Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ancestry.com’s Vital-ity

Ancestry recently added a bunch of new vital records.

“We released over 50 databases,” said company spokesperson, Crista Cowan, “containing millions of vital records from all over the United States.”

I’d provide a list with links as I’ve often done in the past, but Ancestry.com has changed their list of new databases. They’ve made the list much prettier. Simultaneously, they removed the static links to the databases. You can no longer copy and paste a list with working links. That’s a dangerous thing for websites to do, as Google won’t index via dynamic links. Fortunately, Google found other paths to the databases, as shown in green below.


But I digress…

As I perused the databases, I found something interesting. Some of the new databases come from FamilySearch.org.  After making the discovery, I spot checked every 5th new database released on October 17th to see where it came from.

Database Names (without links) Records Source

Oconee County, Georgia Probate Death Certificates, 1927-2010

7,008 Oconee County

Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1914-1942


Private donor

Georgia, Deaths Index, 1914-1927



Cook County, Illinois, Deaths Index, 1878-1922



Michigan, Births and Christenings Index, 1867-1911



New Jersey, Deaths and Burials Index, 1798-1971



New Hampshire, Death and Burial Records Index, 1654-1949



Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951



Russell County, Kansas, Vitals and Newspaper Records, 1800-1937


Historical Society

Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852-1854



I found 90% of these records were from FamilySearch.

My sampling method was unscientific. Does the same percentage apply to the 50 million names released in new databases that day?

I asked Ancestry and FamilySearch for comment. Ancestry declined and FamilySearch had no response.

Overly Long Source Citations

Incidentally, in the “Utah, Birth Registers, 1892-1944” database, I found something interesting. Genealogy publishers face a problem of lengthy database source citations when they combine records from many different archives. Here’s how Ancestry handled the problem for this database:

Original data: Assorted Birth Registers of Utah Counties. Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah State Archives and Records Service. View Full Source Citations

A click of the link and you see a page full of sources Ancestry combined to create this database.

I like it. Simple. Comprehensive. Elegant.

Unfortunately, when you view a record, the source citation—still split weirdly in two—doesn’t provide a finished citation:


One must cobble together information from these two parts plus the separate page. Unfortunately, the same lists weren’t provided for the databases originating from FamilySearch. (That’s not surprising,however, as FamilySearch doesn’t provide them for the collections on its own site.)

Still, 50 new vital record databases, some with complete lists of sources; Ancestry is vital still.


  1. In the same group, Ancestry.com added several index series to WV vital records. Not one of them includes the actual original Volume:page often given in the FamilySearch.com versionns.

  2. I have the impression that there were and are folks who extract more ancestors than just their own from the microfilm ordered from FamilySearch. And I'm sure some of those turn out to be folks that are hoping that the "extras" will turn out to be family members.

    However, to massively extract (or copy) microfilms was discouraged at some point. So, we will wonder how Ancestry ended up with the Family Search films and/or databases. I think that some folks believe that the church owns Ancestry.com, though I know that's not the case.


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