Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Family Search Indexing article

Tim Agazio pointed out, and commented on, an article in today's issue of The Deseret News, from Salt Lake City, Utah. The article, by Susan Whitney, is titled "Another Revolution in Genealogy."

The article explains a bit more about the Family Search indexing project currently being performed by 25,000 volunteers to index the 5 billion documents on 2.5 million microfilms and 1.5 million microfiches in the Granite Mountain Vault (except for certain works with copyright protection).

Read the whole article. If you feel the "need to help" then go sign up to volunteer your services indexing records. They hope to have 100,000 volunteers by the end of 2007.

Tim rightly identifies this project as a vital part of the current revolution in genealogy research - the paradigm shift from static, paper based records (including on microfilm and microfiche) available only at repositories to digitized records available anywhere at anytime. The revolution started almost 20 years ago, and will continue - we can't stop it, and most of us don't want to! The next step in the revolution is collaboration within databases, as we discussed last week.

Tim wondered how the LDS digitizing and indexing project will affect the commercial genealogy services offered by Ancestry, GenealogyBank, WorldVitalRecords, Footnote, and others. My humble opinion is that the commercial services will survive - because many of them have unique records not available at the LDS Family History Library (e.g., obituaries, newspapers, documents, books, non-US records, etc). There are some duplications with the FHL (e.g., census records), but there are many other records that the FHL does not have. Some of the commercial sites have duplication resources also. However, the FHL has some absolutely unique records (for example, the probate, land, tax, church, town and other records on film and fiche) that would be difficult for the commercial services to match without a major collection effort.

Competition between the FHL and the commercial services, and between the commercial services, is beneficial to the end user - you and me and other genealogy researchers. Competition will spur each of them to continue to grow and offer more online genealogy resources.

There will always be many free records (LDS, Rootsweb, etc.) and many commercial records for genealogy researchers to find and use. The challenge will be how each of us, and our societies, can best use it to our own benefit.

We all would love to have everything freely accessible online, but that is not possible in every case - you can't digitize everything for free. I'm thankful that the LDS project is currently free, and hopefully it will remain free.

We also need to understand that not every record will be available online in the foreseeable future. There are literally shelf-miles of records at local courthouses, local societies and other repositories that have not been filmed, digitized or indexed. That's good - it's an opportunity for someone to do the job! And for each of us to find those golden nuggets that prove relationships before someone else finds it.

Frankly, I think that genealogy will be real boring if it is already done for me. I live for and love the hunt, the chase, the catch and the documenting (yep, probably the bragging too) ... I guess I'm kind of a latter-day ancestral hunter, eh? [OK, Randy, back to the Genea-Cave - don't come out until you calm down a bit.]


Tim Agazio said...

I'm like you, Randy. I live for the hunt...there are few things more satisfying than that eureka moment when you find that golden nugget after a long and complex search. Then it's on to the next one!

Miriam Robbins said...

Randy and Tim: I, too, love that "high" you get when you solve something, and even, on a deep level, enjoy those head-banging frustrating times when you can't seem to break through a brick wall. I guess I'm just a Nancy Drew at heart!