Wednesday, July 23, 2008

FamilySearch Update: 46 Million New Names and 1.2 Million New Images Added to Online Census Collections


Approximately 46.3 million new records and 1.2 million new images are now available on the Record Search pilot at pilot.familysearch.org. This brings the total number of names available on the test site to 467,180,871. Two new Records Access projects (1841 & 1861 England Census collections) were published with links to images on findmypast.com. This is important because it tests the pilot search engine’s capacity to ingest third party indexes and link to images hosted on affiliates’ sites. Such functionality enables FamilySearch to better fulfill its goal to increase access to more genealogical records faster for its users and members. Recent Records Access news announcements can be found at FamilySearch.org.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Commentary About FamilySearch Cooperative Project With Ancestry.com/The Generations Network


Commentary About FamilySearch Cooperative Project With Ancestry.com/The Generations Network by Dick Eastman
Today's announcement from FamilySearch, the genealogy department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and The Generations Network, owners of Ancestry.com, may be monumental for genealogists.

First of all, these two organizations are the biggest competitors in the arena of supplying information to genealogists. The two have not always agreed on various projects and goals in the past. In my mind, that's not surprising; I wouldn't expect a commercial corporation to have the same goals as a non-profit organization owned by a religion. The lack of agreement has created bits of friction from time to time, although the two organizations obviously do not discuss their differences in public.

I think today's announcement is great: these two powerhouse organizations have decided to work together, not on one project, but on many. Each brings certain strengths to the table, strengths that may complement the other's offerings perfectly or nearly perfectly.

Let's closely examine a few items in today's announcement.

First of all, let's examine the announcement that the two organizations will work together to improve their U.S. census records. First, it is no secret that the census images on Ancestry.com are lacking. In fact, when you stop to consider that those images were mostly scanned nearly ten years ago, using state-of-the-art technology available at that time, we shouldn't be surprised that the images are not perfect. The technology has improved a lot in ten years and images scanned today should be much better than those made ten years ago. After all, today's technology is better.

Next, it is always possible for any organization to go back and “scan it again” after a lapse of ten years. However, doing so is expensive. When trying to allocate the funds in this year's budget, any organization will be hard pressed to go back and “re-work” something already performed when there are new projects waiting to be done. After all, new projects are usually more successful financially than re-visiting old projects. The announcement shows that FamilySearch will be giving newer images to Ancestry.com essentially free of charge. Ancestry.com will have to spend some money integrating the new images into existing indexes but I bet the total cost will be a fraction of that of a total re-scan.

Next, the indexes will be merged. Nobody will remove any data but new information will be added to both sites. For an example, let's say that both sites contain indexes of a typical Irish neighborhood in a big city in the eastern U.S. One particular census page is difficult to read, perhaps the census enumerator had poor handwriting. One site may have indexed a family's surname as “Harrigan” while the other web site has it indexed as “Hannigan.” Which one is correct?

Who cares? Under the new system, that particular census entry will be indexed BOTH as “Hannigan” and as “Harrigan.” Anyone searching for “Harrigan” will find that entry as will anyone searching for “Hannigan.” This may not be a correction but it is very effective nonetheless. I think this is a great, low-cost solution.

The new indexes will also have more fields available for searching. You will now be able to search for names, as before, but also by ages, sex, marital status, and other fields that were not searchable before.

Finally, it should be noted that today's announcement is clearly labeled as work that will be accomplished in the future, not an announcement of work that has already been completed. The work will begin within a few days but will probably require at least two years to complete. We will see some improvements soon but not all the improvements will be online within the next few months. The first project will be improvement of the 1900 census images with other projects to follow soon after.

All in all, I am delighted to read today's announcement. Any time the two largest organizations in genealogy announce that they are working together to improve their products, the result is better information for all genealogists.

