Thursday, September 12, 2013

FamilySearch Image Count Inflation

An anonymous tipster (not a FamilySearch employee) pulled me aside at a recent conference to tell me that FamilySearch.org inflates its claims for numbers of images published.

He pointed out the “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918” as representative. This collection has 23,849,118 draft registration cards, according to FamilySearch.org. (Ancestry.com claims a slightly higher count, 24,034,495, but that’s a topic for another investigation.) Each card has a single, associated image. Yet FamilySearch.org claims its collection contains 48,854,755 images, more than double the actual count.

The tipster alleges that when the collection was first published, the image count was 25,007,403 images, a reasonable amount given the number of cards plus extra images, including the NARA pamphlet at the beginning of each microfilm roll. At that time there was no index. As the number of indexed records grew, the image count did also, always by about the same as the additional records.

I checked with FamilySearch and was told that there is a known bug with the image counts displayed on collection pages. The current system makes it too expensive to fix, but later upgrades will make fixing this bug possible.

I decided to watch for myself to see if this was actually happening. I chose an unfinished collection, “Germany, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Census 1867.” It had 104,985 records and 274,707 images.

The record collection had 104,985 records
The record collection had 274,707 images

On 22 August 2013 FamilySearch updated the collection. As predicted, the number of images went up (to 298,241). Weirdly, the number of records went down (to 68,233).

The number of records fell to 68,233
The number of images went up to 298,241

I don’t know what happened to the number of records. But until the image count bug is fixed, be aware that if you plan to browse the entire “Germany, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Census 1867” collection, you’ll only need to view 274,707 images, not 298,241.

1 comment:

  1. I am not too concerned with image "counts" as much as image contents. Everyone should know (and I am sure some do) that it pays to check both FamilySearch and Ancestry for the same record images. I found the second page to my gr grandfather's WWII Draft Registration Card on FamilySearch. It was missing from Ancestry.

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