Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Browsing an Image-Only Collection

I came across an image so hard to read on Ancestry.com, I doubted the original microfilm could possibly be as bad. It was the World War I draft registration card for Elseberry Allen of San Antonio, Texas:

World War I draft registration card for Elseberry Allen of San Antonio, Texas on Ancestry.com

Since FamilySearch is working to get its microfilm collection posted online, I checked to see if they had World War I draft registration cards posted. If they had, I wouldn’t have to resort to microfilm.

They had, but it was not indexed.

No need to fear. Browsing to a record is challenging, but can be done simply.

In this case, I had the advantage of having already found the record using the index on Ancestry.com. The name was Elseberry Allen. More importantly, above the image Ancestry.com gave the browse path: Texas > San Antonio City > 3 > Draft Card A.

The browse path of an image on Ancestry.com

Here’s how I found the image on FamilySearch.org.

1. I started at http://FamilySearch.org. (You’re welcome to follow along. You’ll learn better that way.)

2. Down next to the world map I clicked on All Record Collections. You do this whenever you wish to browse a collection without an index.

3. In the collection name Search box I started to type words from the collection title. “Draft” is all it took to narrow the list sufficiently.

4. I clicked United States, World War One Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.

5. I clicked Browse through 25,007,403 images. No, I didn’t plan to browse through all 25 million. Mathematically, on average, I only have to browse half of them.

Just kidding. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch divide up a record collection’s images into small sets. I didn’t expect to look at more than several dozen images, max.

6. I saw from the Ancestry browse path that I needed to click on Texas and then on San Antonio City no 3; A-O. This brought me to a set of 4,590 images (which roughly corresponded to a roll of microfilm).

Now a microfilm reader has a crank. A computer does not. Advancing a roll of microfilm by one crank, or a couple, or even several dozen is very intuitive. No one has yet brought the same intuitive function to browsing online images. So here’s whatcha do:

7. I hit the right arrow twice until I reached the first record, Albert Aaron.

The arrows are hidden in light gray and positioned so you’ll never find them. Think of it like a treasure hunt between you and FamilySearch’s designers. Hint: Currently they are hidden along the right edge of the window, just above Save and Print. Don’t worry, FamilySearch will move them to keep you sharp. (“Kato: I mean it. Do not attack me now…”)

8. I took a wild guess that the image number for Elseberry Allen was 1,000 (out of the 4,590 images). I entered 1000 (not 1,000) in the image box and then played treasure hunt again with FamilySearch. Don’t bother trying to find the button to click; there isn’t one. Press Enter on the keyboard. That took me to the record of Tom J. Cecil.

Image number of an image on FamilySearch.org

Too far, but at least I knew that Allen was between Aaron and Cecil. I wrote this down, leaving plenty of room between the two:

3 – Aaron






1,000 – Cecil

9. I took another guess, not quite as wild. I went to image 200, which turned out to be Atkinson. I knew Allen was between Aaron and Atkinson, so I replaced Cecil with Atkinson, like this:

3 – Aaron





200 – Atkinson
1,000 – Cecil

10. Next I guessed 100, and found Altmeir:

3 – Aaron




100 – Altmeir
200 – Atkinson
1,000 – Cecil

11. I checked 50 and found Aguilar. Allen was after Aguilar, so I wrote this down:

3 – Aaron
50 – Aguilar



100 – Altmeir
200 – Atkinson
1,000 – Cecil

12. I guessed 80. It was Alfred George Allen, a little before Elseberry Allen.

3 – Aaron
50 – Aguilar
80 – Allen, Alfred George


100 – Altmeir
200 – Atkinson
1,000 – Cecil

13. That left less than twenty images to look at. Twenty images isn’t bad at all. I used the right arrow several times and found Elseberry Allen at image 85.

World War I draft registration card for Elseberry Allen of San Antonio, Texas on FamilySearch.org

I was right. The original microfilm was much better than Ancestry’s.

And to find it I didn’t have to look at all 25 million images in the collection.

I didn’t have to look at all 4,590 images in the image set.

I looked at eleven.

10 comments:

  1. Great post! I use this method regularly on image sets on FamilySearch but never thought of looking up the paths on Ancestry itself!
    And thank you for pointing out the (sometimes) poor quality of images available on Ancestry. If it was a free service, I would keep my mouth shut but since it isn't....

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  2. This technique has always reminded me of the "Higher Lower" game on The Price is Right!

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  3. Wow, they ARE clearer images! I had thought they were using Ancestry's images for this collection. This is great: I'll be upgrading some images and looking for the ones where Ancestry linked the wrong images.

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  4. Excellent system of digging through images - of course having the pathway helped immensely, but still... Very helpful tip! Thanks.

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  5. Very helpful and love how you use both tools to find the best result.

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  6. This is awesome - I came across the same problem with my grandfathers - thanks for the help!

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    1. And I've just found both grandfathers cards in less than 10 minutes! THANK YOU!

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  7. I love to learn this stuff. I wouldn't have had a hope to find this in familysearch. Thanks for posting
    Oh, and ah, your point about these records not being indexed - need I say we should all do our bit? It's easy, it's not time-consuming, you can do it in your pyjamas, it's rewarding to give back.

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  8. To be fair, FamilySearch's images aren't always that hot either. (I just suffered through 60-70 pages of the 1865 New York State census, in which the tops of the pages are clear but the bottoms are almost illegible, and still have four more EDs to go through. Sigh.) But thank you for this tip!

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  9. Bravo! Thanks for the clear description of your method. The same method would work even if you had to "browse" for Texas and then the city and then the person's name.

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