Posted by Dick Eastman on July 21, 2008 | Permalink

Monday, July 21, 2008

FamilySearch Teams with Footnote.com to Publish Historic Civil War Era Records


1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions Index are first projects
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—FamilySearch announced today its records access agreement with Footnote.com to publish two significant Civil War Era databases online—the 1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions Index. The two relevant collections will provide free online access to millions of names of individuals from the 1860 to 1865 period in the United States. The completed databases will expand FamilySearch’s growing, free U.S. Census collection online and Footnote’s Civil War Collection.

The censuses and Civil War pension files are the most used collections of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The 1860 census provides a snapshot of families living during the Civil War Era. The index to the Civil War pension applications allows searchers to quickly see if a Civil War veteran or his widow applied for a pension—which can lead to rich family history information contained in the original pension document.

Under the agreement, FamilySearch will provide the digital images of the original documents for the 1860 U.S. Census, and Footnote.com will provide the indexes to both the 1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions. FamilySearch plans to publish the indexes for both of these collections for free this year at FamilySearch.org. The images of the original documents will also be viewable at Footnote.com or accessed for free through the 4,500 FamilySearch family history centers located worldwide.

As segments of the collections are completed, users will be able to search them at http://pilot.familysearch.org/recordsearch.

Civil War Pensions Index
Ten percent (3 million) of the U.S. population served or fought in the U.S. Civil War, and 2 percent (620,000) died—more American casualties than The American Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. If soldiers or their families applied for a pension from the government, an index card for the pension application should exist.

The index also extends beyond the Civil War to include veterans who served between 1861 to 1917 in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, the Boxer Rebellion, and the regular establishment.

Each card usually lists the soldier's full name, rank, company and regiment, when he enlisted and discharged, and provides a certificate number required to order a copy of the original pension application from NARA. The completed index will allow users to search on a name, or browse by state, arm of service (infantry, cavalry, militia, etc.), regiment, and company to locate individual records.

1860 U.S. Census
The 1860 U.S. Census index will allow users to quickly search the names of 31 million people captured on the census. Additional information includes the age, sex, color, place of birth, and marriage status. Slave schedules show the name of the slave owner, number of slaves owned, number of freed slaves, and the age, color, and gender of the slaves. The names of the slaves were not included in the 1860 Census.

“These record collections provide a valuable view of America during a critical time in its history,” said Russ Wilding, CEO of Footnote.com. “Together with the other Civil War documents on Footnote.com, visitors are able to piece together a picture of our history that few have seen before.”

Ransom Love, director of Strategic Relationships for FamilySearch, added, “Footnote is targeting U.S. historical records and building their Civil War Collection. FamilySearch wants to provide free indexes to all of the U.S. Censuses online. This joint project helps bring both companies closer to their respective goals.”

For further information, please contact:

Paul Nauta
FamilySearch Public Affairs
nautapg@familysearch.org

Justin Schropfer
Justin@footnote.com
Footnote Director of Marketing

About FamilySearch
FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at FamilySearch.org or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.

About Footnote
Footnote.com is a subscription website that features searchable original documents, providing users with an unaltered view of the events, places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At Footnote.com, all are invited to come share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit www.footnote.com.

FamilySearch and Ancestry.com Team to Publish New Images and Enhanced Indexes to the U.S. Censuses


FamilySearch and Ancestry.com Team to Publish New Images and Enhanced Indexes to the U.S. Censuses
21 July 2008
New 1900 census images now available on Ancestry.com
Volunteer indexers sought to improve the 1920 U.S. census index
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Ancestry.com and FamilySearch, the two largest online family history resources, announced today they will exchange records and resources to make more historical records available online. The first project is a joint initiative to significantly enhance the online U.S. Federal Census Collection (1790 to 1930). The original census records are among the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

FamilySearch is digitally converting master microfilm copies of the original U.S. Federal Censuses from 1790 through 1930 and, under this agreement, will give these improved images to Ancestry.com. All census images and indexes will be available on Ancestry.com for subscribers. As projects are completed, images will be available for free in NARA reading rooms and FamilySearch's 4,500 Family History Centers.

