RootsTech 2015

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Comments on 8 billion records on Ancestry.com

In a recent blog post, The Ancestry Insider noted that Ancestry.com past the 8 billion (with a "b") record mark. As of May 31, 2009, the Earth's population is estimated by the United States Census Bureau to be 6,783,421,727. Wikipedia. However, that doesn't mean that Ancestry.com has a record for every person on the earth, but it is impressive that it has more records than there are people living. Despite that huge number, it is still possible that you will not find anything in the entire database about any one specific individual. It also means that many people have multiple records, probably some have hundreds or more records. I would assume from the large number, that Ancestry.com counts every page of every type of record as a separate "record." So, for example, every page of the U.S. Census is another record.

Ancestry.com is always one of the first places I go to look for records for someone who has done little or no family history work. When Ancestry.com has the scanned records, such as the U.S. Census and World War I Draft Records, the site is extremely helpful. The images often provide much more information than the indexes. However, in some instances, when there are only indexes, the records are sometimes not so useful. Without viewing the original documents to compare to the record transcribed into Ancestry.com, I hesitate to rely on the accuracy of the transcribers. I have probably spent more time on Ancestry.com than any other online database, but I still find that there is no excuse for viewing original records that have yet to be incorporated into Ancestry.com's huge resource.

I also do a significant amount of work in Spanish. I find that Ancestry.com has few records that assist in basic Spanish research. For example the 1790 California Census is available only as an index, Ancestry.com refers users to the microfilm. Quoting Ancestry.com
All available census schedules, from 1790 to 1920, have been microfilmed and are available at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., at the National Archives' regional archives in twelve states, at the LDS Family History Library and LDS family history centers throughout North America, at many large libraries, and through microfilm lending companies. Some state and local agencies may have census schedules only for the state or area served.
8 billion records is very impressive. At some point, however, I think they may need to beef up their search engine to give a broader finding capability. All said and done, Ancestry.com is a modern wonder of the computer world.

1 comment:

  1. You wrote:

    "Without viewing the original documents to compare to the record transcribed into Ancestry.com, I hesitate to rely on the accuracy of the transcribers."

    I can second that. I was using Ancestry.com Library Edition at my local public library, researching my great-grandfather Oscar Merry Packard. A search on his name yielded many links to index entries and transcriptions (of voter records, for instance). However, I discovered that some of these entries indexed under Oscar Merry Packard were for Oscar D. Packard, or [some first name] Oscar [as a middle name] Packard rather than for my great-grandfather. The indexers and transcribers have made errors. It's a fact of life, and always something to keep in mind when using any index or transcription, whether online or in print.

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