Monday, May 4, 2009

Unindexed Databases on Ancestry.com

I had an email last week concerning my post What Should I Say About Ancestry.com? from reader Debbie Duay, and she told me that:

"I think it is important to tell people that Ancestry.com has many databases that cannot be searched using the global search box. One of my favorite examples is the War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index."

She gave me the link to the War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index database. Thank you, Debbie!

Naturally, I had to try this one out, and made some screen shots in the process so I could share them with you.

How can I find this database if I can't use the Search function? Ah - the Card Catalog! The Card Catalog permits the user to find a database using a search box, and I did that. But I also wondered how I could find databases that are not indexed - and figured that they would have very few entries in the list of databases. So I clicked on the "Military" collection link on the left side of the Card Catalog, and the list of 330 databases appeared:




I scrolled to the bottom of the first page of 100 databases, and clicked on the "4" at the bottom of the page - next to "Next" - so as to get to the last (and 4th) page of databases:


There it is - the second from the bottom - the War of 1812 Pension Application Files Index, 1812-1815 . My strategy worked, eh? I clicked on the link:



This database is not indexed, but the records are alphabetical. There are 102 files listed, each with about 800 to 1100 pages in them. I decided to look for my Lanfear mystery persons - so I chose the Lane-Led file. The first page has the header for the NARA microfilm:



How can I find information for a specific surname? Ah, I can change the "Image number" just above the image itself - the image above was number 1 of 873. I can click inside that box and input a page number. I chose 100 and got "Stephen Lane." Number 150 was "Abraham Langle," Number 130 was "David Langdon," number 120 was "John Lang," and number 110 was "Charles Laney." Gee, this is just like the "guess the number" game, eh? From there I just used the "Next" arrow to find #113 - Isaac Lanfear:



From my previous work, I knew that this is the "Isaac Lanfear" of Lorraine, Jefferson County, New York because it gives his wife's name, Rosannah! Cool.

Now I need to look for other Lanf*, Lanph*, Lamf*, and Lamph* to see if there are others here that I need to look for. Obtaining the actual Pension File is another exercise, of course!

The bigger questions are:

* "How many databases are there on Ancestry.com that don't have are not indexed and therefore are not found in a name Search?"

* "Does Ancestry.com have a list of these non-indexed databases?"

"If not, why not?"

Surely, Ancestry.com wants subscribers to use these databases that they have taken the time, cost and effort to bring to us. But if they are hidden from us (unless a user goes through over 28,000 databases one by one - which is really not an option!), then they are essentially useless. So, to Ancestry.com, a love letter:

"Dear Ancestry.com, please provide a visible link to a list of Unindexed Databases so that we can be aware of them and use them effectively. Devotedly - Randy."

Thank you, Debbie, for the great link and the comments!

7 comments:

Ruth said...

Hey Randy!
Thanks for the link. I just found one of my McBurnetts!

Ruth

Geolover said...

Another very useful but non-indexed database is the US Revolutionary War Compiled Service Records database, a series of extracts done by the War Dept. on cards. It is arranged by State and Regiment (sometimes misnamed) and other items under 'Miscellaneous'. This database is name-indexed at footnote.com. I have wondered if ancestry.com was just a little too cheap to acquire a pre-existing name index.

Another huge database of images is the misc. Revolutionary War Papers. The National Archives has both a calendar of documents and a name index for these papers on microfilm, but Ancestry.com did not obtain these along with the microfilm of the Papers.

Chris said...

Doing a Google site search for the phrase "no search function for names" brings up a few more databases.

Anonymous said...

The 1870 census for Greene county, Pennsylvania is not indexed. That information has been passed on to Ancestry numerous times by several individuals.

amyrebba said...

Thanks Randy, I wasn't aware of this. Now I will dig deeper for the missing links I seek.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I quickly found an ancestor there, Phoebe "Annie Oakley" Moses's father Jacob.

Dan

Julie Cahill Tarr said...

Thanks for the info. I guess I need to start browsing through the Card Catalog. ;)