Saturday, May 31, 2008

NFS Update for Memorial Day: No News Was Bad News

"Temple Tuesday" is my favorite day of the week. I look forward to hearing which new temple districts have switched to New FamilySearch (NFS). So this past week was a disappointment when I heard of no new districts coming online. I guess if we're going to give FamilySearch a holiday, Memorial Day is a fitting one. God bless our brave men and women in uniform, federal and local. And God bless the grieving families of our heroes. May Heaven's comfort rest on all who mourn. And may we do our part to remember our dead.

Sorry; it's been almost a week since Memorial Day and I didn't intend on going there. But there you have it.

Having no new districts go online was bad news, but there were plenty of announcements to offset that. Slated for release next week:
   Accra Ghana
   Curitiba Brazil
   São Paulo Brazil
   Vera Cruz México

The following week (10-June-2008) will be:
   Madrid Spain
   Nashville Tennessee
   San Jose Costa Rica

If all the rumors are right,
   Birmingham Alabama follows on 24-June-2008 and
   Newport Beach 8-July-2008. (What? No 4th of July holiday for FamilySearch installation teams?)

These districts received notification that they are about 4 months away, which puts them in September. Registered family history consultants in these districts can start using NFS. Approximate notification dates are shown.

   Columbia River Washington, 24-May-2008
   Denver Colorado (finally!), 29-May-2008
   London England, 29-May-2008
   Louisville Kentucky, 22-May-2008
   St. Paul Minnesota, 22-May-2008

That's the new news. Check the complete chart for a few others.

And Now, the Really Bad News

In the pure rumor and speculation category there was significant bad news. I received my first two reports of the rollout stretching into 2009. The independent nature of the two increases my confidence that they are true. One report concerned a temple district using non-Roman script. I don't know if the delay is because of a particular language translation or the general challenge of which I've previously spoken concerning 16-bit, non-Roman languages.

The other report concerns a temple affected by the IOUS/IOUF problem of which I've also spoken. If that rumor is true, temples in Idaho, Nevada and Utah might not see NFS until 2009!

Remember, this is only a rumor at this point. Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Genealogists are the new shaman

All American Man, Canyonlands National Park pictograph.I think genealogists are the shaman of our day. Mind you, we haven't assumed every duty of the ancient shaman, but we have assumed many of them. Shaman is both singular and plural and masculine and feminine; I don't want anyone to feel left out.

We are charged with remembering our tribe's forefathers along with their stories and traditions stretching back many generations. To maximize how much their memory could store, ancient shaman used chanting, songs, dance-steps and other memory devices. Today we've displaced these with paper and computer memory, which store larger amounts of information but are not nearly as fun.

We walk with the dead. Ancient shaman used hallucinogens, meditation and trances to converge the world of the dead with the world of the living. We modern shaman rely primarily on research and records as our primary transportation devices. Newspapers and diaries, photographs and manuscripts have made our ancestors come to life before our very eyes. Discovering our ancestors gives us joy and satisfaction not easily explained to others. As it was anciently, the superlative wonder of these experiences is still impossible to describe to non-participants!

We have experiences beyond the physical laws of nature. Anciently these experiences were attributed to magic or spiritualism. Today... Well, today, we're still at a loss to explain these experiences. In this column we've adopted the term serendipity, but don't let the nondescript nature of the word fool you.

In remembering and walking with our dead, we modern shaman—as a group—are still having the experiences that led our predecessors to be regarded as possessors of great magic. In our sterile, scientific modern environment we cherish these rare experiences, sharing them primarily within our guild. They are, perhaps, the strongest link we share with our ancient forerunners.

When it comes down to it, I think ancient shaman were the genealogists of their day.

Newspaper Rock and My Modern Family Collage.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Death, Questions and Ancestors

I was saddened to learn today that Emily Wilbur, co-host of the PBS series Questions and Ancestors, lost her spouse this past weekend. You may have heard about it and not realized the connection to the genealogical community or to The Generations Network.

Second Lieutenant John Alley, United States Air Force, was last seen alive in Pensacola, Florida on Friday, 23-May-2008. The following morning at 5 AM his car was found, totaled. Fearing he may have left the scene disoriented, search dogs and volunteers searched throughout the weekend. Early Memorial Day morning a teenager walking the shoreline found his body washed ashore north of the crash site.

JohnEmilyAlley John and and his wife, the former Emily Wilbur, were newlyweds of less than a year (married 14-July-2007). Barely more than a month ago Emily announced on their blog that they were expecting their first child on 24-Oct-2008. Now John has joined his Ancestors and Emily is left with Questions. Why? How can she go on? What could hurt worse? When will the pain end?

Emily, please know that you are not alone. We love you. We pray for you. Among us are those who know something of your sorrow and the horror you are going through. Some of us understand what flight school can do to a guy. Some of us are members of your Church. Some of us are military brats. Some of us have lost spouses in our youth. Some of us are cargo pilots with fighter pilot souls. Some of us have children that have never known their fathers. Some of us still hurt so badly from loss of a loved one that were it not for support of loved ones we would certainly implode into a disheartened, devastated singularity. Some of us live with the black demon of depression. Some of us live with grief and guilt after that demon has taken a loved one. We pray for you, we love you. Please know that you will never, ever, ever be alone, Emily.

On the Help Find my Brother John facebook group the family has posted this statement:

We wish to express appreciation to everyone who has helped us and are helping at this difficult time. The outpouring of love and kindness has been overwhelming. We love John and will dearly miss his amazing spirit, but are grateful for the knowledge of where he’s at and that we’ll see him again.

Our hearts and sympathy go out especially to Emily and her unborn child. We want to preserve the memory of her husband and their child's father through memories and stories of him. If any of you have anything that you can remember of John please post them in the discussion board or send them to Thank you.

If you feel you want to help Emily and her child out financially, you can donate to a trust fund established in her name. Visit for the link.

All sorts of additional details about this story can be found at It may be too soon for Emily to start thinking about life without John. But I hope she decides to continue her work as a professional genealogist. And I hope the genealogical community sends so much work her direction that she can make a living doing it. Read on...

Emily Wilbur Alley

Emily Wilbur AlleyEmily Wilbur Alley is a graduate of Brigham Young University where she earned a degree in Family History and Genealogy. While earning her degree she was employed by the Center for Family History and Genealogy at BYU as a teaching assistant, worked as a research assistant to Dr. George Ryskamp, Center Director, and in 2006 received the center's Young Family Historian of the Year Award. Prior to graduation, Emily interned at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, Massachusetts and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, where she continued as a British reference consultant after graduation. She was recipient of two ORCA research scholarships, the first allowing her to conduct personal genealogical research in New England. For the second, she accompanied two professors to the British Isles to study emigration sources in English and Scottish archives. She co-authored a summary of their finds in the Utah Genealogical Association's Genealogical Journal, titled "British Immigrants Project," 31 (2003): 138-140.

