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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Swiss records digitized online

Although Switzerland is one of the smaller countries in Europe, many people in the U.S. can trace their ancestry to Swiss immigrants. Except for collections of individual Swiss family files, there have been very few actual Swiss source documents online and especially those with free access. Now in its worldwide reach, FamilySearch's Record Search announces the first online Swiss records. In an announcement dated November 24, 2009 Record Search added Switzerland, Schaffhausen Church Records image collection containing images of church records (births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths). The original records are located at Schaffhausen Stadtarchiv, Fronwagplatz 24, CH 8200 Shaffhausen, Switzerland.

This addition to Record Search highlights an important issue in genealogical collections, most online collections, even the larger subscription services, are tightly focused on one or a very small group of countries. Record Search is beginning to be the exception with its now, 158 collections. The database contains record collections from countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Italy that have been very under represented in genealogical online collections, particularly those available to English speaking researchers.

The world wide reach of the Record Search collections can be seen through entry screen format showing a map of the world with clickable regions. Granted, at the present time some clicks will return only one or two collections, like Asia and the Middle East presently only have Russian and Philippine records, but the potential is great especially given the vast number of records housed in the Family History Library's collection. Record Search is the product of the efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make its entire collection microfilms digitally available online.

In my posts, I have focused on these collections for a number of reasons, first and foremost because they are high quality and offered free online and obviously, my own connection with the LDS Church makes me more aware of the Church's genealogical activities. But also, the commercial databases, particularly those with subscription fees, have huge advertising budgets and pay for advertising. Record Search is all but unmentioned and unknown by the genealogical community. To get an idea of the scope of the Church's record activity, you only need to look at the list of the current FamilySearch Indexing Projects.

FamilySearch Indexing is a non-denominational volunteer project to index the records on microfilm from the Family History Library's collection. Here is the description from the Indexing Website:

The key life events of billions of people are being preserved and shared through the efforts of people like you. Using our online indexing system, volunteers from around the world are able to quickly and easily transcribe the records—all from the convenience of their homes. The indexes are then posted for FREE at familysearch.org.

Millions of rolls of microfilm provide census, vital, probate, and church records from over 100 countries for indexing projects. Governments, churches, societies, and commercial companies are also working to make more records available.

Anyone can volunteer to help.

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