Ancestry.com, which currently offers indexes and images to the entire publicly available U.S. Federal Census Collection, will give FamilySearch copies of its existing census indexes. Through its online indexing system and community of volunteer indexers, FamilySearch is already indexing select censuses. FamilySearch will merge the Ancestry.com indexes with the new FamilySearch indexes to create enhanced census indexes, which will be added to both sites. Indexes to the enhanced censuses will be free on Ancestry.com for a limited time as they are completed. Indexes will also be available for free on FamilySearch.org.

Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, welcomed this agreement as a significant benefit for researchers. He remarked that, "Census records are among the most important documents the American people have to trace their genealogy and know their family history. Having two of our partners working together to enhance the indexes and images of these essential documents will enable an unprecedented level of access and understanding."

The first census exchanged is the 1900 U.S. Census. FamilySearch completed a 1900 index in addition to Ancestry.com's original. In the new index, FamilySearch added several new fields of searchable data, such as birth month and birth year, so individuals can search for ancestors more easily. The two indexes will be merged into an enhanced index, available on both sites. The new 1900 census images are now available on Ancestry.com. The enhanced 1900 index will be available for free for a limited time at Ancestry.com and ongoing at FamilySearch.org.

Ancestry.com will also provide FamilySearch its original 1920 U.S. Census index. Using the Ancestry.com index as a first transcription, FamilySearch will create a new second index with added fields and arbitrate any discrepancies between the two indexes. The 1920 project is currently in progress. Individuals interested in helping create the improved index can volunteer at FamilySearch.org. Once completed, the enhanced 1920 index will be available on both sites and will link back to images on Ancestry.com.

The 1850 through 1870 (partial) and 1880 and 1900 U.S. Censuses can be searched currently at FamilySearch.org; all publicly available U.S. Censuses are already available on Ancestry.com.

Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of Ancestry.com, said, "This collaboration represents a significant step forward in making family history research more accessible. The enhanced U.S. Federal Census Collection that will become available through this agreement is a gold mine for family history researchers, and we look forward to collaborating with FamilySearch in identifying other opportunities to help people discover their roots."

"The U.S. Censuses are arguably the most important collection of U.S. genealogical records. FamilySearch is excited to see the complete, improved indexes of these collections freely available online over the next two years. And we look forward to working with Ancestry.com to enhance access to additional, significant collections in the future," said Jay Verkler, Managing Director for FamilySearch.

Media Contacts:
Paul Nauta
FamilySearch Public Affairs Manager
nautapg@familysearch.org

Suzanne Bonner
Sr. PR Manager, Ancestry.com
801-705-7873
sbonner@tgn.com

About FamilySearch
FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at FamilySearch.org or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.

About Ancestry.com
With 26,000 searchable databases and titles and nearly 3 million active users, Ancestry.com is the No. 1 online source for family history information. Since its launch in 1997, Ancestry.com has been the premier resource for family history, simplifying genealogical research for millions of people by providing them with many easy-to-use tools and resources to build their own unique family trees. Ancestry.com is part of The Generations Network, Inc., a leading network of family-focused interactive properties, including http://www.myfamily.com/, http://www.rootsweb.com/, http://www.genealogy.com/ and Family Tree Maker. In total, The Generations Network properties receive nearly 8.5 million unique visitors worldwide. (© comScore Media Metrix, March 2008). To easily begin researching your family history, visit http://www.ancestry.com/.

FamilySearch Teams with findmypast.com and Others to Broaden Access to All Censuses for England and Wales


Online volunteer indexers sought to improve select collections
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—FamilySearch announced today that it is joining forces with findmypast.com, The Origins Network, and Intelligent Image Management—companies that specialize in providing online access to British family history resources—to make significant British historical record collections more broadly available online. The first joint initiative seeks to publish online indexes to censuses for England and Wales from 1841 to 1901. The 1841 and 1861 Census indexes are the first targeted under the agreement and are accessible now at FamilySearch.org and findmypast.com.

