Sorry for the large gap. I’m in the process of doing some experimental performance of this site which has demanded much of my attention in the past couple of weeks. Finally, though, here are the FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com Updates and Additions to October 14, 2014.
FamilySearch.org Updates and Additions
FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com Updates and Additions.
Ideally, I’d like to see an open and free exchange of genealogical data.
I’ve long been a proponent of the open and free exchange of genealogy data to ensure ready access to information for everyone researching their family history.
This morning, however, I read “Cooperation Makes Records Available for Free” at FamilySearch.org and it made me think.
As much as I’d like all genealogical data to be free, I can understand someone wishing to recover their costs of researching the data.
Database profile for Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky, including references to numerous images, documents and sources. (Click on the image to see in full size.)
Although the costs of genealogy research have reduced considerably over the past two decades due to computers and the increasing availability of records, images and data online, we’re seeing a correlating increase in sites online offering valuable data for a fee of some kind, making free data harder to find.
FamilySearch.org is one of the few sites still offering data for free.
In my case, ALL of my data (including images, sources and documents) is available online for free download. I do not charge for anything. I do, however, make revenue from ad clicks and sponsored posts on my sites. The end result is that, at least at present, I can offer all of my data for free as the ads pay for the upkeep and maintenance of my sites – for the most part.
There is a delicate balance here, though. As long as I can afford to offer this information free of charge it will remain so. If there comes a point where I have to recover my costs, I will have to either charge for downloads or remove the site from the internet altogether. Rest assured that this is not anywhere in the foreseeable future.
I’ve also seen a marked increase in the amount of personal genealogy data online that is ‘locked’ or marked ‘private’. I have contacted the owners of such data and in most cases they have been very forthcoming and willing to exchange information. In a few cases, however, the owner can be very protective of their data and will not make it available. Luckily, these appear to be few and far between at present.
I welcome the exchange of data offered by anyone doing genealogy research. It is important that this information remain available. One caveat, however, is to ALWAYS categorize the data as it appears when received. If there are no sources attached, it is questionable at best and it is important to use this information as ‘clues’ to further finds. Do not take this information at face value.
I have a very large database and about half of the data is sourced, while about half is not. I am constantly actively seeking and adding sources to prove the data.
I have received some criticism for this. One researcher contacted me about a particular line of information because it was claimed I had a place name incorrect. Little did this person know I had lived in the area for 21 years and knew it very well. To say this person was hostile is putting it mildly. I couldn’t believe it when it was demanded that I remove the lines pertaining to HER RESEARCH as she was the researcher of this family and I had no business researching it since our connection was only by remarriage, adoption and the birth of half-siblings. She also demanded that I remove anything that was not sourced or proven. To do as she demanded would break up lines and create gaps, leaving me without clues to search for sources to prove the information I do have and fill the gaps.
As I stated above, a good portion of my data is accumulated through free exchange of information, including the import of gedcoms of other peoples’ research. The sources (or lack thereof) remain as they have cited them, but I do search for actual copies of listed sources to attach where possible. I leave unsourced data as I receive it until I can research it further and I categorize any sources I have confirmed or added.
It is important to realize that cooperation and goodwill among researchers is essential to keeping the lines of communication and free flow of information open. Once we start becoming territorial and protective of our data, we contribute to the scarcity of information and increased costs for all.
Again, although such data can be invaluable as clues to further research, it is important to note that all sources are only as good as the attachments and assessed quality.
After almost twenty years of genealogy research, there are certain sites that have become my ‘go to’ sites for certain aspects of my genealogy research. I thought it might be helpful for me to post my list of my top ten genealogy and ancestry websites.
Internet Archive Search
I have also included a description of the reasons why these sites have proved invaluable to me. If you’re looking for information in these areas, be sure to check out these sites.
The headings are links to the sites described and paid sites are indicated by ($) following the heading.
Maintained and updated by the LDS (Latterday Saints) Church, this site has been invaluable for all of my time researching my family’s genealogy. In the past few years in particular, the databases have expanded substantially as the LDS organization works to digitize more and more information. Recently, the search feature has become much more effective and accurate. No matter what country, region or time frame you are researching, this is a wonderful site. Best of all, it is free.
Ancestry.com is a favorite for all of the reasons listed for FamilySearch.org, the only difference being that a paid subscription is required. Although I do use Ancestry.com a great deal, I plan my research so I don’t have to remain subscribed all of the time. As I research and find gaps, I keep a ‘to do’ list and when it is large enough to warrant the cost, I will subscribe for as long as I think is necessary, tackle my list, and cancel the subscription when I have completed my list. It has been almost a year since I last subscribed because I’ve been finding a substantial amount of information elsewhere. I am due to subscribe pretty soon to tackle my current ‘to do’ list.
If you’re looking for one paid site that provides extensive data from around the world, this is the one.
Cyndi’s List is the largest site that offers extensive links to genealogy sites and resources on the internet. Cyndi has worked tirelessly for decades creating this site of over 300,000 links – sorted, categorized and constantly updated to maintain currency and functionality.
Recently, however, Cyndi’s List has been the target of a hacker who stole her entire site, making minor changes to ‘make it their own’ and attempting to divert revenue to themselves. Be sure the site you’re visiting is actually Cyndi’s List and help protect her extensive investment and our valuable resource.
Olive Tree Genealogy is an extensive portal of links to valuable data and genealogy research information around the world. Although I do find this site somewhat confusing and difficult to navigate, my investment of time and effort has proved valuable as I have found wonderful, obscure data that I was unable to find elsewhere.
