (I usually start with “All” to see what I get and then narrow my search by choosing one record type or another.)

Another drop-down menu lets you choose “All years” or a specific range of years. You can also indicate the last time the records were updated. Finally, you can specify the location in which you are interested. Remember that the search will be performed and that it will only show records that match all of the fields you enter.

I entered the following information:

 Keyword(s): civil war
 Record type: Military Records
 Year Range: All years
 Location: North Carolina

Five databases were displayed for me:

I’d never seen the last database listed separately, but realized that it is part of the Ancestry Civil War Research Database, with a separate search form for officers. When I entered the name of the major who commanded my great-grandfather in the Confederate Army, Major Austin Leyden, I was rewarded with his soldier’s record, complete with a link to Company F, 1st Volunteers Regiment Georgia, a list of engagements, and another link to the names of all the soldiers in that unit during the war. This was tremendous information that will help me to continue researching the unit and puts my great-grandfather in a historical context!

I tried another search for a database whose name I already knew: 1885 Florida Census. When the record is displayed, there are five pieces of information displayed.

View Record. This is a link that takes me to a page that provides details about the database, the date range, the category (Census Records), Date First Posted (15 Dec 2003), Date Last Updated (31 Aug 2005), a Bibliography (the source citation information), the Record Count (291,261), the Name Count Estimate (291,261), and the Image Count (5,941). In other words, there are 5,941 images containing the names of 291,261 people who were enumerated in the State of Florida in 1885.

Title. Florida State Census, 1885 (the name of the database) is a link to the search template that can be used to search the database.

Category. Census Records (the assigned category name, or subject area, of the database).

Places. Lists the names of the places about which the database is concerned. In this case, there are two places: United States of America; Florida

Record Count. This is the physical count of searchable records in the database. In this case, there are 291,261 records.

When I click on the link labeled Florida State Census, 1885, I am presented with a search template. I can use either the Ranked Search or the Exact Search, or I can simply browse this census by county. In this case, however, I simply entered the surname ‘white’ and pressed the Search button. I selected the first entry in the search results list: Richard White of District 3, Baker [County]. I clicked on the “View Record” link to see transcribed information and details about the record. If I want to see the actual census image, I can click on the “View Image” link in the right-hand column of the search results list, or from the “View Record” page, I can click on the link labeled “View original image.” Either way, I should be able to bring up the actual census page.

Sometimes you might encounter a problem viewing an image. A link at the upper right-hand corner of the page reads, “Having problems viewing this image?” By clicking that link, a window pops up that is pre-addressed from you to the Support group. The name of the database is pre-entered for you. All you have to do is:

1. Use the drop-down menu to select a problem-type category: missing image, wrong image, or unreadable image.
2. Enter text describing the problem you have found.
3. Click on the orange Submit button to send your message.

You have just submitted the problem for review and the Support group will investigate the problem.

If there are indexing and transcription errors or other problems you want to report, simply click on the link in the upper right-hand corner of a screen labeled “Help” and this presents you with a screen with four tabs: Ask Ancestry; E-mail Ancestry Support; My Profile; and Help. The Help tab is a good place to learn the basics of how to use the three other tabs.

From the original screen with the Ask Ancestry tab on top (which is their knowledge base), type “problem support” into the Search Answers box. Some of the important topics displayed that you may want to read about include the following:

  • How do I report a specific Census Image error?
  • How do I add comments or indicate corrections?
  • How do I correct a spelling error in online indexes?
  • Why does the Census index link to the wrong image?

With a little practice, you can become an expert at using the Help facilities and data collections at

The database Card Catalog is a great addition to and is one that you will want to learn how to use as soon as possible. As more databases are added, you will want to be able to locate every possible database that might help your research flourish.

Visit George’s new website at for information about his company, speaking engagements, and presentation topics. You can also listen to George and Drew Smith’s Genealogy Guys podcast at:

A printer-friendly version of this article can be found in the Library.

7 thoughts on “Using The Database Card Catalog, by George G. Morgan

  1. You have written many helpful articles in the past and I always look forward to your next one. The articles are not only helpful, but enjoyable to read. I’m glad to have this opportunity to thank you.

  2. As usual your article was interesting and written so it was easy to understand and follow. Thank you

  3. Thank you George for all the great helpful and interesting articles that you have done. I enjoy and read everyone of them. I have been doing my genealogy of my family since 1987 and I still have lots to learn. Regards, Barbara L. Crisler

  4. Thanks for helpful and informative info. Missed you at the AGS convention. I probably need to check for refferences before I go to Montreal where I will look for some info on MY Toussaint Charbonneau.
    Peace, Rosemary Snow,Hyde Park, Chicago

  5. On the main SEARCH screen the last link in the ‘Browse Records’ section called “recent website additions” no longer shows a list of the new databases added.

    Until a couple of weeks ago there were 1 to 5 new databases listed each weekday. Now the link goes to a blank page with a header only. When will this function be restored?

  6. Do you have military forms records for the civil war pension records like you have census forms for each census year (examples)? You can read the questions asked on the forms. Some of the printed forms are not readable. Mainly the left side of the form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *