Posted by Crista Cowan on October 10, 2013 in Collections, Family History Month, Research, Website

This month we are celebrating Family History Month. I hope you have enjoyed the tips, tricks and insider secrets we’ve been sharing here on the blog, on our Livestream broadcasts, and on our Facebook page. Look forward to even more genealogy goodness as the month continues. In the midst of all this celebrating, I thought I would add one more thing to celebrate.

. reached a major milestone in the past few weeks. There are now 12 billion searchable records online for you to discover even more about your family history. That’s billion – with a B. And we continue to add new records to the site almost every single day.


In the spirit of reminiscing – which I always do in my own life when I reach certain milestones – I thought I would share with you a little history and a few of my favorite record collections on


The website went online in 1996 (check out our original homepage on the WayBack Machine) and by the summer of 1997 there were more than 80 searchable databases. The most notable database at the time – and still one of our most popular – is the Social Security Death Index. One of my favorite databases in that original collection is the Geographic Reference Library. It contains more than one million entries. Search for any town, church, cemetery or populated place in the United States – forgotten, hard to find, old or new – and discover what state and county it was in, what other names it may have been known by, and what other locations are in the county.


In 2000 began adding images of U.S. Federal Census records and creating an every name index to these very valuable genealogical records. By 2001, reached the one billion record milestone. Five years to reach our first billion records and now here we are, twelve years later, with 12 billion records online.


If you were to ask me which of those 12 billion records was my favorite, I’d be hard pressed to make a decision. I can’t even pick a favorite among our 31,389 databases – California Death Index (because it lists mother’s maiden name), U.S. City Directories (because I can trace people’s movement in between census years), Happy Homes and How to Make Them (because I am fascinated with what life was like in mid 19th century England). I could go on and on.


Instead I’m going to invite you to explore the collection on your own in a different way than you might used to exploring it. On this morning’s episode of my bi-weekly show, The Barefoot Genealogist, I shared my favorite tips and tricks for using the Ancestry Card Catalog.

Watch the video below:

When you have 12 billion records at your disposal it’s nice to have a few tricks for making the most out of the time you have to access them. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what changes come about with the next 12 billion records.


Have fun climbing your family tree!


P.S. – In case you didn’t quite catch it in the video, here’s that trick for filtering your hints to a specific record collection: Add &hdbid=xxxx to the end of your record hints URL and hit enter. (Where xxxx is the database id of the collection you are interested in.)

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Google Twitter



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