Emily worked at as a genealogist assisting customers with research questions. She is serving on the board of directors for the Utah Genealogical Association (2007-2009). She is an associate at Price and Associates, Inc. and has been doing private client genealogical research (see

Emily Wilbur Alley and Darius GrayQuestions and Ancestors is the follow-on series to the popular PBS series Ancestors. Each week co-hosts Emily Wilbur Alley and Darius Gray, along with other family history experts, answer questions submitted by listeners. Look for the series on your local PBS radio or television channel. Listen to episodes or check for scheduled BYU-TV showings online.

(Biographical information:
Co-Host Biographies" and "Emily Wilbur.")

Monday, May 26, 2008

Free book AND free military records access

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

I've previously mentioned that's military records can be accessed for free through the end of May. Go to for more information about this military records promotion.

They did it last year and I just noticed they're doing it again this year. One of Juliana's 24/7 Family History Circle Blog Extras posts on Friday mentions the availability of a free book download. Currently, the links in her post are not aimed correctly. Instead, click here to download a free PDF copy of Military Records at

The Ancestry Store website contains this information about the book:

[In] Military Records at Yu Sumner leads you chronologically through the history of American wars, providing you with a brief contextual and historical basis for each war, then listing a variety of databases that relate to them. Not intended as an exhaustive historical treatise, Military Records at is nonetheless a handy little tool for navigating the Military Collection on the #1 family history resource on the Internet.

I found the book mildly useful for its brief synopsis of each of 24 American wars from Jamestown conflicts (1622-44) to the Vietnam War (1954-75) and for the links to military resources on websites other than But since the book is a year old, it is no longer a comprehensive list of Ancestry databases for each war. Besides, a subscriber shouldn't have to purchase a book in order to find and use Ancestry's military databases. If the website doesn't make that easy enough as is, the website needs to be fixed.

My book review rating: 4 star general at this price.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

FamilySearch Indexing Hints: Adjusting Highlights

The semimonthly headquarters message for FamilySearch Indexing (FSI) on 16-May-2008 gave some great hints for adjusting highlights. Unfortunately, without illustrations, my brain glazed over and I got little from the message. Here's my version of the message, with illustrations added.

Adjusting Highlights

You've seen projects with highlighting on the document image that shows you what information goes in the current field at the bottom of the page. Sometimes highlights are off for the whole document and little corrections using Ctrl + Alt + an arrow key just won't hack it.

Sometimes the highlights are way off for the whole page.
Sometimes the highlights are way off for the whole page.

To adjust the highlights for the entire page:

  1. First, try each highlight choice from the drop-down list at the top of the page.
    Try each highlight choice to see which is best.
    Try each highlight choice to see which is best.
  2. If that doesn't resolve the problem, switch to Adjust Highlights Mode. Click the View menu and then click Adjust Highlights.
    Click View and then Adjust Highlights.
    Click View and then Adjust Highlights.
  3. You won't notice anything different until you move your mouse pointer over the information you are indexing. A grid of yellow boxes appears within a red border. Each yellow box shows where a highlight will appear. Blue text on each yellow box indicates the field name. You will use the red squares on the four corners of the red border to adjust all the highlights on the page.
  4. Click on the red box on the upper-left corner of the border. While holding the mouse button down, drag the red box around until the yellow boxes line up properly. Pay particular attention to thin columns, such as Age, Sex and Color in the illustration below. Look to see that the first row of highlights is positioned within the first row of the record. When positioned correctly, release the mouse button.
    Position the upper-left corner.
    Position the upper-left corner.
  5. Next reposition the upper-right corner. It doesn't matter if the yellow boxes fit exactly in the columns of the record. What's important is that when you're indexing the highlights will be close enough to the proper row and column so that you can identify the proper data to index.
    Position the upper-right corner.
    Position the upper-right corner.
  6. After the top 2 corners, do the lower-right corner. Look to see that the last row of yellow boxes lines up with the last row of the document. Again, make certain that thin columns line up properly and other columns line up acceptably.
    Position the lower-left corner.
    Position the lower-left corner.
  7. Finally, do the lower-right corner.
    Position the lower-right corner.
    Position the lower-right corner.
  8. To get out of Adjust Highlights Mode, again click View on the menu and then click Adjust Highlights.

And with that, all the highlights should be positioned where they should be. Well, close enough, anyway.

The wrong gender stays in New FamilySearch

The Family: A Proclamation to the World
The Family: A Proclamation to
the World
warns of "calamities
foretold by ancient and modern
prophets." © 1995, IRI.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church) hold traditional views regarding gender and families. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Church leaders teach that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."

It may come as a surprise, then, that there are sometimes good reasons for records in New FamilySearch to indicate the wrong gender.

There are several articles in the Help Center of New FamilySearch telling patrons how to deal with records containing gender problems:

  • Document ID 102699: new FamilySearch: Combining siblings when one has an unknown gender
  • Document ID 102711: How to combine people who are listed as both male and female or as unknown

  • FAQ ID 284faq0480: What can I do to change an individual's gender?
  • Document ID 102189: I can't add or edit unknown gender on an individual I entered into the new FamilySearch
  • Document ID 101995: new FamilySearch: How to change an incorrect gender
  • Document ID 103267: Same child shows up twice or more in the same family, once with the wrong gender

Briefly, as is generally the case in New FamilySearch (NFS), you can correct information you contribute, you can ask other contributors to correct mistakes when contact information is available, you can dispute incorrect information and you can create new records with proper information where none yet exists. Unlike other information in NFS, FamilySearch Support solicits requests to correct the gender (see doc. ID 101995). Perhaps this exception reflects the Church's desire to remove entries from temple records for work done under the wrong gender.

It was presumably in response to such a request that Terry Mason received an interesting response from Support that is, as of yet, not reflected in the FamilySearch Help Center.

The record for _______ showing the incorrect gender was submitted by more than one individual, including a submission for temple ordinance work. This ordinance work is invalid but in order to prevent anyone else from submitting the name with the wrong gender and duplicating the ordinance work, the incorrect record will remain in New FamilySearch. By adding a dispute to the record with the incorrect gender it indicates to others that the information is wrong. We hope this explanation will help you understand the reason the records with the incorrect gender will remain in New FamilySearch.

For those hoping to make New FamilySearch a perfect reflection of reality, this policy may appear to be an unpleasant mistake. But, in fact, this too is a general policy concerning incorrect information. Where careful researchers are aware of widespread misinformation, they may wish to proactively enter such information into New FamilySearch and dispute their own contribution, giving evidence that the information is incorrect and directing others to the correct information.

