Ellerman bombs are transient brightenings in the wings of Hα 6563 Å that pinpoint photospheric sites of magnetic reconnection in solar active regions. Their partial visibility in the 1600 Å and 1700 Å continua registered routinely by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) offers a unique opportunity to inventory such magnetic-field disruptions throughout the AIA database if a reliable recipe for their detection can be formulated. This is done here. We have improved and applied an Hα Ellerman bomb detection code to ten data sets spanning viewing angles from solar disc centre to the limb. They combine high-quality Hα imaging spectroscopy from the Swedish 1 m Solar Telescope with simultaneous AIA imaging around 1600 Å and 1700 Å. A trial grid of brightness, lifetime and area constraints is imposed on the AIA images to define optimal recovery of the 1735 Ellerman bombs detected in Hα. The best results when optimising simultaneously for recovery fraction and reliability are obtained from 1700 Å images by requiring 5σ brightening above the average 1700 Å nearby quiet-Sun intensity, lifetime above one minute, area of 1–18 AIA pixels. With this recipe 27% of the AIA detections are Hα-detected Ellerman bombs while it recovers 19% of these (of which many are smaller than the AIA resolution). Better yet, among the top 10% AIA 1700 Å detections selected with combined brightness, lifetime and area thresholds as many as 80% are Hα Ellerman bombs. Automated selection of the best 1700 Å candidates therefore opens the entire AIA database for detecting most of the more significant photospheric reconnection events. This proxy is applicable as a flux-dynamics tell-tale in studying any Earth-side solar active region since early 2010 up to the present.