Posted in Research tips, Websites

Using card catalog search for maximum efficiency

As adds more and more collections to its website I find folks either 1) have more luck in finding their ancestors or 2) feel overwhelmed by their search results and give up sooner. Others just rely on the “shaky leaf” hints to find records. The problem with this is not all of the 31,000+ databases are part of the shaky leaf hint system. Did you know that?

And if you rely solely on Ancestry’s general search results you will likely miss that small database which has your record, because it will show up at the end of a very long list of results. That’s because results are ranked according to things like number of records in a database, and the biggest ones are at the top of the list.

For a more professional and accurate approach to searching, add the Ancestry Card Catalog to your methodology. This will quickly show you which records for a given locality are available on Ancestry, and allow you to narrow your search to a specific collection or database.

In Card Catalog you can use the “Title” or “Keyword” search, but leaving those blank and using the filters below can be even more effective. Here’s how:

1. Select Card Catalog from the Search drop-down list
2. Filter by collection (e.g. Birth, Marriage, and Death)
3. Filter by location (you can further filter by time period if you want)
4. Select a database
5. Search within the database

When you search within a database, notice that search fields unique to that database appear, allowing you to be creative with your searching. Here’s a look at some screen shots for a Card Catalog search:








Another effective search strategy on is the use of Place Pages, which I will cover in another post. I hope you have some luck with the Ancestry Card Catalog. Let me know what you find!


I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

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