It's counter-intuitive, but keeping wrong information in New FamilySearch can be the right thing to do.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Solving the NFS problem of incorrectly combined records

Several weeks ago Dave Merrill made a post on FHCNET (pronounced "fish-net," a message forum for Family History Center directors and "staff"). I think his posting was spot on, so I am reproducing it here with his permission. I have made minor edits and added some text to improve flow, mostly to match the editorial style of this blog. To see his original post, click on Reduce incorrect combining of separated records.

After several months of using New FamilySearch (NFS), several problems with the current system have emerged.

  • Infinite loops exist where fathers are combined with sons of the same name, etc.
  • Patrons have spent hours or even days correcting a folder containing hundreds of records of multiple people only to have someone come along afterwards and incorrectly re-combine the records.
  • Twins with similar names have been repeatedly combined.
  • Children have died and the next child given the same name, then the records combined.

All these problems result from the incorrect combining of separate records. Many patrons have stated they will wait until these problems have a solution before attempting to separate or correct large folders [where a "folder" is the combined collection of all the records about a person].

The solution I propose has these advantages:

  • Existing technology similar to the edit process can be used.
  • It encourages documentation and collaboration between patrons.
  • The burden is placed on the patrons.

Here's the solution I'm proposing:

  • Add a link in the Summary/Detail view next to `Combined Records' named `Separated Records'.
  • Let anyone combine or separate a record that has never been combined or separated before.
  • When a record is separated open a box and allow/encourage the person to document or comment on the separation.
  • Track each separated record, who separated it and the documentation or comments given.
  • Allow only the person who separated the record (and nFS support) to re-combine the records.
  • When a patron tries to combine records that were previously separated, do all of the following:
  • Open a new window with the message: "This record was previously separated by [name and contact info] based upon [documentation or comment]. To have the record re-combined please contact this person."
  • Allow the separation to be disputed.
  • Tell the patron how to appeal irreconcilable disputes to NFS support.
  • Should the patron have conflicting documentation, suggest the patron create a new folder/person with the desired facts and events. Then combine the disputed record with the new folder/person.

Thank you Dave Merrill. This is well thought out and I think it is an elegant solution to what is emerging to be an ugly problem. If you don't mind, I will re-iterate your suggestion to anyone I can get to listen at FamilySearch.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Troubleshooting the Ancestry Image Viewer

There have been a rash of people that started having problems with the Ancestry Enhanced Image Viewer out of the blue about a month ago. One night from one search result to the next it just stopped working on me. Everytime I tried to view an image, got caught in an endless loop trying to install the viewer, even though it was already installed. Deleting my Ancestry cookies quickly solved the problem for me.

I need to ask around at work and see if the exact cause(s) has been identified. But today I noticed the Help system has a new article titled, Troubleshooting the Enhanced Image Viewer. If deleting your cookies doesn't solve your recently-surfaced viewer problems, try the different methods described in this group of articles.

If for some reason that link doesn't work, here's a posting on the Ancestry message boards giving detailed instructions on how to manually de-install and reinstall the viewer.

Ancestry Site Comments - Family History & Genealogy Message Board -

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

RootsWeb Adds Project Banners Today

The day has arrived for the addition of headers to RootsWeb hosted genealogy project websites such as World GenWeb, FreeBMD, etc. RootsWeb Community Operations Manager, Anna, posted this message today:

As planned, the updated mastheads will start appearing later today. We receive a lot of positive feedback on the content of your sites and are proud to be able to be a small part of your success.

If you would like to change the masthead on your site from the new default gray color to the green masthead please follow the instructions below.

To see the complete post, including the instructions for choosing the alternate header, click on RootsWeb Newsroom » Blog Archive » New Mastheads - Look for them today….

As of the time this message was posted, headers had not appeared on any of the sites I checked, including:

  • Is the USGenWeb domain still hosted by RootsWeb or did they move elsewhere?
  • The USGenWeb Digital Maps website still sports a "hosted by RootsWeb" graphic.
  • UTGenWeb - State of Utah portion of USGenWeb.
  • WorldGenWeb - "Root" GenWeb site for the entire world.
  • FreeBMD - Project to transcribe birth, marriage, death civil registration index for England & Wales.
  • Is Cyndi's List still hosted by RootsWeb? Will headers be added to this venerable website?

Many USGenWeb project coordinators received a message earlier this month from David Graham, Sr. Product Manager at The full text of the letter was posted on various message boards:

Dear USGenWeb coordinators,

For those of you with pages hosted on we wanted to give you an update on our plan for including a small masthead at the top of hosted pages on RootsWeb. We love being able to host your page and other pages that help the family history community so much, and adding this small masthead to acknowledge our hosting service allows us to continue to be able to offer this free hosting service as well as other services.

The mastheads will be included on pages as early as May 21st. The standard masthead can be viewed here:

As a USGenWeb coordinator you will also have the option to use a USGenWeb specific masthead. It can be viewed here:

To get the USGenWeb masthead on your page instead of the standard one all you need to do is place a file named 'banner_select' in your public_html directory. It should contain the text 'USGENWEB' (all caps and without the quotation marks) and nothing else.

Thanks for your support on this minor change. We love hosting your page and this allows us to continue to offer this free hosting service.

On another note, we also wanted to let you know that in the coming months we will be releasing a new feature that will make it easier for you to make sure that other people can find your page on RootsWeb. It will let you enter some information about your page to get it included in a new search feature built to find pages hosted on RootsWeb. For hosted pages related to the USGenWeb Project, we will also create a specialized page that will surface all of the pages that are associated with the project. We hope to be able to link to this listing of hosted USGenWeb pages from the RootsWeb homepage. As this project comes closer to completion we will let you know more about it.


Sr. Product Manager
Part of The Generations Network

The original announcement that mastheads would be added to these websites was made last August and can be found at Update on mastheads.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Are Incomplete Databases Ancestry's Policy?

Ancestry Insider reader, Mike, posted a question recently and I thought you might all like to hear the answer.

I have a question about a comment you made where you said, "Ancestry's practice is to release at least one database every workday". Obviously that is a marketing driven thing, but my question is how significant it really is. That is, is a brand new database released every day, or do "updated" databases count too? And if the answer to that question is yes, then as a marketing scheme, is it Ancestry's policy to intentionally release incomplete databases so as to be able to tout updates?

Don't misunderstand me.

While it's Ancestry's practice to release a new database everyday, it's not a policy, to my knowledge. I've never seen Ancestry claim they do so. I wouldn't be shocked if they've missed one or more days. I wouldn't be surprised if there are high ranking managers that don't know that it occurs. It just happens. Call it corporate memory. Call it bureaucracy. Call it a legacy, maybe even a tribute, to Paul Allen. It survives as a practice of a former policy.

The practice, as I've observed it, is to release a new database each business day. (Take a look at my list for the last 60 days and let me know if I'm wrong.) When you release thousands of new databases each year, it's not difficult to schedule 250 of them to cover each business day of the year.

