Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lunches may not be free, but many genealogy websites are

I recently received a comment from a reader complaining that there were "so few" free genealogy programs online. I guess I can't understand that complaint since I doubt that the commentator has enough time in the the rest of his or her life to even find and visit all of the "free" genealogy websites online. The commentator also complained about being unable to find ancestors on Ancestry.com. Depending on the time frame and the location of the ancestors lives, the fact that information was not on Ancestry.com would not be surprising. The comment, posted by my constantly aware friend Anonymous, went like this:
I can't blame people who complain that the entire world of online genealogy seems to be monetized now on a fee basis. IIRC there were once a variety of online sources of genealogical information that were completely free. They might have run slow and been laborious to use, but they were still useful. The LDS Church used to have a free service; for all I know it may still be there but if so it's so deeply buried I couldn't find it. 
Meanwhile, my attempts to use Ancestry.com have been disappointing. I can't find even my parents and grandparents despite an extensive paper trail of medical licenses, university degrees, and military service. I don't think the free trial really gives you anything useful so it's impossible to evaluate.
I have no idea what free sites the commentator is referring to that run slow and are laborious to use. I am aware of hundreds of free genealogy websites that run very well and have huge amounts of information. In addition, many of the larger subscription websites are available for free in any one of over 4,600 FamilySearch Centers world wide. "Free" of course is a very relative term. Someone has to pay for the service and the content either through sponsorship or fees. FamilySearch.org is "free" because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members sponsor the website and provide access to the content. In every caste there is some sponsoring institution for the free websites. Another example, of course, is the United States Government, which provides free websites with genealogically valuable information such as the Library of Congress website. I find it almost incredible that anyone interested in genealogy could not find FamilySearch.org online by searching for LDS Church and genealogy.

Additionally, the commentator has a misplaced concern; what is being monetized is access to previously "free" records when the repository realizes that someone will pay to access the records. There is no solution to this issue once the process has started. But despite any statements I may have made in the past, this process is not all bad. One positive effect is that governments and other repositories may not be so anxious to destroy valuable records if they think the records, as records, have value. This "monetization" may the destruction of so many records as was done with the bulk of the 1890 U.S. Census Records.

I am saddened by the attitude expressed by the commentator above. It shows a lack of awareness of the huge number of resources available and the also shows a lack of understanding of the content of the subscription services. I would hope that the commentator would take the time to look at the FamilySearch Research Wiki and Cyndi's List for starts in getting some perspective on the number of source records available.
 

2 comments:

  1. Someone is paying the costs having those "free" websites, gathering the information, preparing the data for putting online and other expenses.

    I am thankful that some are willing to absorb those costs and let me have the information for free.

    Genealogy has never been free. It always costs something even if it is only gas and wear and tear on a car to go to the local cemetery.



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