Thursday, August 16, 2007

FamilySearch "Records Access Genesis Project"

Dick Eastman has a fascinating post about FamilySearch's "Records Access Genesis Project" Request for Information. I searched the Genealogy Society of Utah web site for a mention of it, but could not find it yet.

This RFI (70 pages, but Dick provides only a bit of it) reveals more of the "grand strategy" of the LDS and GSU concerning expanded access to records - both those controlled by the GSU and those not yet digitized by the GSU or by any other provider (e.g., a commercial company, a society, etc.).

The important RFI paragraphs for researchers are:

"The FamilySearch Records Access program provides personnel and state-of-the-art digital cameras, software, and web-based applications to assist record custodians who wish to digitize, index, publish, or preserve parts of their collections.

"For archives and heritage societies, the Records Access program benefits include:
* Digitally capture, preserve, and publish records online
* Increase access to records while maintaining control and ownership
* Increase patronage and business viability
* Over 100 years of archival and publishing experience

"For service providers, the Records Access program helps them:
* Benefit from the knowledge and relationships of FamilySearch with the archival community worldwide
* Significantly lower costs associated with acquiring, preserving, or providing access to data
* Increase business viability and website traffic
* Leverage an open platform that develops value-added services around

FamilySearch, the world's largest repository of genealogical data"

Dick Eastman summarized the records that the GSU was interested in digitizing:

"The full RFI also specifies record sets of current interest to FamilySearch, including U.S. census records; census records from England and Wales; U.S. County Wills; U.S. County Estate Files; U.S. County Deeds; U.S. Church Records; Spain Parish Registers; Southern Poland Catholic Parish Registers; Southern Poland Lutheran Parish Registers; Germany, Bavaria, Brenner Genealogy Collection; Italy Parish Registers; Portugal Church and Civil Registration; Ukraine L'viv Greek Catholic Church Records; Ukraine L'viv Roman Catholic Church Records; Hungary Civil Registration; Germany NARA SS Genealogy Collection; Denmark Civil Registration of Marriages and more. In addition, FamilySearch will consider publishing other records as suggested by service providers."

Read all of Dick Eastman's blog post - he comments that "we are all at the 'second dawn' of online genealogy information."

I agree completely with Dick's opinion on this, and really appreciate his commenting on the RFI rather than just "passing it along." I also look forward to reaping the research benefits of this effort by the LDS/GSU/FHL/FamilySearch to provide images of original records to researchers for free - even if we have to go to an FHC to see them and capture them. I just hope that I live long enough to enjoy it!

Note that even when all of this information is available in digital format that researchers will still need to go to the local or regional repositories, the local genealogy and historical societies, and the local courthouses. Why? Because even this ambitious Project will not capture ALL of the available records. For instance, probate records on FHL microfilms in many counties are available only into the early 1900's. Where are we going to find the records for the late 1900's? In the repositories - until the LDS/FHL/GSU microfilm or digitize them.

In the big picture of the genealogy world - who do you think is going to be the #1 genealogy data provider in the future? The race is on - and all researchers will benefit.

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