Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday Mailbox: FamilySearch vs. Record Acquisition

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Two questions.

1) Does FamilySearch have the same records as because there are two teams of people photographing the same materials? Or, do the different entities keep each area with some propriety, so that there are fewer duplicates?

2) Are there any plans to go back to some of the older records, for example, in Italy, where the first microfiche records are so poor?


Dear bldgdiva, and FamilySearch have been known to swap records. That would explain why some collections are present on both websites.

For example, according to the FamilySearch Wiki, FamilySearch obtained the “Nevada, Marriage Index, 1956-2005” record collection from And according to the website, obtained the “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947” collection from FamilySearch. According to an press release, FamilySearch and traded some U.S. census images and indexes.

Sometimes the two organizations work together on a project. At RootsTech this year,’s Tim Sullivan announced “our largest and most ambitious collaboration with FamilySearch, ever.” The two will work together to digitize, index, and publish U.S. probate records.

Some records are present on both websites because both organizations have digitized the same microfilm. I think NARA microfilm M1509 is an example. It is published as “U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918” on and as “United States, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918” on

Both companies have their own digitization teams out imaging records. (Nearly two years ago I published maps showing the locations of each organization’s digitization teams at the time. Click on the maps to enlarge.) I suppose duplication could occur, but typically archives won’t allow it. Handling records causes deterioration so archives don’t like two entities both photographing the same records.

As to going back to retake photographs of records already on film or fiche: I suppose it could happen, but I think these organizations get more return on their investment by going after new records.

That said, I know that FamilySearch is digitizing more than 115 million images of Italian birth, marriage, and death certificates. (See “Italian Ancestors: Making Italy Civil Registration Records Freely Searchable Online.”) Perhaps they will get the records you need. If you can read Italian records, I’m sure they would be happy if you would help out.

FamilySearch Italian Ancestors project

The Ancestry Insider


  1. As I've thought about this issue over the years, I've wondered if the big genealogy companies have overlapping collections -- because -- they want to put up collections that appeal most to beginners (such as folks who only know their grandparents names). I don't think unique collections appeal as much to beginners as to hobbyists, because they haven't gotten than far along yet. If beginners can attach U.S. census records to their trees, that will keep them busy a long time -- which is why I'm guessing all the big companies go after this same record set.

  2. FamilySearch sometimes also cuts a deal with Ancestry where Ancestry does the digitization of existing FamilySearch microfilm and then gets an online exclusive on it for a period of time. After the exclusive runs out then FamilySearch has records that have been scanned for them.

  3. Saw where FamilySearch recently tried to work with Findagrave, but they said no. Shortly afterwards, Findagrave updated its privacy policy to include references to if it was sold or major assets acquired by another company.

    It also added a ToS for the first time in its long history and parts of it mirror's Terms and Conditions.

    Some people on the Findagrave forums think it means the site is being sold or acquired by another company. Nothing official from Findagrave yet, but thought you might have a guess as to what's going on. Talked to a friend and they saw the same kind of TpS changes before Ancestry acquired Fold3 and

  4. With respect to film and fiche, many older records are only available on one or both. Many groups are phasing out film and fiche readers so these records could be lost forever if something is not done to save them. If FamilySearch or Ancestry does not take it on, then hopefully somebody will. My library purchased several new digital microfilm readers as they have a large collection of film. Not sure what is going to happen as the film degrades with time and use, but the items on film are not available at the library in any other format.


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