Why Does Ancestry Release Incomplete Databases?

It is almost always more expensive when Ancestry posts a database piecemeal. So if Ancestry doesn't need to release incomplete databases so it can tout updates, why update databases or release incomplete databases? There are several situations where databases are updated or incomplete databases are released:

  • Additional records regularly become available. This is the case for the SSDI and can happen for vital records where states annually release records of a legislated age.
  • Additional records become available from the original data source. For example, a national archive microfilms additional records in a series. I believe last week's update to California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957 is an example of this happening.
  • An important database is so large that it will take weeks, months or even years to complete. A U.S. Federal census is an example. The 30-April update of the U.S. School Yearbooks is an example.
  • Portions of a database are coming from different sources. In the case of state censuses, this might happen when different years and counties are coming from individual counties, multiple university libraries or private vs. public historical organization.
  • Source media for a database are entering Ancestry's digital factory at widely spaced times. This might happen when Ancestry places a large microfilm order that overwhelms an institution's capacity to speedily duplicate all the films ordered. This can also happen when problems in Ancestry's production process cause part of a job to be sent back for rework at an earlier factory stage.
  • Ancestry feels that posting the images for a database before the creation of an index gives the customer enough value to warrant the extra costs. The Canadian Drouin Collection is an example where this occurred.
  • Ancestry is performing maintenance (fixing problems) in a database. I'm guessing that was the situation with the 30-April update of the 1851 and 1871 England Censuses.
  • Ancestry is combining 2 or more closely related databases. If I recall correctly, an example is the
  • Florida Marriage Collection, 1822-1875 and 1927-2001, which is a combination of a database for 1822-1875 and a database for 1927-2001.

Databases can remain incomplete when:

  • Historical records have been lost. If you scroll down to the bottom of the 1790 Census, database page and select "Click Here", you'll see that the returns for two states have been lost! Many censuses taken by individual states have been lost as well.
  • Agreements can't be reached with some of the record custodians.
  • Production costs are too great for a portion of a record set. For example, some of the records might be index cards that can be scanned with auto-feed scanners while another part is a solid clump of water-damaged, irregular sized manuscripts.

As you can see, there are many reasons why Ancestry releases incomplete databases or updates databases. Rest assured that tricking you is not one of them.

Monday, May 19, 2008

NFS Update: The World Distorted

While its been a month since I've updated my rollout map, I've not been idle. Today I rollout a new map showing temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the entire world.

New FamilySearch Rollout Map for 17-May-2008

You'll immediately notice several changes:

  • The map is bigger, allowing coverage of the entire world.
  • The changes for the past week are blinking, showing the changed status for these temples.
  • I'M SORRY! Please don't be offended. The world is distorted! To minimize the work, I kept North America the same size as on the old map. To minimize the size, I shrunk other continents and rearranged them. In a sense, I was striving for constant temple dot density. I hate what happened to the Bering Strait. Well, all East Asia and the Philippines, actually. But compromises had to be made. I ran out of steam and my source map was icky. Apologies to Alaska, Камча́тский and Чуко́тка. Maybe some day I'll build up the gumption to fix this.

Changes since the last update:

  • On 6-May-2008 New FamilySearch (NFS) came to the final 3 temples in Australia, making Australia the first continent to complete the transition to NFS! That day South America got its 2nd temple as Brazil got its first. I think that was also the first week where NFS rolled out to 4 temples.
  • The next week, Houston and Lubbock finished off Texas. Of all completed states, Texas with its 4 takes the top spot in number of temples. California has one more temple on NFS, but is 2 shy of being complete. Also on 13-May, Porto Alegre Brazil was activated. Brazil is the only South American nation with more than one temple.
  • This week is supposed to be another 4 temple week. Columbia is the 4th temple for South America. Halifax is Canada's 2nd. The other 2 are Chicago and Manhattan.
  • I've added a release date for Birmingham (24-June-2008).
  • Columbia South Carolina and Edmonton Canada received their 3 or 4 month notifications.
  • In the rumor category, we've heard Spokane might be June. The latest rumored date for Hong Kong is "maybe December."

Let me know if you like the new map. (However, if you don't like it, don't let me know. ;-) Also let me know if I've made any mistakes regarding temple locations or status. And definitely let me know if you've received your 3 or 4 month notification or your go-live date.

As always, the latest news is always available at Temple Districts Using New FamilySearch.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Databases at

Website Update

If you happen upon any sawdust or tools left out, you'll have to excuse me. I've been doing a little work on the website. The most significant change is wider columns. (If you read my blog via e-mail subscription or feed reader, you won't notice any changes.) The wider columns give me more freedom when including tables, videos, maps and images. If the columns are too wide for your computer, read Website Too Wide?.

New Databases @

I've added two items to the website sidebar. "About Me" is my profile, complete with Simpsonized picture.

The other is a mashup titled "Recent Databases." A copy is shown to the right. The concept of mashups is fascinating and this is an excellent example. I'll write about mashups sometime and explain how mashups work and this mashup does in particular.

Anyway, the Recent Databases mashup is a cool little widget that displays a list of the recently released or updated genealogy databases at Visit the Ancestry Insider once each day to see that day's new database. Ancestry's practice is to release at least one database every workday. In this way you'll often learn of new databases before they're announced on the Ancestry blogs.

To see databases after the two shown, click the down arrow on the scroll bar. Click anywhere on the scrollbar to immediately jump to that place in the list. The list goes back about 60 days.

Click on the underlined title to open a window for that database on The Post Date (month/day/year) is when the database was released, if new, or the date it was updated. For example, scroll down to Social Security Death Index and look at the post date. This is not the original release date, but the last update date. You can differentiate between new and updated entries by looking at the Title and notations where the title is duplicated plus the addition of any notations such as "Updated", "Free Index", "(in Italian)", etc.

A nice thing about widgets is their reusability. You can add this widget to your own blog, website or MySpace profile if you desire. Please don't remove the link to! Underneath the widget click on "Add to your site." Copy the small, gray code inside the box and paste it according to the instructions for your blog or site.

If you can't see the widget in your e-mail or feed reader, come to the website.

Enjoy and stay tuned...

Website Too Wide?

If you've got an old computer, recent changes to this website may be too wide and may push the sidebar mostly off-screen to the right. You can use the scrollbar at the bottom of the browser window to move left and right to see the obscured portions.

Or changing your screen resolution from 800x600 to 1024x768 will solve the problem. See the diagram below for instructions.

Or you may prefer reading the Ancestry Insider by e-mail subscription or in a feed reader.

