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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Monetization of Genealogy

A possible unforeseen consequence of large, online, commercialized, genealogy database websites is the monetization of the larger record collections. As the larger companies scramble to acquire even greater proprietary access to specific records, the governments and agencies responsible for maintaining those records are beginning to see that genealogical data can be a source of revenue.

Some countries, such as United Kingdom and Sweden have already created strategic alliances with genealogical database providers of fee-based websites. Further, as the countries recognize that digitalization of their records is necessary for cultural and historical preservation, they will also recognize that there are people willing to pay for access to the records. My guess is that as time goes on, organizations such as FamilySearch will find it more and more difficult to obtain records for free distribution on a large scale national basis.

We do not have to go very far to see an example of the commercialization of government-sponsored records in the United States. Originally, the website had as its goal the digitization of records from the National Archives. Whether or not you think there is an issue with a commercial company gaining access to government records and then charging for access to those same records, you would have to admit that once was purchased by, the monetization was completed.

It is not my intention to debate the propriety of charging for access to genealogically valuable records, I am merely commenting on the fact that successful efforts to monetize government records has resulted in the growth, to some extent, of the large multinational, online, genealogical databases.

It is my guess that will find it more and more difficult to obtain access to large databases merely in exchange for archiving a copy of records for the governmental agency. In addition, we have issues like those transpiring in the Georgia State Archives. Where, despite statutory mandates to maintain access to government records, the state is restricting access based on alleged budgetary concerns. This type of situation opens the door to negotiations between state agencies and commercial database providers to enhance the state’s revenue stream. In case you have missed the news, I am referring to the Georgia Secretary of State's recent actions in closing down access to the Georgia State Archives because of budgetary concerns.

From my perspective, the large online genealogical databases provide a valuable service at a relatively nominal price. My opinion that the price is nominal takes into account the expense and time it would take me as an individual, to locate and gain access to all of the records in the large collections.

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