In the agreement, FamilySearch, in conjunction with The Origins Network, will provide digital images for the 1851, 1871, and 1881 Censuses. It will also extend the 1871 Census index. Findmypast.com will provide FamilySearch copies of its English and Welsh Census indexes from 1841 to 1901. The Federation of Family History Societies will help complete the index for the 1851 Census.

Initially, users of FamilySearch.org will be able to do a free search by record type, given name, surname, age, gender, place of birth, and relationship to head of household (relationship was not recorded in the 1841 Census). The free search capability at FamilySearch.org will include additional fields of data in the future. Users will be able to search the full indexes and view original images for free at FamilySearch's 4,500 Family History Centers or for a nominal fee at findmypast.com.

The addition of findmypast.com's English and Welsh Census Collections to FamilySearch's online databases will increase the use of the valuable record sets and increase traffic to findmypast.com.

Jay L. Verkler, Managing Director for FamilySearch, said, "The new images and additional information provided by FamilySearch will significantly enhance and improve the overall English and Welsh Census collection. And its addition to FamilySearch.org will increase awareness of the rich Web resources of FamilySearch affiliates and the likelihood of success for FamilySearch.org patrons doing British research."

Elaine Collins, Commercial Director at findmypast.com, commented, "Findmypast.com is delighted to be working with FamilySearch to launch the British Census Collection online. Censuses are the core building blocks for family historians and genealogists alike, and now, at last, here is the definitive version. This has been a very exciting project for us, and we look forward to collaborating with FamilySearch in the future to bring other important collections to an ever wider international audience."

FamilySearch will utilize its impressive online community of volunteer indexers to add more fields of data to select censuses. When finished, the improved census indexes will be available on FamilySearch.org, findmypast.com, and Originsnetwork.com. Individuals interested in volunteering as online indexers for British historical projects can do so at FamilySearch.org.

Ian Galbraith, CEO of The Origins Network and Upal Rahman, President of Intelligent Image Management (IIM) Inc. said, "The FamilySearch England and Wales Census project is clearly a milestone initiative in the history of genealogical research. It heralds a new era of easier accessibility to a mountain (literally!) of genealogical material available hitherto only to the privileged few, if at all. We are delighted to be working with FamilySearch and proud that they have chosen for the FamilySearch Website the 1841 and 1871 UK censuses—the most accurate available—which The Origins Network and IIM jointly developed."

Media Contacts:
Paul Nauta
FamilySearch Public Affairs Manager
nautapg@familysearch.org

About FamilySearch
FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at FamilySearch.org or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.

About findmypast.com
Findmypast.com is the leading UK family history Website (formerly 1837online.com) and has been instrumental in creating the widespread and growing interest in genealogy seen in the UK today. It has 800,000 active registered users, millions of historic document images, and 600 million records online dating back to 1538. The comprehensive collections include military records, census, migration, occupation directories, current electoral roll data, birth, marriage, and death indexes.

It manages the ancestorsonboard.com Website for The National Archives of the United Kingdom and offers a range of online tools to help people discover and share their family history more easily. Findmypast.com's parent company is brightsolid (formerly Scotland Online).

About Intelligent Image Management, Inc (IIM)
Intelligent Image Management, Inc., helps companies of all sizes reduce the challenges and high costs of managing data processing and other labor-intensive, back-office operations. It has a proven track record of delivering accurate, reliable offshore outsourcing operations, for a growing list of leading global firms and growing enterprises. It has delivered superior results for highly demanding clients in a wide variety of industries since 1996. IIM has 1400 dedicated full-time employees and is comprised of privately owned companies in the U.S., India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. All onshore and offshore companies are 100 percent owned.