To increase screen resolution right click the desktop, select Properties and then Settings. Drag the Screen resolution slider to the right.
To change the screen resolution,follow these steps:
R. Right click on the desktop. You may need to close one or more windows to see the desktop.
1. This is called a context menu. Click on Properties. That's a regular click.
2. Click on the Settings tab of the Display Properties window.
3. Drag the Screen resolution slider from Less towards More while holding the mouse button down.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ancestry/NARA Memorial Day Announcement

The National ArchivesThe National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and announced today a press event to kick off their new agreement and to celebrate Memorial Day. For more than a decade the two have collaborated to expand the availability of NARA records. Ancestry provides the largest online collection of digitized and indexed NARA content, including all available U.S. census population schedules, all NARA microfilmed passenger lists from 1820-1960, and WWI and WWII draft registration cards.

Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States, and Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry will be available at the event next Tuesday, 20-May-2008 at the National Archives Building. They will do one-on-one interviews to explain how the agreement helps preserve America's heritage and provide Internet access of important historical documents. The new agreement between the two will facilitate faster and more flexible digitization of NARA records by allowing personnel to place and use digitization equipment in NARA's facilities.

This event comes just days after NARA posted a new report "Strategy for Digitizing Archival Materials for Public Access, 2007-2016," that among other things discusses its philosophy and approach to partnerships with vendors such as Ancestry.

In conjunction with the 20-May event, Ancestry and NARA are celebrating Memorial Day and honoring those who have served our country. Access to Ancestry's U.S. military records will be free from that time until the end of the month. This would be a good time for you to add military memorials to the veterans in your family tree. On their person page in your Ancestry Tree click on Create Military Page in the Tools section on the right side of the page.

Ancestry's NARA Content

Ancestry's NARA content includes more than 750 million names and 70 million images. If stacked, the records would be four times taller than the Sears Tower, the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, the Space Needle, St. Louis’ Gateway Arch and the Hoover Dam piled on top of each other. A line of 750 million people would extend from Los Angeles to New York City 59.5 times.

In recent years has added better source references to material obtained from NARA, allowing researchers to site information properly and to consult original NARA holdings. Now has introduced a new search page that searches all its NARA content. Perhaps even more useful, the page lists all its NARA holdings in one place, giving microfilm series numbers, the NARA series title and the corresponding Ancestry title. Ancestry users have long needed an easy way to take a NARA citation, check to see if the source was available on Ancestry and then view the original document.

List of Ancestry's NARA content, by series

An interesting aspect of this list is the inclusion of the number of microfilm rolls (or fiche) included. I did a little counting and found Ancestry's collection includes over 61,000 rolls of microfilm/fiche from nearly 286 NARA series. Searching for series numbers (like "A1154") in the Card Catalog still doesn't work, but given the enormous value of this new page, I should hardly complain.

To perform a search or see the list of Ancestry's NARA content, visit .

For more information about Ancestry's NARA holdings, visit . For more information about Ancestry's military collection, visit .

Journalists can obtain more information by contacting the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300 or Ancestry's Sara Black at 213-996-3812.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

From: Tim Sullivan / To: You

To mark the first day of the 2008 National Genealogical Society Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, Tim Sullivan has published a letter to the genealogy community. He highlights several recently released content collections and product enhancements on, and gives insights into some exciting new projects on the horizon. Global Content, Product, and Marketing Update - May 14, 2008

Tim Sullivan, CEO, The Generations Network, Inc.

At the beginning of 2007, set out to accomplish four fundamental goals.

First, and most importantly, we committed to broaden and deepen the content that we offer our members by digitizing and putting online millions more historical records, both from the United States and from around the world. 


Second, we wanted to make it even easier for our members to discover their ancestors in the records we offer, to organize and preserve their personal family histories, and to communicate and collaborate with other members of the Ancestry community.


Third, we wanted to introduce the joys of genealogy to millions of new family historians by investing in category-expanding marketing activities around the world.


And lastly, we sought to improve our listening skills as a company and to better engage our members in helping shape our products and services. While never satisfied with the speed at which we evolve, I believe we have made substantial progress, and that our recent past and short-term future illustrates some of the most exciting progress we’ve made as a company.


New Content on

Each year, we invest millions of dollars to acquire, digitize, and index new content. Sometimes these collections take years before the fruits of our efforts are realized. Negotiating with content providers, then digitizing and indexing the content, and finally publishing it to our site, is a complex process. In recent years, we think we have fine-tuned our systems to move records through this process and to make them available on as quickly as we can.


In just the last few months, we reached 7 billion names in over 25,000 databases and titles on Below are just a few of the U.S. record collections we’ve recently released.


Census and Voter Records

  • California Voter Registrations (1900-1968) – 30 million names
  • New Jersey State Census (1895) – 1.5 million names

Immigration Records

  • U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes (1794-1995) – 2.9 million names
  • U.S. Passport Applications (1795-1925) – 2.4 million names

Military Records

  • U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments (1798-1914) – 1.3 million names
  • Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans (1879-1903) – 170,000 records
  • U.S. Navy Cruise Books (1940 onward) – 66,000 records

Birth, Marriage, and Death Records

  • Tennessee Marriages (1765-2002) – 6.8 million names
  • Missouri Birth, Marriage, and Death Records – 11 million names
  • North Carolina Death Collection (1908-2004) – 4.2 million names
  • North Carolina Divorce Index (1958-2004) – 2.3 million names

Court, Land, Wills, and Financial Records

  • U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists (1862-1918) – 8.8 million names
  • U.S. General Land Office Records (1796-1907) – 2.3 million names 

U.S. Content Coming Soon

We are also targeting the addition of several new U.S. content collections to over the next several months. Be on the lookout for:


  • Historical newspapers – We will soon be doubling the size of our historical newspaper collection with the addition of 20 million images and over 1 billion names. In addition, within the year we will release another installment of newspapers.
  • Cook County, Illinois Birth, Marriage, and Death Records (1871-1988) – This collection of vital records includes 24 million names, beginning in 1871 following the great Chicago fire.
  • U.S. Yearbook Collection – 6 million names and more than 6,000 yearbooks from various schools across the United States.
  • U.S. City Directories – 50 million names and 1 million images.
  • Florida State Census (update) – 4 million names added to the Florida State Censuses representing the years 1867, 1875, 1935, and 1945.

These are just a few of the U.S. collections we plan to introduce. Stay tuned to learn what other exciting collections will offer.


International Sites and Collections


International Sites

In 2007, Ancestry expanded into four new international markets – in Germany, in Italy, in France, and in Sweden. Our international sites, including in Canada, in the United Kingdom, and in Australia, have been wonderfully well received by their respective members, and membership and traffic to these sites have exceeded even our own expectations.


Most recently, we have been working on an exclusive agreement with the Shanghai Library to digitize and index their totally unique collection of Chinese family histories (or Jiapu), and we are thrilled to be unveiling a Chinese-language Ancestry site in the coming months. We will also be introducing a Spanish-language Ancestry site to our international mix.


