The Traditional Ballad Index is a collaborative effort designed to help people find reference information on folk ballads. This page is designed to let you find ballads by entering titles or keywords.
The database offers a variety of information about each song, including a brief description, a bibliography, and historical background. Alternate titles are given. Most songs also have a list of keywords to help you search. You can find the list of keywords here. The instructions for the Ballad Index are here.
To perform a search, simply type in the words you want to search for in the form below. For example, if you wanted to find all songs about birds, you would type in BIRD. To find songs about birds in which someone dies, use BIRD AND DEATH. You may use OR as well as AND, and multiple keywords are (obviously) permitted. The search BIRD AND NOT DEATH will net you all the songs about birds but exclude those in which death occurs. You can use commas to separate keywords, the implied operator being "OR." Upper and lower case don't matter.
For more detailed searches, note:
Words not separated by commas are implied to be phrases, so that "BARBARA ALLEN" (with quotes) yields the same results as: BARBARA ALLEN (without quotes). With single words a "stem" (i.e., words related in meaning in the Engish language) is implied, so that PLAN will get you "planned," "plans," and "planning," but should not get you "plane" or "planet." Wildcards are permitted: the asterisk * stands for none to multiple characters (so that WILD* will get you "wild" "wilder" "wildly" or even "Wildomar"); the question mark ? stands for a single alphanumeric character (so that C?T will yield "cat" "cut" "cot" but not "coot;" to get the "coot" without the "cat" you should try C??T). The use of parentheses or of a wild card (e.g. searching for "PLAN" (with quotes) or PLAN* (with or without quotes) will cancel implicit stemming for that search). You can use parentheses for complex searches.
Once you submit the form, you will be shown a list of songs that match your criteria, with what the Index considers to be the best matches appearing first. Click on a particular song title to see the entry for that song.
Click here to return to the Ballad Index main page.
If you wish to download a text version of the complete Ballad Index, click here for a ZIP version or here for a StuffIt version..
The Traditional Ballad Index ©1998 by Robert Waltz and David G. Engle.
Our thanks to California State University, Fresno, Folklore for hosting this site.