Friday, March 16, 2007

Bombshell - at FHCs Discontinued

I admit that I never thought this would happen...I always figured that provided the LDS FHCs free access to their subscription site in order to get more home subscribers - hook 'em at the FHCs once a week and they'll figure out that a subscription that provides daily home access is cost effective and more convenient.

Leland Meitzler at has the announcement received by one of his readers:
To: Family History Center Directors in English Language Areas
From: Worldwide Support
Date: March 16, 2007
Re: Discontinued Access to Databases

For many years, has provided free access to patrons of family history centers around the world. Ancestry has informed the Church that as of April 1, 2007, it will discontinue this free access to the full service.

Free access through to the following databases will continue:

1. Index and images for the 1880, 1900 and 1920 U.S. censuses
2. Full name indices for the British 1841-1891 censuses (England and Wales)
3. World War I draft cards indices as created and miscellaneous other databases

Free access is likely to be discontinued for the remainder of the databases including:

1. Index and images for the 1930 U.S. census
2. Index and images for the 1901 British census (England, Scotland, and Wales)

At this point, is not offering an option for family history centers to independently purchase commercial or library site licenses. Patrons, of course, may choose to subscribe directly to

Free access to online databases is important and we therefore intend to add many new databases to Much of the data preparation will be accomplished through the online indexing program available at We encourage you to visit the website to learn more.

Volunteers have already begun indexing the 1900 U.S. census and other projects. Other censuses and vital record collections will be indexed as soon as the 1900 U.S. census project is completed. The more volunteers that participate, the sooner access can be provided. Since access to databases on is free to all, we anticipate that this will be of great interest to individuals around the world. We are also exploring opportunities to provide broader access to additional databases from other online service providers.

Please inform patrons regarding our plans to provide access to records and invite them to help by participating in the FamilySearch Indexing projects. We will communicate as more information becomes available. Thank you for all that you do on behalf of our patrons.

So the FHCs get "Ancestry-lite" - a limited edition of the current version with some of the popular databases.

What does this mean for the FHCs and for genealogy societies?

1) For FHCs, it probably means at least a temporary loss of patrons. Every time I go to the San Diego FHC the computers are well populated, but few patrons are looking at books or microfilms. Most everybody on the computers is working on There will still be Ancestry-lite at the FHC's it seems.

Of course, the FHL is indexing and linking to the images all of their microfilms, which includes all of the census data. When this happens, the result will be more free access to records, but if it's available for free on the Internet, there is no incentive to go to the FHC. The incentive to subscribe to Ancestry will remain for the records available there that won't be indexed by the FHL.

2) This is an opportunity for local genealogy societies to work with local libraries that provide access to Ancestry Library Edition. I would not be surprised if local societies make arrangements with those libraries for ongoing computer seminars to use Ancestry Library Edition. My CVGS has a monthly arrangement now - we may try to get weekly access.

3) It is also an opportunity for local society members to get involved in the FHL indexing project. There may be many more volunteers now due to the loss of Ancestry access at the FHCs.

4) The real short-term beneficiary to this may be libraries that subscribe to HeritageQuestOnline. They may see a steady stream of new library card applications so that census access from home (albeit with limited indexing) can continue.

5) It will be interesting to see if this marketing move by will generate a groundswell of antagonism from FHC patrons.

Here in the San Diego area, the San Diego City Library and branches, Carlsbad Public Library and branches, and the Chula Vista Library and branches provide access at the libraries to Ancestry Library Edition. There are probably others - Escondido and El Cajon come to mind - but I'm not sure of them. Only Carlsbad Public Library offers HeritageQuestOnline. Many researchers all over the County have a Carlsbad library card - I've had one for four years.

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