Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Online availability of records sweeps ahead

When I started posting online a few short years ago, it was big news in the Blogging community every time another large collection of records went online. Lately, posting records online has become so common that when huge collections are posted, there is hardly any notice. If there is one technological change that is affecting the way we do genealogy more than any other, it is the increased availability of online original source material. It is further apparent from comments to my last post that there are a significant number of genealogists out there who are not only unaware of the records being added but are resentful of the changes these huge databases make necessary. I will do a post in the near future on how to some degree advances in the availability of online genealogical records is driving some of the technological advances.

I decided to do a review of some of the larger websites that are continually adding content, mostly of original sources, every day, day after day. These are not in any order but collectively have accumulated a tremendous number of files, records, individuals or however they account for their records online.  If you haven't checked some of these sites recently, you are going to be surprised.

For a very extensive list of online digital collections go to the Online Education Database.  This is a very comprehensive list.

Here is a partial list:

Ancestry.com
There has not been a lot of fanfare recently about acquisitions by Ancestry.com, but the list of genealogy databases posted or recently updated is impressive.  I am not sure if the link will work without a subscription, but the list includes some huge databases added just since the first of the year. The spectrum of types of additions is impressive, with everything from military records to New Zealand Electoral Rolls. There does not seem to be any way of determining the actual number of new records, but the list is impressive none the less. Ancestry.com is a subscription website.

FamilySearch.org
FamilySearch does keep a count of the number of records added and it appears that there were close to 200 million new records in January, 2011 alone with likely an equal or greater number to be added in February. The records added by FamilySearch are free and fully searchable. These records include many that have never previously been available online. The records are being added from scans of the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm in the FamilySearch Granite Vault.

Internet Archive
Not generally identified with genealogical resources, this huge archive has some surprising records, such as tens of thousands of census records from around the world. There are also increasingly a large number of personal records, journals, photos, movies and other records of every description and type. As with the other large record sources, additions are made frequently. At the recent RootsTech Conference, the founder of the Internet Archive, Brewster Kahle, announced an initiative to digitize the Library of Congress. If you didn't know, the Internet Archive has the complete U.S. Census with free access.

Google Books
The last time Google announced any numbers with respect to the digitized books in it collection back in October of 2010, the number stood at 15 million. Since that announcement, many more millions of books must have been added.  A very rough search on the word genealogy returned 1,060,000 results.  The term "family history" returns about 790,000. This site is one to be familiar with.

Washington State Archives
Although limited to records from Washington State, this free collection currently has 99,410,409 records with 30,593,695 online.  Makes you wish you had relatives from Washington State.

There are many more sites that could be added to this list. If you have a favorite mega-library I have overlooked, please post a comment with a link.


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