Friday, November 22, 2013

Genealogist Beware: DeathRecords.org is a Commercial Site

Dick Eastman posted "New Web Site: DeathRecords.org to Help Automate Genealogical Research" today on the Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter blog.

I was curious so I clicked through to see if it was worthwhile to explore further:

Here is the home page:


I put Isaac Seaver's name in the fields and clicked on "Search Now."

A popup window appeared that said they have access to over 500 million records nationwide, and my search found "over 75" records for Isaac Seaver in the United States.


I clicked the blue "Continue" button and saw essentially the same message:


I clicked the "Continue" button and the order form popped up:


So it looks like I can enter my personal information and my credit card information, and for only one dollar ($1) they will provide a report with all of the information they found, presumably via email.  You can also subscribe for a year at $18.95 per month for up to 25 monthly reports.

Most search requests with even uncommon names return "75 records."  

A search for "Joseph Zxcvbadfas" returns 75 records.  A Google search returns zero matches, an Ancestry.com search returns zero matches or familySearch.org search returns zero matches.

More questions:

*  Will I get only the first 75 records?

*  Can they find my particular John Smith who died in 1675 in Massachusetts?  Or is it just recent records (20th century or later)?

*  Are they only "death records" from some resource?  Or are there other records also?

*  Why can't I input more information, like a place name or a year (or year range) in order to narrow the search?

*  What resources does this web site access?  The site provides no list of resources.

*  How does this "automate" my genealogy search?  Does it give me green leaf hints, or suggested record matches, or add facts to my RootsMagic program?  No, it probably gives me a list of names and other information that I would have to manually enter into my database if they apply to my person.

The "About Us" link indicated that this is really an obituary lookup service.  Does it access only free publicly available databases (like the Rootsweb Obituary Daily Times?)?

Back on the home page, there was a link for a 24/7 Live Chat link, so I engaged that and discussed the resources with "Harry" (which doesn't match the picture of the pretty woman on the chat box):


Here is the conversation I had with "Harry:"

Please wait for a site operator to respond.
You are now chatting with 'Harry'
Harry: Welcome to Customer Service Livechat. In order to pull up your account, could you please provide me the email address, full name and zip code you used to order our services?
you: I don't have an account yet. How extensive are your resources? Is there a list of the resources you use to search for death records?
Harry: Our reports are generated from several databases and we provide all the information available.
you: do I get charged if you don't find anything?
Harry: We offer 100% Money back. If you don't find anything then you can contact us and ask for refund.
you: other websites tell me what resources they use. Do you check Ancestry.com or genealogyBank.com or NewspaperARCHIVE.com or Archives.com or the California Death Index or the Social Security Master Death File?
Harry: Like I said our reports are generated from several databases and we provide all the information available.
you: surely you have a list of all of your databases. Why won't you provide a listing of them?
Harry: I am sorry but I don't have that information.
you: OK, thanks for your help.
Harry: Thanks for chatting. Have a great day.

OK, so I found out that Harry doesn't know what resources they have.  Most genealogy websites tell you, even boast about, their resources.  This site doesn't.

At least the price is relatively low for a "death record."  I resisted the temptation to see what $1 would buy me to find out about Isaac Seaver.

This is a commercial web site for obituary lookups.  The primary market is probably the public who are not genealogists and want to see when their friend or relative died.  But it's probably not a fraud site - it will probably return 75 matches in response to a request and the payment.

In my humble opinion, other websites with more resources are available for genealogy researchers, and many of them are free to use.

Genealogists beware...

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2013/11/genealogist-beware-deathrecordsorg-is.html

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

10 comments:

Thomas MacEntee said...

Sounds a lot like Genealogy.us.org which you posted about in January http://www.geneamusings.com/2013/01/genealogist-beware-checking-out.html - the whole $1 thing is dubious.

Maura van der Linden said...

I tried it just to see what I would get. My unusual relative name search got me the same 75 matches, then I paid and I got one result. No displays of the supposed records to choose from, just the one record. The record contained no real details, no solid information.

I got probably 5 screens of prompting about their "live chat" and how to call them if I didn't get the record I wanted.

Crappy user experience and looks pretty worthless. I think I'd stick it in the same category as the websites for (paid) public records look ups.

goneresearching said...

Maura

Keep an eye on your credit card or paypal that you used to make sure they don't continue to bill your account.

Best advice we received quite a while ago when trying to cancel earthlink, aol or similar internet billing is call your credit card company and put a watch (I forget the correct term) on your account for any further charges from that service. Card company usually asks for confirmation of cancellation you received from the biller.

Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy, the website whois.net shows that the deathrecords.org website is owned by CISnationwide.com, with CIS being an acronym for Complete Investigation Services. Their parent company is CISworldwideonline.com. There are several complaints about the company and its variants in a website called Ripoffreport.org, primarily referencing "bait and switch" tactics. Your instincts and observations are right on target. (With much respect to you, I'm posting as anonymous because of my job.)

Andrea said...

Thanks for the solid job you did checking out this new site. I'm staying away from it and keeping my wallet closed! It's always a pleasure to read your posts testing/investigating new sites as well as features on familiar genealogy sites.

Geolover said...

That's a very practical warning, Randy.

Do you think the site is all that different from the growing number that are aggregators of others' indexes? Some provide ready ways to see lists of these index databases, but not necessarily up-front presentation of what the sources are. The growing number of provider co-operation agreements is, for me, confusing the matter of what exactly a "database" is. And there is a tendency to call such index entries "records" when the site does not provide access to actual documents/images.

Barbara said...

I cannot find Dick Eastman's blog announcing this site. Maybe he removed it from his site, but in the title you posted it is "Deathrecords.org" not the site you accessed (Deathreports.org). Are they owned by the same company?

Randy Seaver said...

Barbara, thanks for finding my "fatal flaw" in this post. Because I used the wrong URL, I found the one I found. You're right, it should have been Deathrecords.org, not Deathreports.org.

I'll edit and fix the post here, including the title! And report on DeathRecords.org too in a separate post.

Sharon said...

There is nothing wrong with being "a commercial site." Ancestry, Amazon, and Facebook are all commercial sites. Even NARA sells stuff. What genealogists should beware of are sites that are a rip-off or misrepresent themselves.

Barbara said...

Randy, Really doesn't matter which one you cited. They both look fishy to me! I love that you called them and tried to get them to give you info. I do that with phone phishing scams and they usually hang up on me.