You should have seen my surprise when my husband’s ancestry connected directly to nobles and royalty in the medieval period. For the longest time this was a vast brick wall for me as there is very little quality data available online for researching this time.
I can’t remember how I found this site, but it’s an amazing resource as it’s extensively researched and sourced. The sources are described in detail and where there are questions about the data, they make it clear so we can note these gaps and questions in our own research. Where they have drawn conclusions from the existing evidence they examine the evidence and describe their conclusions.
This is another well researched site about royal genealogy from the University of Hull in England that also covers the medieval period, but they are not as clear about the quality of their sources, the evidence they’ve used to form their conclusions and the reasons they formed the conclusions leading to the published genealogy.
Besides finding and sourcing dates and events, I also enjoy finding the details of the lives of our ancestors through written accounts. Access to these publications has helped immensely with writing this blog by enabling me to understand the circumstances and times in which our ancestors lived.
Internet Archive tops Google E-Books on this list because it is totally free.
Google E-Books is essentially a site offering paid and free access to public domain written materials and books with a very accurate, intuitive search feature. If you use the link in the heading, however, it is possible to search only titles available for free access and download. To find free titles, be sure to check ‘Full View’ when conducting a search.
This is a free site offered by Ancestry.com. It’s a valuable resource for providing free access to user input data and family trees. Although I don’t entirely trust the data offered on this site for the simple reason that it is made up from ‘user input’, it has been very valuable to me when encountering those frustrating brick walls. I use the information here as ‘clues’ which have helped me break through those brick walls.
This data is recognizable in my Blythe Database because I do not enter sources or indicate very poor quality sources. Those using my database should interpret these facts as questionable at best.
Press Release: Massive Online US Obituaries Project Will Help Find Your Ancestors
October 1, 2014
US obituary project to be made searchable online.
Volunteers making over a billion names from US death records searchable online.
Salt Lake City, Utah —October 1, 2014
In celebration of Family History Month, FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank (GenealogyBank.com) today announced an agreement to make over a billion records from historical obituaries searchable online. It will be the largest—and perhaps most significant—online US historic records access initiative yet. It will take tens of thousands of online volunteers to make GenealogyBank’s vast U.S. obituary collection more discoverable online. Find out more at FamilySearch.org/Campaign/Obituaries.
The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million US newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to present. The completed online index will be fairly comprehensive, including 85% of U.S. deaths from the last decade alone. The death collection will easily become one of the most popular online genealogy databases ever, detailing names, dates, relationships, locations of the deceased, and multi-generational family members.
Family history information from obituaries are being indexed by volunteers and made searchable online.
Obituaries can solve family puzzles, tell stories, dispel myths, and provide tremendous help with family history research. A single obituary can include the names and relationships of dozens of family members. For example, Alice E. Cummings’ obituary (See above) sheds light on where she lived during her lifespan, her personal history, and it provides information connecting five generations of ancestors and descendants in her family tree—14 people in all.
Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch, explained that obituaries are extremely valuable because they tell the stories of our ancestors’ lives long after they are deceased. He invites online volunteers to help unlock the “treasure trove” of precious family information locked away in newspaper obituaries.
“Billions of records exist in US obituaries alone,” Brimhall said. “The average obituary contains the names of about ten family members of the deceased—parents, spouse, children, and other relatives. Some include much more. Making them easily searchable online creates an enormously important source for compiling our family histories. The number of people who will benefit from this joint initiative is incalculable.”
GenealogyBank has over 6,500 historical U.S. newspapers and growing, spanning over 280 years. The death notices in these publications go beyond names and dates. They can provide insightful first-hand accounts about an ancestor that simply are not available from censuses or vital records alone.
“Obituaries, unlike any other resource, have the ability to add incredible dimensions to an individual’s family history research. They contain a wealth of information including facts and details that help capture the legacy of those who have passed on,” said Dan V. Jones, GenealogyBank Vice President. “The unique life stories written, dates documented, and generations of family members mentioned are often only found within an obituary, which makes them such an invaluable resource. Obituaries have the unique power to both tell a story and enable individuals to learn more about their family relationships. GenealogyBank is proud and excited to partner with FamilySearch in bringing these obituaries to researchers all over the world.”
Volunteers Are Key
The success of the massive US obituary campaign will depend on online volunteers. The obituaries are fairly simple to read, since they are digital images of the typeset, printed originals, but require human judgment to sort through the rich, historic data and family relationships recorded about each person. Information about online volunteering is available at FamilySearch.org/indexing. A training video, indexing guide, detailed instructions, telephone and online support are available to help new volunteer indexers if needed.
FamilySearch.org volunteers have already indexed over one billion historic records online since 2006, including all of the available U.S. Censuses, 1790 to 1940. In 2012 volunteers rallied in a record-breaking effort to index the entire 1940 U.S. Census in just four months. Today, the US censuses, 1790 to 1940, are the most popular online databases for family history research. Indexed obituary collections can be searched online at FamilySearch.org and GenealogyBank.com.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
GenealogyBank.com is one of the largest exclusive collections of newspapers and historical documents for family history research. It provides information on millions of American families from 1690–today. Over 6,500 newspapers provide first-hand accounts of your ancestors’ lives that simply can’t be found in other genealogy resources: obituaries, birth and marriage notices, photographs, hometown news and more. Over 380,000 historical books and documents from 1749-1994 include military records, widow’s claims, orphan petitions, land grants, casualty lists, funeral sermons, biographies and much more. Discover the stories, names, dates, places and events that have shaped your family story at GenealogyBank.com.