New International Content

We have added a host of invaluable international collections surrounding these international markets. Here are just a few of the international collections we now offer on the Ancestry suite of sites:


  • Drouin Collection of French-Canadian Vital and Church Records (1621-1967) – 37 million names
  • Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies (1812-1834) – 2.9 million names
  • British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards (1914-1920) – 4.8 million names
  • Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland (1848-1864) – 1 million names
  • German City Directories (1797-1945) – 32 million names
  • Ontario, Canada Births, Marriages, and Deaths – 10.7 million names
  • Swedish Emigration Records (1783-1951) – 1.7 million names

International Content to Come

Currently, we are targeting several other international collections to be released within the year, including:


  • Chinese Jiapu Collection (2000 BC-1950s) – More than 1,200 Chinese family histories containing more than 2 million images in total.
  • Bremen Ships Content (1815-1917) – A detailed collection of more than 20,000 birth, death, desertions, and passenger registrations, which complements the existing Bremen content in the U.S. passenger list collection.
  • British Army Service Records (1914-1920) – Service records for more than 1.2 million British soldiers who fought in WWI.
  • Canadian Passenger Lists (1865-1935) – 8 million names of immigrants and other travelers arriving to Quebec and other major ports during that timeframe.
  • French Vital Records (1798-1902) 12 million names found in original parish and civil records dating from the 1700s through the early 20th century.
  • Deutsche Telecom (1881-1981) – An estimated 70 million names contained in German phone books.
  • Australian Free Settlers Collection (1826-1922) – 9 million names of free settlers and travelers to Australia.
  • Como Italian Tribunals (1866-1936) – 10 million names in Civil Registration Records from the province of Como.
  • Inbound UK Passenger Lists (1878-1960) – 20 million names of those passengers traveling to the UK. Site Improvements and Technology spends millions of dollars each year to ensure that our sites run efficiently and securely, while investing in functionality and new technologies that improve accuracy and productivity, as well as increase satisfaction of our members. From the performance and security of our 5,000-server data center, to the speed and accuracy of searching and hinting, to keeping the world’s largest online collection of personal history safe, technology is a huge focus. This year, has several technological improvements in the works to improve the search experience, foster better collaboration, and offer members new ways of doing family history and preserving these life stories.


Tree-building Features

In July 2006 we launched Ancestry Member Trees, a free online family tree tool. Since then, Ancestry members worldwide have created more than 6 million family trees. Each day, an average of 10,000 new family trees are posted on Ancestry, with 2 million people added to those trees each week. Members have added more than 550 million people to those trees and uploaded roughly 8 million photos, 3 million sources and millions of stories, comments and notations.


The Ancestry Member Tree technology incorporates several features that make it much more than a simple tree building tool, including:


  • Ancestry Hints – This technology looks across a member’s entire tree and all its associations (parents, grandparents, etc.) for relevant matches in our collection of historical records. In recent months, we have vastly improved the amount of content this hint engine searches, as well as its speed and accuracy. Our hinting technology creates a powerful query that extracts more content, more accurately than a one-dimensional search query. It then surfaces the relevant matches in a convenient hint format, appearing as a little green leaf next to a name in a family tree. Since July 2006, Ancestry subscribers have accepted 85 million hints, including census records, member-contributed photos and stories, vital records and more.
  • Hints to other member trees – This feature is one of the newest Ancestry member tree features, as well as one of the most powerful. This hint engine searches through the individuals in a member’s tree to see if that individual is included in other member trees. The hint engine then creates a consolidated “match” that combines what it believes represents the highest-quality information about an individual from a number of member trees. A member can compare the data in this “match” to what he or she already has, or can look at the data included in the underlying trees and sources that make up the “match.” With this tool, members can easily collaborate with others and incorporate another’s tree information as a way to grow their own.
  • Privacy – Ancestry member trees also protect the privacy of living persons in ways that other modes of sharing (such as emailing GEDCOM files) do not. Regardless of whether a tree is set to public or personal, we have tools in place designed to hide information about living family members. Also, a member can share his or her tree and elect to display information about the living to only trusted individuals and family members.
  • Backup file – Ancestry member trees can also be useful as backup files of your work. backs up all of its data regularly and creates multiple tape copies that are stored in a secure, granite vault. Ancestry member trees are an excellent way to back up a lifetime of work, in a high-privacy environment.

Search Enhancements

We spent several months this past year refining the search process in an effort to simplify the search experience and to help our members find what they are looking for more quickly. Earlier this year, several members of the genealogy community tried the new search process and provided feedback that enabled our search team to improve the experience. The new search process includes features such as an image thumbnail view and a type-ahead feature. The thumbnail view, for collections like newspapers and family and local histories, allow you to see the part of the image that include your search terms, allowing you to more quickly zero in on the records that are relevant to your search. The type-ahead feature recognizes if you’re searching for records of someone already in your tree and automatically fills in your search fields with that person’s information.


This year, we will be making three further improvements to the search process:


·        We will improve the search engine’s ability to extract data about people from free-text collections, such as newspapers and stories. We plan to make more of this kind of content available, as well as ways to make searching this content easier and more efficient.

·        We will also dramatically improve the search engine’s ability to denote what records have already been attached to a tree.

·        We are developing a content viewer to allow members to view an image and the index simultaneously.


Military Memorials

An appropriate addition to the person pages within the Ancestry member trees is the ability to create a family member’s military memorial. Here, a member can create a memorial about their family member’s military service – including branch served, years of service, rank, photos, and more. More than 52,000 military memorials have been created since these memorials were added.



Launched in fall 2007, AncestryPress, our new digital scrapbooking application, allows members to easily turn their Ancestry member tree into a professionally designed, leather-bound book. AncestryPress allows users to preserve and share their family histories with nicely formatted pages, charts, and reports. We’re always working to enhance and improve the functionality of this tool. A new addition to AncestryPress is synchronization with Smugmug and Picasa, which allows members to pull photos from these photo-sharing sites into their family history books.



Also in 2007, launched DNA testing services of both Y-DNA (paternal) and mtDNA (maternal) lines. This service adds a new dimension and new possibilities to’s vast set of family history resources. We are currently working to integrate DNA results into the family trees on – a feature that will allow our members to discover their family history and meet distant relatives in a whole new way through search and hinting.


New this month to the DNA side of, are DNA groups, currently in beta, which allow those who’ve taken DNA tests to join organized social networks or study groups. These networks let users work together to discover genetic connections. For example, people with the last name “Washington” could use their DNA test results to determine how they are all related and to help find others to add their DNA.


Products and Upgrades in the Pipeline

Hint Notifications

Within the next several months we will be adding Ancestry Hint email notifications. Simply put, our systems will begin searching 24/7 to see if any matches appear between people in your tree and our content. Our members will be able to choose to receive regular email updates about new matches in their member trees.


