NOTE: You can use Ancestry.com for free at Central Library and our branches!
Sure, you can search within all Ancestry.com's databases for a particular person, but you’ll often get better results if you search within a specific database, rather than trying to search all of Ancestry at once. To do so, hover over SEARCH in the top menu bar and click on CARD CATALOG.
Now type MISSOURI into the title box (case does not matter in any of the search queries mentioned in this post). My search brought up 282 hits: click on a listed database to search within that database.
Let’s say you are searching for databases with info specifically relating to St. Louis, Missouri. What’s the best way to frame your Ancestry Card Catalog query?
o Doing a title search for ST. LOUIS MISSOURI gets 5 hits.
o Doing a title search for SAINT LOUIS MISSOURI gets 2 hits.
o Doing a title search for SAINT LOUIS gets 5 hits.
o Doing a title search for ST. LOUIS gets 35 hits.
Seems we have a clear winner! However, when using the Ancestry Card Catalog we can also do KEYWORD searches.
o Doing a keyword search for SAINT LOUIS MISSOURI gets 9 hits.
o Doing a keyword search for ST. LOUIS MISSOURI gets 78 hits.
o Doing a keyword search for SAINT LOUIS gets 11 hits.
o Doing a keyword search for ST. LOUIS gets 111 hits.
Once again, seems we have a clear winner, although the contest is a little closer this time.
Now, what if you’re searching a rural county rather than a big city?
o Doing a title search for BOONE COUNTY MISSOURI gets 4 hits.
o Doing a title search for BOONE MISSOURI also gets 4 hits.
It seems to barely matter if you include the word COUNTY in your query, so feel free to omit it (unless you’re searching a very common county name like WASHINGTON or JEFFERSON).
Speaking of Jefferson, you can also check Ancestry Card Catalog to see if it contains any databases specific to a particular city or town.
o Doing a title search for JEFFERSON CITY MISSOURI gets 4 hits.
o Doing a title search for JEFFERSON MISSOURI gets 5 hits (one of which pertains to Jefferson County, Missouri—but Jefferson City is county seat of Cole County).
You’re unlikely to get hits for relatively small cities and towns, but a query in Ancestry Card Catalog only takes a few seconds, so checking won’t take long regardless.
Happy ancestor hunting!