I just caught myself falling into a research trap. I know when using FamilySearch to check for the un-indexed collections. It is an ingrained work habit. Since I use many of the county court/probate collections on FamilySearch, I am used to looking in the indexes in the front of the “books” and hunting down my family members, manually.
Ancestry.com is a different story. Most of their collections are indexed, and for the last several years with the ability to “correct” the bad indexing, the hits are getting more consistent. I’ve been working with City Directories, specifically, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989. I wondered why I get some hits in some years but not the intervening years.
I began to look at each year, by itself, looking up individual family name listings. Much to my surprise, some years are not indexed. Since these are city directories, alphabetical makes this a relatively straightforward process. I discovered the lack of index when ancestry informed me a record could not be attached to a person in my tree due to the lack of index. I continued to check other years and discovered some years are indexed, but the names are so badly mangled that I couldn’t even match an index entry to George to correct the index.
Moving on to the next year, I discovered another gotcha when looking for George F Goodman (see image below). These indexes have the last name recorded for the first person in the column, but not for everyone else! Other names are indexed by middle initial, first name, no last name. In this case, these are columns of Goodman’s, starting with Goodman Abel in the first column, and each of the successive columns are labeled with GOODMAN at the top of the column, but that name doesn’t appear in most of the index entries, making a hit extremely unlikely.
Don’t get me wrong, I like and use ancestry and have done so for at least 13 years. This isn’t about ancestry; this is about me. I allowed myself to fall into a trap, thinking one website publishes many un-indexed collections and the another does not. Where else have I missed records because of my assumption? Hopefully, the discovery of my own research mistake will help others avoid this same trap.