Household Merge

The Household Merge product enhancement will allow members to merge an entire household into their member tree. Currently, individuals listed in family groupings, such as on census records, are merged into a member tree one at a time. This update will allow users to bring in one, two, ten, even twenty people in one step with appropriate sources, giving you more time for additional searching.


Ancestry Community Profile Pages

Very soon, member profile pages in the Ancestry Community tab will see some big changes. Our goal is to make them more usable to those looking to connect with other members. The new profile pages will give members the option to enter information about their personal interests and ancestral heritage, as well as their research experience. By searching the profile pages, members can locate others in Ancestry Community willing to help others in their family history pursuits.


Marketing Update

In addition to our content and product updates, we also remain focused on growing the genealogy category through investments in consumer marketing. We’re currently running a full-scale television advertising campaign on several national cable channels. In conjunction with our television advertising is a large online advertising campaign, including affiliates, search engine optimization, and banner advertising. The results of our advertising efforts have been undeniable. Now, approximately 3 million active members use worldwide. 


We believe that these investments in marketing are essential to grow the genealogy community, and our goal is to introduce millions more people to the joys of family history research in the coming years.


The last year or so has been very exciting for, and we hope that we have provided every member of the genealogy community with a useful and valuable tool to advance their own family history. In turn, we would like to thank everyone that helped us improve and advance our service. We remain committed to adding materially to our very unique collection of online family history content…and to providing our members with a great product.


-- Tim Sullivan, CEO, The Generations Network, Inc.

FamilySearch Engages for FHLC

For Immediate Release

14 May 2008

FamilySearch Engages, Inc. to Add Functionality and Enhancements to Popular Online Family History Library Catalog

SALT LAKE CITY—, Inc. has teamed with FamilySearch to improve the user experience of the Family History Library Catalog for millions of people worldwide by adding new Web 2.0 functionality and enhancements. The improvements will also enable users to spend research time more efficiently by directing them to the information that will generate the quickest results.’s improvements to the catalog will make it searchable by major online search engines and allow users to annotate item descriptions—increasing their accuracy and enriching the content.

FamilySearch’s Family History Library Catalog is used extensively by genealogy enthusiasts. It is a window to the vast collection of genealogical resources amassed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the past 100 years—millions of microfilms, fiche, and books from 110+ countries throughout the world.

Genealogists use the popular online catalog to see if FamilySearch has any material that can help them in their research. Materials are then requested through one of FamilySearch’s 4,500 local family history centers worldwide.

“The enhancements will help make to the Family History Library Catalog will increase its usability and exposure. Beginners will find it particularly easier to navigate, and searching and browsing will be more rewarding,” said Paul Nauta, Manager of Public Affairs, FamilySearch.

Improved Searching

Upgrades to the Family History Library Catalog will allow it to be combed by the major Web search engines. That means Web searches done by millions of family history enthusiasts who may not have been familiar with the rich content of the Family History Library Catalog will now discover exciting new sources to assist them in their genealogy pursuits.

In a typical search of the Family History Library Catalog, users first identify known facts about a family and then go through a step-by-step process to locate records. Newly integrated tools will help users better identify information. Guided searches will help users decide what they want to learn about their families, point them to relevant records, help them obtain and search the records, provide clues to more information, and assist them with the application of the new information.

As part of the enhancement, will make searches more useful by allowing the user to browse, sort (by popularity, relevance, most used, etc.), and perform multiple searches. A new “probability engine” feature will calculate the likelihood that a particular source contains the desired item. It will also be able to search across someone’s entire family tree to determine which ancestry lines have the highest likelihood of success based on known sources.

“We are excited to work with FamilySearch and to add this extensive catalog to our database collections,” said Paul Allen, CEO,, Inc. “We have looked at doing this collaboration for quite a while. We will enhance the catalog by connecting it with new innovative tools, along with the best resources of our databases, the social networking site, and our We’re Related application in Facebook. Putting all of these resources together will dramatically change the meaning of ‘search’ in genealogy.”

Social Networking will also add an annotation feature that will encourage user contributions and make the catalog much more dynamic and current. Users will be able to add or suggest a new source, enhance an existing source by adding a place (location) or a time period, and rate and review a source based on its usefulness.

Another enhancement to the Family History Library Catalog will be its increased interactivity. Every entry in the catalog will link to an online or digital source, if available. The user will then be able to link directly to the publisher, buy the book, or search for the nearest copy.

“FamilySearch is excited to work with to enhance the Family History Library Catalog. They are leaders in the Social Networking space and will greatly enhance and extend the catalog and its usefulness to millions of people,” said Ransom Love, FamilySearch Director of Strategic Relations. “We hope this is the first of many other possible opportunities for FamilySearch to outsource key infrastructure components to innovative companies like They will receive access to key resources to help them grow much quicker and FamilySearch’s assets will be upgraded and extended in return.”

“We know that search traffic will increase on both the FamilyLink services and FamilySearch’s site when users discover the new guided search tools,” said President David Lifferth. “Last month we had over 700,000 unique visitors and 8.5 million page views. We are predicting that these numbers will more than double after the first quarter of use.”

Media Contact
Paul Nauta

FamilySearch Public Affairs Manager

Whitney Ransom
Corporate Communications Director, Inc.

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world’s largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.

About, Inc., Inc. is a family of services that includes,, and the We're Related application on Facebook. The focus of the company is to provide innovative tools to connect families.


Founded in 2006 by Paul Allen and several key members of the original team,, Inc. provides affordable access to genealogy databases and family history tools used by more than 600,000 monthly visitors. The site registers 9.4 million monthly page views and has more than 25,000 subscribers. With thousands of databases—including birth, death, military, census, and parish records— makes it easy to fill in missing information in your family tree. Some of its partners include Everton Publishers, Quintin Publications, Archive CD Books Australia, Gould Genealogy, Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, Archive CD Books Canada, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., SmallTownPapers®, Accessible Archives, Genealogical Publishing Company, Find My Past, Godfrey Memorial Library, Find A Grave, and FamilySearch. Investors include vSpring Capital and several angel investors.

FamilySearch Teams with Civil War Era Records

For Immediate Release

14 May 2008

FamilySearch Teams with to

Publish Historic Civil War Era Records

1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions Index are first projects

SALT LAKE CITY—FamilySearch announced today its records access agreement with to publish two significant Civil War Era databases online—the 1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions Index. The two relevant collections will provide free online access to millions of names of individuals from the 1860 to 1865 period in the United States. The completed databases will expand FamilySearch’s growing, free U.S. Census collection online and Footnote’s Civil War Collection.

The censuses and Civil War pension files are the most used collections of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The 1860 census provides a snapshot of families living during the Civil War Era. The index to the Civil War pension applications allows searchers to quickly see if a Civil War veteran or his widow applied for a pension—which can lead to rich family history information contained in the original pension document.

