Tutorial and tips: Use Ancestry.com's Card Catalog to find available genealogy record collections in the search for your ancestors.
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Tutorial: Using Ancestry.com’s Card Catalog

How often do you use  Ancestry.com’s card catalog feature?

Often times we are very good at researching the genealogy collections and databases we know. We are comfortable in those records.  We have learned their idiosyncrasies. Right?

But, our research becomes stalled. We’ve exhausted our tried and true records.

Tutorial and tips: Use Ancestry.com's Card Catalog to find available genealogy record collections in the search for your ancestors.
Source: Library of Congress

In the back of our minds, we are wondering…….

Am I missing other helpful genealogy records?

You (I!) might be. How do we find what other records might exist?

For you Ancestry.com users, the card catalog comes to the rescue! It’s an amazing genealogy tool  for your toolbox.

How To Use Ancestry.com’s Card Catalog!

When you search the card catalog, remember you are not searching for your specific ancestor.  You are searching for records collections that could potentially have information on your ancestor.

Let’s look at some examples.

Note: Just because we are using Ancestry.com‘s card catalog for the examples in this post, the concepts are the same regardless of which large database company you are using – i.e. FindMyPast, MyHeritage, etc.

First, let’s find the Ancestry.com’s card catalog.  From the Ancestry home page click “Search”  and you will see “Card Catalog” towards the bottom of the drop down.

Tutorial and tips: Use Ancestry.com's Card Catalog to find available genealogy record collections in the search for your ancestors.

Click “Card Catalog”.

Tutorial and tips: Use Ancestry.com's Card Catalog to find available genealogy record collections in the search for your ancestors.

Notice the two search boxes on the left.  If you know the title of a specific record collection you want to search use the Title search box.

I personally find the keyword search box is more useful when you are seeking out new and preciously unknown to you resources.

We are going to look at three different types of keyword searches you will find helpful.

1. Family Name

Tutorial and tips: Use Ancestry.com's Card Catalog to find available genealogy record collections in the search for your ancestors.

I typed “Talbot” in the keyword search box. Initially I received 100+ results with many in England.  Since I am interested in the Talbot family here in America, I narrowed down my results to only USA records by using the filters on the left.

As you will see I have 30 results to sift through.  This is very doable!  Both public and private member stories and photos show up.  That’s great!  I can find other Talbot researchers to network with.

I also find  a History of Talbot County, MD.  Perfect!  My Talbots came in through Maryland. Learning about the history of the area will help me put my ancestors in context which will lead to more clues and records.

2. Location

Tutorial and tips: Use Ancestry.com's Card Catalog to find available genealogy record collections in the search for your ancestors.

Using a keyword search for a specific location can yield good results for learning more about that area.  Remember, learning about the time and place your ancestor lived puts them in context. What was the history of the area? Who were the movers and shakers in the area? What was important to the residents of that area?  All of this information helps you to pull the stories from your ancestors!

Above, I typed in Halifax County as the keywords and further narrowed my results to the USA.  (This eliminated the Canadian results.) I have three results which is absolutely researchable. (Is that even a word?! It works for me.)

You’ll notice The Wyatt family records in the list.  If the Wyatts are in your ancestor’s FAN club, what a great resource that has been discovered!

3. Topic or Subject

Tutorial and tips: Use Ancestry.com's Card Catalog to find available genealogy record collections in the search for your ancestors.

Were your ancestors Methodists? Baptists? Catholics?  Let’s see what record collections Ancestry.com has that might help.  Typing Methodist into the keyword box resulted in 137 results. These can be narrowed further down by using the filters to the left. For now take a look a the first few that appeared on the first page. You will notice quick a variety including the history of Methodism in an area, specific church records and town & church records.

Are you starting to see the possibilities open to you for finding new record collections to search? ( I hope so!)

The card catalog feature of Ancestry.com has become one of my favorite features. My research is more exhaustive when I use this feature. That’s important when I am facing a genealogical brick wall.

Does this work for other databases such as FindMyPast or MyHeritage or even your state archives?

Yes, it does.  Their “card catalog” may just go by a different name. Access FindMyPast “catalog” under “Search A-Z of Record Sets”.  The NC state archives has a physical card catalog. (Yes, they do still exist!).  Check your favorite database or archives their “card catalog or finding aid.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy!

This post contain affiliate links.  Read my full disclosure policy here.

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Tutorial and tips: Use Ancestry.com's card catalog to find available genealogy record collections in the search for your ancestors.

 

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9 Comments

  • Sandi

    I knew about these items n your tutorials but I never used them. I will now. Thanks for alerting us to the possibilities we overlook in our research.

  • Toni

    I have never found a title even if I’ve copied and pasted that very same title from an ancestry search result. Key word works about half the time.

    • LisaL

      Toni, The card catalog does get finicky, that’s for sure. I’ve found by using broader keywords and then narrowing down using the filters helps.

  • SHARON

    I have never used the card catalog, since I wasn’t sure how to. Thank you so much for this information. I am sure this will help to expand my research and learn more about my ancestors and the times they lived in. By the way, I love your Blog.

  • Edward Black

    The card catalog is only as good as their search engine, and it often doesn’ t make the grade. My pet peeve is finding the Pennsylvania Birth records. Enter “Pennsylvania Birth” in the “Keyword(s)” and your first page of 25 items include

    *U.S., F.B.I. Deceased Criminal Identification Files, 1971-1994
    *U.S., Civil War Roll of Honor, 1861-1865
    *Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Obituary Records, 1920-1969
    *U.S., Compiled Records From Various Societies, 1875-2010
    *American Soldiers of World War I

    but you do not get

    https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/general-60484/

    Pennsylvania, Birth Certificates, 1906-1911

  • Edward Black

    I just tried “Pennsylvania Birth” again and see it now shows up down at the bottom of the first page, so its improving, at least it now makes it to the first page.

    • LisaL

      It is definitely not a perfect system. I have found sometimes searching a second time gets different results. Not sure why. I’ve also had issues in the past with state abbreviations — so users should try using a state’s abbreviation (NC) and spelling it out (North Carolina).

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