Taking the Time to Browse Part 2: Ancestry

In this series of posts, we are looking at websites where you might be missing information by not browsing through record sets. This post is about Ancestry.

Now unlike Family Search, Ancestry doesn\’t usually have browse only collections. At least none that I could find in Canadian record sets. What you want to do is instead of using the name search, look to the right and use the browse feature. There are some good reasons for doing this:

1. Sorry Ancestry, but sometimes your indexing needs work. Especially with non Anglo names. Here\’s a perfect example. One of my paternal great grandfathers was named Patrice Joseph Mallais. Using the name search, I could not find him anywhere in 1911. I could find him in St. Isidore New Brunswick in 1901, and in Taboustinac in 1921. The only Patrice Mallais in the area of New Brunswick I was looking at was a nephew of my great grandfather. So I decided to start browsing. I brought up the 1911 census, then chose New Brunswick, then started browsing through each district in the area that he was living in 1901. Lo and behold, just a few pages into the Suamarez district I found his family. PATRICE MALLAIS had been indexed as PAHIQUE MALLARS. It wasn\’t even close to being a variation of his name, which is why Ancestry\’s search feature didn\’t pick up on it.

2. The second reason to browse is that in each record set, there are the odd section or page that isn\’t indexed. A good example of this is the Canadian Voters Lists collection. It says it holds records for 1935-1980. However, if you look at the description of the record set, you\’ll realize that the years 1979 and 1980 are browse only.

3. Even in a record set that is fully indexed, a name or two gets missed. In the 1851 Census, I found the Ferguson family living in Toronto, Peel County. This particular page only had the bottom half indexed at the time. The first 21 names did not show up in the index. John Ferguson lived next door to his parents, John and Christina. John the younger showed in the index, but his parents did not. Since I first found the record, Ancestry has updated the indexing. John the elder and Christina now show up. But when I first found the record almost 10 years ago, they weren\’t. I was lucky enough to already land on the page because of John the younger. Otherwise indexing alone at that time wouldn\’t have given me his location in 1851.

So how can you find and be able to tell what has been indexed and what hasn\’t? Well on the main search page, you\’re going to click on Search:


From the drop down menu you\’re going to click on card catalogue. Next you\’ll see:


Now, once you\’ve picked a record set to look at, here\’s how to tell if a page is indexed:

.This means it has been indexed.

See how the people icon isn\’t highlighted? This mean it hasn\’t been indexed.

Ancestry has almost 2,000 record sets that pertain to Canada. Here are some of the record sets that I have personally come across that using browse struck gold:

Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980 As I said above, the years 1979 and 1980 are not indexed. As well, OCR was used for the indexing. On more than one occasion, an ancestor\’s name was missed.

Acadia, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1757-1946 There are several sections that have not been indexed. As an example, some sets dealing with before and during the Acadian Expulsion have either been only partly indexed, or not at all. Also, only some years of certain parishes have been indexed.

Canada, Photographic Albums of Settlement, 1892-1917 Some of the photographs are captioned with names of people.

Canada, Fenian Raids Bounty Applications, 1866-1871 This collection is only partially indexed.

This is just a sampling. So, if you can\’t find an ancestor and you know they should be there, take some time to browse. You may find what you\’re looking for. Or, even better, take a look at a record set that looks promising. You may find something new.

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