Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SDGS 9 October Seminar - Part 2:

The first part of this summary was in SDGS 9 October Seminar Summary - Part 1: National Archives

In the afternoon sessions, Peter Drinkwater of demonstrated the holdings and capabilities of, a commercial website with historical documents digitized and indexed. A subscriber (retail $79.95 yearly subscription, with a special conference price at can access 70 million documents – including Census records, Vital records, Military records, State papers, Naturalization records, Historic Newspapers, City Directories, FBI files and many more. For instance. the site has the full file for all of the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Files. It has a number of big city directories up to 1923 (but not San Diego), and several long runs of some historical newspapers, such as the San Francisco Chronicle. The directories and newspapers are indexed using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and every name is not indexed.

Registered users can search the holdings for free, but the user must be a subscriber to see the document images. There are several free databases such as the Pennsylvania Archives and the Social Security Death Index.

\Peter recommended clicking on the “Take a Tour” link on the home page to familiarize yourself with the website and the holdings. There are a number of Projects on the site that access specific record groups – examples are Civil War, World War II, Viet Nam Wall, the Holocaust, Black History, etc.

The user can search for keywords or for a specific name from the home page. The user can also Browse the collections, drilling down to a specific collection or database before searching for a name. This is especially useful in the City Directories and Historic Newspapers where a specific year, and even page, can be searched. In the Search results, the user can refine the search by choosing one of the other indexed parameters (e.g., state, county, age, birthplace, etc.) in order to find a specific record. The search supports wild card use for names and Boolean searches.

When the user selects an image to view, the Footnote Image Viewer is used to manipulate the image (zoom, rotate, full screen) and navigation from one page to another uses left and right arrows and a filmstrip at the bottom of the image. Source information about every image can be obtained using a menu tab. The user can share (via email), download (to his computer), print out, comment on the image, annotate the image, connect to other people, or spotlight the image to all Footnote users.

While has no family trees online, registered users can create Footnote Pages for any number of persons. permits the user to select a person in the 1930 Census, the Social Security Death Index or the World War II Army Enlistment Records and add content to the Footnote Page for that person. Vital records, life stories, family photographs, documents, links to web sites and more items can be included in Footnote Pages. They are free for a registered user to create and to access, and show up in a Google search for the person’s name.

The day ended with the opportunity drawings for a book, software and two subscriptions.

This was an educational and rewarding day for the genealogy researchers in attendance. Everybody understands better the breadth and depth of the records at the National Archives, and how to access them either online or at a NARA branch., since they are partnered with NARA, is one of the best online sites to find the fraction of NARA records that have been digitized.

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