RootsTech 2015

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Images on Ancestry.com vs. FamilySearch.org

Thanks to The Ancestry Insider for his post, "FamilySearch Surpasses Ancestry.com?" I can say that the information cited from David Ouimette of FamilySearch.org is not surprising. If you spend any time at all using Ancestry.com, you will realize that the vast majority of their claimed 30,220 collections are indexes without supporting images. I am not aware of any statistics from Ancestry.com that tell exactly how many images they have in their database, but if you look at the collections, other than census records, you will see what I am talking about. To see a list of all of Ancestry.com's collections sorted in different ways you have to go to the Search tab and then select "Search all records." Then look around near the bottom of the page until you see a link to "View in Card Catalog." The library version is different than the personal version and you might have to look around for a while to find the link but the list is in the Ancestry Card Catalog.

For example, Ancestry.com has listed the U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 1 cited with 418,692,659 records. This huge list is stated as comprised of "Original data: Voter Registration Lists, Public Record Filings, Historical Residential Records, and Other Household Database Listings." If you click on this collection, you will see the collection's search box and information, where there is also the statement, "As Ancestry.com is neither the author nor the compiler of the data in its indexes, we cannot assume responsibility for the accuracy of this information." There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of citations online to this Index on Ancestry.com but I got tired of looking for the origin of the Index. What is important to this post is not where those records came from, but the fact that there are no supporting images or citations to how the records were compiled or where the records came from.

In this regard, it is easy to see why FamilySearch.org could pass Ancestry.com in the total number of images available after a relatively short time of putting images online. Which would you rather have for a source, an index with no images and no explanation of its origin or the actual images from the record repository? The answer is rather simple, the images are worth a lot more than the indexes.

So why is FamilySearch.org spending so much time adding indexes to the records? Convenience and accessibility is my best guess. There are some types of records that are of such a nature, that I am not satisfied even if I do have an index. I would rather search the records myself. For example, do I really trust an indexer to have found all of the instances of my ancestors in New England Town Records? Another example, what if the original record spelled by ancestor's name in a really weird way? What if the indexers were really good and put my ancestor into the index with the misspelled name? How much help is the index? How do I know for sure my ancestor is not in the record? This is the key issue with the difference between an index and digitized copies of the records.

Today, 5 October 2011, FamilySearch.org Historical Record Collections show 801 collections with millions more records going into the database with images just today. There will be more tomorrow and more the day after that and so forth off into the future. Isn't that great!!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting: I just commented at Ancestry Insider that I prefer to browse and gave an example; obviously, I agree with you.

    Nevertheless I found those compiled records from Ancestry of use. I have TEMPORARY citations to these collections; they have told me that records exist for "these people" in "these places."

    Now I am going to the city directories and telephone records that are the basis of the compilations.

    Final citations will be based on these public records. But the compilations made a good springboard (and acted as a reminder of the existence of these sources).

    I much prefer original documents (or photos/digitizations of the same); but anything which points me in a good direction is a help.

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