Monday, October 16, 2006

FamilySearch and Ancestry - what is coming?

After I posted yesterday about the new Ancestry Member Trees database, I got to thinking - I remembered hearing something very similar from the LDS/FHL/FamilySearch earlier this month - see the discussion of the Deseret News article here.

The new and improved Ancestry and Family Search user-submitted databases sound almost the same, don't they?

Then I thought about the LDS/FHL/FamilySearch announcement several months ago about digitizing the images on all the microfilms and microfiches that are in the LDS vaults, which are accessible through the Family History Library or rental at Family History Centers. The questions I have about the LDS/FHL digitizing include:

1) Census records? American, Canadian, British? Every name index, linked to the images?
2) Vital records? Every name indexed? Only those already filmed?
3) Land, tax and probate records? Every name indexed (or just the grantor, grantee, testator)? Only those already filmed?
4) Newspaper records? Every name indexed? Which ones - only those already filmed?
5) Military records? Every name indexed, or only the soldier/sailor? Only the ones already filmed? Linked to images? All pages of RevWar pension files?
6) Bible records, personal records, manuscripts, church records? Many are on film or fiche.
7) Immigration, passenger lists, naturalization records, etc? Indexed? Linked?
8) Town records, County records, state records? Indexed? Linked?

I've left out quite a few subject areas in my list above, but you get the idea.

If the LDS/FHL digitized and indexed all of the data on the films and fiches, wouldn't that be essentially most of what Ancestry currently has online for a subscription? I assume that Ancestry won't sit still while this happens...perhaps they would concentrate on records not already filmed by the LDS/FHL but are in the public domain.

I'm just a researcher, and a fairly satisfied user of the LDS/FHL films and fiches, the site, and I look forward to having more documents online and the search process being easier. However, I'm fairly sure that the problems observed on Ancestry and HQO with reading handwriting, transcribing and indexing will remain in all digital databases.

The research resources, and the tools we use to access them, will change over time, and researchers will have to adapt to the new resources and methods. One of my favorite sayings is that "Not all change is progress, but progress only happens through change."

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