Answering this question can be complicated because there may be local online sources in the local language that don't show up in any of my Google searches. It is easy for genealogists to become fixed on a particular area of the world because because of our ancestral connections. For example, if I have no ancestors from Germany then why would I be concerned about the number of records from Germany? On the other hand, those of us who spend a great deal of time teaching and assisting others in their research to find the necessity of knowing what records are available in a huge variety of countries.
It is also interesting to note the progress of adding worldwide genealogical records to the online databases. If you examine the record lists, sometimes called collections, from each of the major online genealogical database programs, you should get a good idea of the availability of records from any given country. I thought it would be interesting to choose some examples. Obviously listing every country in the world would be way beyond the scope of the blog post.
For this particular example, I decided to look at FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com and findmypast.com. For this illustration, I decided to choose the same countries from each of the large databases. Here are my findings from examining each programs. Each website has a list of countries with a number following. In each case, I found it necessary to explain what I thought was the comparable method of numbering records.
One complication of trying to determine these numbers is that the countries have a tendency to have changed boundaries and identities over the years. For example, do I rely on the number of records available for "Germany" when all of the various countries that have been formed over the years and called Germany should probably be included? Do I include the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Germany? Nevertheless, choosing some of the countries can illustrate the relative availability of records. In addition, comparing findmypast.com and to some extent MyHeritage.com with the other two databases is somewhat unrealistic. Each of the large databases have their own unique records in the number of records do not specifically relate to any particular users experience.
FamilySearch.org has a total of 1837 collections. There is no practical way of determining the number of records because the column that lists record numbers records rather than the total number of records in any particular collection. However recently, FamilySearch.org has implemented a feature linked to the map on the records page that gives the number of records both indexed and unindexed.
- United States, indexed records 3,161,326,075, record images 465,222,043 in 845 collections.
- England, indexed records 687,347,166, record images 252,856,175, in 79 collections.
- Denmark,Indexed records 14,561,774, record images 14,070,366, in 7 collections.
- Russia, indexed records 10,389,774, record images 18,540,881, in 16 collections.
- Argentina, indexed records 20,057,795, record images 13,606,189, in 29 collections.
- Ghana, indexed records 243,908, record images 1,177,156, in 2 collections.
- New Zealand, indexed records 16,465,909, record images of 12,056,202, in 5 collections.
Ancestry.com also gives a number of collections. The total number of collections presently listed is 32,409. The number of records in each collection is listed in the Card Catalog. However, ascertaining the number of records in any given area or country would require adding up each of the numbers of records from each of the collections in the list.
- United States, collections 25,693, number of records; way over 1 billion.
- England, collections 1428, number of records; in way over 1 billion.
- Denmark, collections 56, number of records; probably less than 100 million if you exclude public member photos and scan documents, public member stories and private member photos and stories.
- Russia, collections 36, number of records; probably around 2 to 3 million.
- Argentina, collections 9, number of records; around 20 million.
- Ghana, collections 3, number of records; less than 300,000 if you exclude records from FindAGrave.com that are not specifically identified to Ghana.
- New Zealand, collections 41, number of records; more than 30 million.
MyHeritage.com also has a method of searching records by place. The exact number of records must also be approximate.
- United States,well over 100 collections with billions of records.
- England, 10 collections with over 300 million records.
- Denmark, 4 collections with approximately 5,000,000 records.
- Russia, 4 collections with more than 1 million records.
- Argentina, 6 collections with approximately 9,000,000 records.
- Ghana, no records.
- New Zealand, no specific records.
There does not appear to be an easy way to determine the number of collections or records in any particular geographic area. But, it is easy to determine that most of their records come from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. There appear to be no records from Denmark, only one set of records from Russia, no records from Argentina, and no records from Ghana. As I stated above, there really is no way to compare the number of records on findmypast.com with the other websites because of this specialized nature of the entire database.
It is interesting to speculate whether or not the drop-off in records relates directly to the actual existence of records or merely the availability of digitized records to this point in time. I would suspect that many countries that appear to have limited records actually have very detailed records that have yet to be digitized. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future.