Theres nothing hard in seeing maya keys, maya is just context sensitive, so if you set a key to joint_1 then you must have joint_1 selected to see those keys! Otherwise the display of ticks wouldn't help a bit because the average bigger animation would be all in red because absolutely every frames keyed. This way what you have selected is what you see wich is much more usefull in busy scene.
Then whenever you make a clip out of some keys they will dissapear form the keylist because they are now in the clip not the keys, to retrieve keys form a clip you must activate that particular clip.
Your just exaggerating the problem in your head because you've tangled yourself and got lost thats all. Its not a very uncommon occurrence for beginners, too much going on at one time and you end up not paying attention to the important things. Rest assured this does not make a program hard even relatively simple programs like word, i've enen seen this on notepad, do this to people. (it is unavoidable, if you have lot of data that is; yes i teach people ti use computers from ages 7-88 you'd be surprised how hard the mouse is to use!)
Now theres several schenarios here.You dindt actualy key anything directly, but keyed something indirect (not likely)If the rig isnt yours you switched off the relevant character set, wich maya users use to sync keys.despite what you said you did succeed in making a clip and the clip is now sitting in the trax editor waiting for you, activate that clip! otherwise you wont see the keys.you dindt actually key what you thought you did.you are using a different computer with a non certified gfx driver, especially ati has had much problems with this but also certain versions of nvidia cards, then the ticks aren't drawn out as red but rather a gray color (its a driver problem), this makes the tick at certain color configurations VERY even impossibly hard to see. (is it possible you changed driver?)
If you mean selecting joint by joint, no, I haven't done that. But why should it be so difficult and confusing to simply display conventional elements such as keys? I know of no othe program where this is such a pain.
To repeat because theres potentially millions of them, so maya only shows keys for things you selected (the scene that im working on has 1200 anim curves with about a 1000 keys each for a million two hundred thousand keyframes if i was to see all of them t one time there would just about be enough for every second pixel on my screen).
And when i said select all i really meant select everything, not just joint by joint, that probably fixes this, but actiully i meant right clicking on a empty space and choosing select all. if the keys are there they should come to you. if you still don't see the keys open trax editor because they are already in a clip! and like ive said many times so far only keys of a ACTIVATED clip are visible (that is you must right clik on the clip in trax and choose activate)!
Theres several other ways to retrieve where the data is:
by showing everything in outliner (uncheck dag only), this way you can list all the key frames in the scene selecting one will point nicely to the node its driving. THis is often the hardcore tool for examining what somebody else did, tough i prefer to graph in hypergraph. Also both of these tools tell you if theres a clip involved.
select al and open the graph editor. if its empty stuff is already in a clip!
PS: you really must learn to search stuff in maya or you WILL be dead in the water, really.
Use the dope sheet, with sa strategic selection.