Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Using Ancestry.com Filters

One of the interesting and helpful suggestions in Ancestry Anne's presentation Exhaustively Searching on Ancestry.com was the use of the Locality Filters to find hidden (or little used databases) in the Ancestry.com collection of over 31,260 databases.  I knew they were there, but I had not used them to drill down to a specific County to see what Ancestry.com offers.

So I went to the Ancestry Card Catalog and clicked on:

*  The USA link
*  The California link
*  The San Diego link

There are 13 databases on Ancestry.com for San Diego.  Here is the screen shot of the list:

Ten of the items on the list are in the "Stories, Memories and Histories" Collection, including several older history books and even some books with older photographs.

I had not seen the book "Picturesque San Diego - with Historical and Descriptive Notes" before. So I clicked on that item on the list:

A brief listing of the Table of Contents is provided on the right side of the search box, and source information is below the search box.  The Ancestry source citation for this item says:

Ancestry.com. Picturesque San Diego : with historical and descriptive notes [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
Original data: Gunn, D. M.. Picturesque San Diego : with historical and descriptive notes. Chicago: Knight & Leonard Co., printers, 1887.

I paged through this book, which provides text and photographs (black and white) from this 1887 history of San Diego, including information about the town, the port, the county, the bay, the interior, etc.  Here is a screenshot of page 29 - a photograph of downtown San Diego looking toward the Bay in 1887 (the image is presented in landscape mode on the page):

If an Ancestry user wants to learn the history of a state or county, doing a locality search may be very helpful.  Of course, many of the pre-1923 books of this nature are available on other resources - the Picturesque San Diego book is on Archive.org and Google Books, and is downloadable there.  The book photographic  images are much clearer in the book on Google Play.  I found a picture of my high school in 1887, and pictures of the beaches, cliffs and rocks along the coast in 1887.  Great photos!  

The San Diego locality search found the California, Voter Registers, 1866-1898 and the specific San Diego passenger list database.  However, it did not find census records, military records, etc. that are in larger Ancestry collections.  It did not find the San Diego State University yearbooks in the Yearbook collection.  The lesson here is that you need to use ALL of Ancestry's search capabilities.

So Ancestry.com can act as a finding aid at a minimum, but also as a treasure trove of historical information for works that are not in the public domain.

Have you tried to find historical records or books for your specific state or county on Ancestry.com?  If you haven't, you probably should!

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2013/04/using-ancestrycom-filters.html

copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Sonja Hunter said...

I have found certain items that Ancestry has in their databases, but they do not show up when I look at the county page. The last time I had a subscription, Ancestry had numerous city directories for Kalamazoo, Michigan. They simply do not appear when you look at the list of Kalamazoo county resources. Why they don't list them I have no idea.

Cousin Russ said...


I just found a bunch of Kalamazoo, Michigan City Directories, the first being 1889.

I did not find it the way Randy showed us, with the filter, but I got there by selecting Michigan, as Randy showed but selected the "Schools, Directories & Church Histories" Category and the first item listed was U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta), then in the right panel selected Michigan, Kalamazoo.

Then you can select the year of the directory. 1880 to 1960 were selectable.


Cormac said...

Thanks for reminding me of that tip, Randy. I have used it occasionally, but sometimes I forget about it since I don't use that often.

Dan Stone said...

I just came across a database on Ancestry which brings back a lot of memories, and is something which can add some fun and historical perspective to ancestor's stories. Ancestry has a database of "Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993." Just go to the Ancestry Card Catalog and search for that phrase (or at least the first part of it) to locate the database. How interesting to see the very early catalogs, in addition to the catalogs from my youth. When I was young, I would sit down with the Sears and J. C. Penney catalogs and browse them to get Christmas present ideas, as I'm sure many others did!