Monday, February 2, 2009

Finding the Source on Ancestry's U.S. City Directories

Ancestry.com has updated their collection of United States City Directories. I decided to search for my people in San Diego - the Carringer, Auble and Smith families, hopefully find the entries, and enter the found information, with a source citation, into my database.

I used the Genealogy Databases Posted or Updated Recently link, clicked on the US City Directories link, and input [carringer] in the surname box, [California] in the State box, and Exact Matches checked. The screen looks like this:



I was curious about the source citation at the bottom of the search box. It says:

"Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory. Check the directory title page image for full title and publication information."

That really doesn't tell me much, does it? Just that Ancestry.com obtained them somehow. Perhaps the directory images will help me. I clicked on Search and received three matches in San Diego, one for 1897, one for 1899-1900, and one for 1901. Here is the linked page image for 1897: Here's the image as it opened:




I scrolled down and found the Carringer listings, and saved the image to my computer files. The saved image is (it is Image 94 of 264):




Yep, there are my great-grandparents, H.A. Carringer and D.A. Carringer. Henry Austin Carringer is a millman, works at Russ Lumber and Mill Company, and resides at 28th and Logan in San Diego. Della Carringer is an art teacher, with a studio at 29th and Logan. I didn't know about the art studio - did she own it? I need to find out!

Back to my source citation problem. The Ancestry.com database citation noted above is totally useless. Ah, maybe I can find one on a title page for the directory. I could scroll my way back to find it one page at a time.

he short cut is to put the number [1] in the place of 94 in the Image Numbers just above the record image on the second screen shot above. That took me back to the information about this particular city directory - who filmed, where was it filmed, the cover, some advertising, etc. I finally found the front page of the 1897 San Diego City Directory on Image 10 of 264:



I downloaded this page to my computer files also.

So now I can construct my source citation myself from the information on this page:

Directory of San Diego City and County, 1897.
The Olmsted Co., Printers. San Diego, California. Digital image, www.Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008. Accessed by R.J. Seaver on 2 February 2009.

Ancestry.com has chosen to lump all of these City Directories in this collection into one "database." It doesn't hurt the search function any, but it sure creates havoc for researchers to easily find and create an accurate source citation for their records.

If a researcher wanted to attach a record image from this database into their online family tree on Ancestry.com or in Family Tree Maker using a Web Search, s/he would have to go through this same exercise to obtain a useful source citation.

If each City Directory was a separate database on Ancestry, then a useful source citation could be included on the search and results pages on ancestry, and that citation could be easily attached to a user's family tree. Having a separate database for this particular directory would have saved me about 20 clicks (and page views), and perhaps 2 minutes of time, for this single search.

Of course, having information like this on Ancestry.com permits a researcher to perform the search at home in his/her jammies at any time of day. I'm not complaining about the search process - this search took a second or two and was really efficient! But the downstream functions of a researcher, including capturing a useful source citation and adding it to Family Tree Maker and Ancestry family trees, could be made easier.
Thanks to Pam Warren for the question on Facebook this morning - it got my interest and created blog fodder for me!

4 comments:

Chris said...

Hi again Randy. You should start contacting me directly :)

The directory title that you are viewing is in the "breadcrumbs" list above the image viewer (you can see it in one of the screenshots you posted).

That said, I do see that the database source statement needs to be updated, which I will do.

Thanks, Chris

Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

Randy, I have enjoyed your blog - so much so that my Rambling Thoughts blog is honoring your blog. Go to http://brendasopinions.blogspot.com/ to read about it.
Thanks for all you do.

GrannyPam said...

Hi, Randy. Thanks for this post. It described my frustration thoroughly.

I do want to point out that on 2 April 2008 I conducted a search in the Ancestry.com City Directory database and clicking on a link in the search result led me to a "summary" type page, similar to that which is displayed with some census searches. That page did give the complete source information.

With the update, that disappeared, leading to double frustration.

Harold said...

Hi Randy -- Interesting post. Footnote also makes it not so easy to view the original title page. (I can drone on for hours about what they do with Chicago city directories.) And the title given by the online provider is not always the same as that on the original title page (although it is in this case). A common sin is to change the directory's date from "1896-1897" to 1896 or 1897. -- Harold