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Friday, May 29, 2009

Want to know something? Want to know anyting? Everything?

Now you can know everything, theoretically speaking. All you have to do is go to the U.S. Government's new Data.gov Website. Although the site is very new and still hasn't gotten ALL of the information available from the Government, it is a start in that direction. As the Website states:
The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
The Government goes on to say:
Data.gov includes searchable catalogs that provide access to "raw" datasets and various tools. In the "raw" data catalog, you may access data in XML, Text/CSV, KML/KMZ, Feeds, XLS, or ESRI Shapefile formats. The catalog of tools links you to sites that include data mining and extraction tools and widgets. Datasets and tools available on Data.gov are searchable by category, agency, keyword, and/or data format. Once in the catalog, click on the "name" (i.e, the name of the dataset or tool of interest) and you will be taken to a page with more details and metadata on that specific dataset or tool. Please note that by accessing datasets or tools offered on Data.gov, you agree to the Data Policy, which you should read before accessing any data. If there are additional datasets that you would like to see included on this site, please suggest more datasets here. For more information on how to use Data.gov.
Even though most of the data is in "raw" format, there are links to the agency Websites with charts and graphs and tables enough to warm a researcher's heart. Of course, all of the information was previously available in some format somewhere in a file cabinet in a government office, but now there is a commitment to make the data available to all on the Internet.

Of what use is all this to family historians and genealogists? Just try some of the searches on for size; one link takes you to the National Center for Health Statistics and the 1990 to 2006 Perinatal Mortality tables. Time will tell, but it looks like this is a major new source of information about all things coming out of the government.

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