Thursday, July 1, 2010

Revolutionary War Rolls on Ancestry.com: Hard to Find Records

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I noted yesterday that the Revolutionary War Rolls on Ancestry.com had been updated, and realized that I had not saved images of these records for my Revolutionary War soldiers. That lead me to do some searches for these records:

From the Military Records collection page (I tend to search now in specific collections and specific databases, rather than do a "global search"), I input "Martin" and "Carringer" in the search fields:




The list of matches came up, and I noted that the Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, was on the list (note that I tend to search according to "summarized by category"):




Clicking on the link for the Revolutionary War Rolls, I saw that there was one match for Martin Carringer:


The record indicates that he is in Roll Box 83 for Pennsylvania. There is no indication of page number or image number for the entry in the Roll Box 83.

I clicked on the "View Images" link and saw this:


This is the first page of 702 pages on Roll 83. I clicked the right arrow (up next to the "Go" link in the menu line) many times and finally got to the actual records on Page 38 on this roll. I quickly gave up on trying to find Martin Carringer's name on one of the remaining 694 pages!

So let's try to analyze this situation:
* Ancestry.com imaged 138 rolls of NARA microfilm publication M246.
* Ancestry.com entered names into an Ancestry.com created index (or perhaps used a previously created index) of names on the rolls of film.
* Ancestry.com then linked to the first image on the roll of film containing the requested name.
* Ancestry.com left it to the user to search through hundreds of pages in a treasure hunt for their requested name.

Doesn't Ancestry.com run these records through some sort of quality check so that a subscriber is assured of finding the actual record found by a search?

Was additional information added to the indexed information, such as the military organization, the year, the folder containing the soldier's record in this dataset? Having that information might help a searcher browse through the dataset as it is currently constituted.

My guess is that most researchers, encountering this problem on Ancestry.com, will grumble about and curse Ancestry.com. And then try to find the record elsewhere. I found it on http://www.footnote.com/ - and will show the results in a later post.

Perhaps this problem has existed since the first release of this database, and others have complained about the non-linking of requested names to record images in this particular database. I don't know - but in my first use of the dataset I am pretty frustrated. I think I'm being kind to call this database "Hard to Find Records." Actually, almost impossible.

Disclosure: I am not a paid employee, contractor or affiliate of Ancestry.com. I am a fully paid subscriber to the U.S. Deluxe collection.

2 comments:

txlynnage said...

I too had trouble finding my Revolutionary War Soldier. My soldier's last name was Eoff so how hard can that be? I know where and when he served. it even states on his headstone the military unit he served in. I agree that Ancestry's Rev. War records are very hard to search!

Geolover said...

Thanks for highlighting this old issue.

At the time Ancestry.com uploaded the Revolutionary War Rolls they were selling a CD with an index that went to the image. My theory is that they did not want to compete with the CD sales.