Under the agreement, FamilySearch will provide the digital images of the original documents for the 1860 U.S. Census, and will provide the indexes to both the 1860 U.S. Census and Civil War Pensions. FamilySearch plans to publish the indexes for both of these collections for free this year at The images of the original documents will also be viewable at or accessed for free through the 4,500 FamilySearch family history centers located worldwide.

As segments of the collections are completed, users will be able to search them at

Civil War Pensions Index

Ten percent (3 million) of the U.S. population served or fought in the U.S. Civil War, and 2 percent (620,000) died—more American casualties than The American Revolutionary War, World War I, World War II, The War against Switzerland, The War of 1812, and the Vietnam War combined. If soldiers or their families applied for a pension from the government, an index card for the pension application should exist.

The index also extends beyond the Civil War to include veterans who served between 1861 to 1917 in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, the Boxer Rebellion, and the regular establishment.

Each card usually lists the soldier's full name, rank, company and regiment, when he enlisted and discharged, and provides a certificate number required to order a copy of the original pension application from NARA. The completed index will allow users to search on a name, or browse by state, arm of service (infantry, cavalry, militia, etc.), regiment, and company to locate individual records.

1860 U.S. Census

The 1860 U.S. Census index will allow users to quickly search the names of 31 million people captured on the census. Additional information includes the age, sex, color, place of birth, and marriage status. Slave schedules show the name of the slave owner, number of slaves owned, number of freed slaves, and the age, color, and gender of the slaves. The names of the slaves were not included in the 1860 Census.

“These record collections provide a valuable view of America during a critical time in its history,” said Russ Wilding, CEO of “Together with the other Civil War documents on, visitors are able to piece together a picture of our history that few have seen before.”

Ransom Love, director of Strategic Relationships for FamilySearch, added, “Footnote is targeting U.S. historical records and building their Civil War Collection. FamilySearch wants to provide free indexes to all of the U.S. Censuses online. This joint project helps bring both companies closer to their respective goals.”

For further information, please contact:

Paul Nauta
FamilySearch Public Affairs

Justin Schropfer
Footnote Director of Marketing

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.

About Footnote is a subscription website that features searchable original documents, providing users with an unaltered view of the events, places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At, all are invited to come share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Locating Original Records from the IGI

A recent post on the LDS-GENEALOGY RootsWeb mailing list asked how to find the original records for some entries in the FamilySearch International Genealogical Index (IGI). The poster was J.K. (Is this a good time to start a rumor about the Harry Potter author?) J.K. knew and had already done the basic steps shown below (given for the FamilySearch website as it exists today).

  • The batch number itself tells you something about the source. Look up the meaning of the batch number at or Hugh Wallis' IGI Batch Numbers website.
  • IGI sources fall into two major types: extraction projects and submissions by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If the batch was extracted, continue with these steps to find the original source.
  • To see what source information the IGI has about the batch, you must view the search results for an individual in the batch.
  • Start at
  • Click on the Search tab, then on International Genealogical Index on the left.
  • Enter the Batch Number AND the Region and click Search. The result is a list of everyone in that batch. With or without a surname, this is a useful way of identifying other individuals of interest.
  • To see source information, click on the name of any individual in the batch.
  • At the bottom of the results, you will see a message and source information. Here's an example for batch C083701 in the British Isles:


Extracted birth or christening record for the locality listed in the record. The source records are usually arranged chronologically by the birth or christening date.

Source Information:

Batch No.: Dates: Source Call No.: Type: Printout Call No.: Type:
Sheet: 00
1814-1837 0825384 (RG4 1552) Film 1037038 Film

A description of each of these items in found in the FamilySearch Wiki. If a source call number is present, click on it to see the entry in the Family History Library catalog (FHLC) for the source. "If the IGI record has a batch number, but does not have a call number, contact Family History Library Support for assistance in obtaining the call number."

Use Brute Force

I explored, here, a brute-force method of finding the source records without contacting support (1-866-406-1830 in the United States or While this method might conceivably work, I don't really know if it ever does. It certainly didn't work in the case I tried.

Let's walk through J.K.'s request as an example. J.K. found the christenings of Mary Ann and Elizabeth Whitcome Nichols, children of Samuel and Catherine Nichols on 4-Oct-1830 in Eccles, Lancashire, England. The IGI source information gave nothing but the batch number: C017516.


Extracted birth or christening record for the locality listed in the record. The source records are usually arranged chronologically by the birth or christening date.

Source Information:

Batch No.: Dates: Source Call No.: Type: Printout Call No.: Type:

J.K. searched parish records for St. Mary's and didn't find these entries. What, then, was the source?

I decided my best hope was to find the printout catalog entry, since I learned from our C083701 example above that the printout catalog entry listed both the batch number (in the form C-8370-1) and the source film number.

  • The first thing I tried was doing a keyword search for the batch number. I searched for both C017516 and C-1751-6 but didn't find either one.
  • The next thing I tried was a place search for Eccles, part of Lancashire.
  • I assumed the extracted record printout would be considered an index, so I selected the topic England, Lancashire, Eccles - Church records - Indexes. I was looking for christening records including the year 1830 and excluding St. Mary's. Fortunately, there were only 7 results, few enough to check manually.
    1. Baptist: batch 09176-1, source 0560880 item 8.
    2. Batch 00702-1, source 0093727.
    3. Monton Green Presbyterian: 08829-1, 0560880 item 6-7.
    4. Wesleyan Methodist: 08830-1, 0560880 item 9.
    5. Not an extraction printout.
    6. Monton Green Presbyterian: C-8829-1, 560880.
    7. Wesleyan Methodist: C-8830-1, 560880.
    None of these have the right batch number. Unless the batch number changed when the format changed, none of these is the desired choice.
  • Assuming the original record is held by the Family History Library, I repeated the place search but picked the topic England, Lancashire, Eccles - Church records. Of the 28 results, all but the following can be eliminated because they don't have 1830 christenings or they are for St. Mary's:
    * Bishop's transcripts for Eccles, 1613-1864  Church of England. Parish Church of Eccles (Lancashire)
    * Bishop's transcripts for Pendlebury, 1844-1855  Church of England. Chapelry of Pendlebury (Lancashire)
    * Bishop's transcripts for Pendleton, 1813-1820  Church of England. Chapelry of Pendleton (Lancashire)
    * Bishop's transcripts for Walkden-Moor, 1852-1859  Church of England. Chapelry of Walkden-Moor (Lancashire)
    * Parish registers for St. Peter's Church, Swinton, 1791-1928  Church of England. St. Peter's Church (Swinton, Lancashire)
    * The registers of the parish church of Eccles in the county of Lancaster  Hodder, A. E. (Andrew Edward)
    Unfortunately, there is no way to know if any of these are the desired source without methodically searching each one.

All things considered, I think I could wait for a response from FamilySearch support.