Thursday, August 11, 2016

Gordon Atkinson and Fold3 – #BYUFHGC

Gordon Atkinson presents about Fold3 at the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.At the 2016 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy Gordon Atkinson presented “Getting to Know Fold3.” is owned by Gordon started at Ancestry in the early 2000s. He [and others?] left in waves in 2006 and created the company Footnote. It launched in 2007 and went well because of its relationship with the National Archives and Records Administration. In October 2010 Ancestry acquired Footnote. We went back into “the mothership” as we liked to call them. Afterwards Ancestry rebranded them as Fold3. When the flag is folded there are 13 folds. The 3rd fold honors those who have given their all to their country.

In the last year and a half, they changed their logo from a folded flag to a chevron. They are adding non U.S. content and this logo is more universal. Their colors used to be orange and blue. Perhaps it was because Gordon and their designer liked the Denver Broncos.

They just recently moved their offices from Lindon to the new Ancestry building in Lehi. “We moved in with them. That’s a big step in any relationship,” he joked. Gordon thinks It’s a beautiful place and will allow for better collaboration. And it has chocolate milk on tap!

Fold3’s content is harder to organize than Newspapers are easily organized by location and date. Military records are a whole other ballgame. They are difficult to index. The content varies from record to record. A record often doesn’t have birth and death information; searching by that information won’t find your ancestor.

Not every military record is available to be on the site. Privacy prevents it for some. There are a lot of records that are only on paper. For example, the War of 1812 pension files are being digitized from paper in a partnership with FGS (the Federation of Genealogical Societies) and FamilySearch. It is much more difficult and much more expensive than scanning microfilm. They have been working on Civil War Widows Pension applications.

Google has spoiled us, Gordon said. We type what we want and Google brings it up. But with Fold3, there may be a record over fifty pages long and they have indexed only names and the state.

They are currently in a project to update their search. They’re changing some of the index fields to make it better. You really can’t solve the search problems; you can only make it better.

You have access to Fold3 at FamilySearch Family History Centers because of an agreement with FamilySearch. It is free at BYU. The institutional version looks similar, but slightly different, from the home version. At home, you need a subscription. You can also buy a bundle with and Ancestry Academy.

They do not offer an app, but the website is mobile-friendly…-ish, he said.

If you want help, go to the help page. ( It includes a link to a Fold3 class on Ancestry Academy. (The same group in Lindon launched the Ancestry Academy site.) You will need a free account on to view the free courses, including the one about Fold3.

On the home page you can search right away, or use browse. It is similar to because it shares some of the same code, and there was an attempt to make them similar. When browsing, first select category (mostly wars) and then publication. From there, it depends on the publication. The Revolutionary War Pensions is subdivided by state. A state is divided by surname initial. You can browse in as far as you wish, clear to the individual. At any time while browsing, you can stop and search. The search will include just the records you are browsing into.

They have indexed all the names in a record, rather than just the principal name. Most of their indexing is done overseas. When you consider the indexers are from places like the Philippines, Bangladesh, or China, they do a pretty good job. Fold3 uses grayscale images because they are a little easier to read. When viewing an image, select Annotations to see a list of the secondary names indexed on that image.

The Information tab shows information about the NARA publication, even including a link to the NARA catalog.

In Fold3, when you find something, bookmark it by clicking the star so you don’t have to try to figure out the searching and browsing that brought you to the record.

You can add annotations: names, locations, dates, comments, or transcriptions. These are added to the search index.

The Save to Ancestry button isn’t labeled. It shows only the leaf icon. They are overhauling the process of logging into Ancestry. [I didn’t think it was bad.] You login, select a tree, and then select a person. This is going to improve in the future, with thumbnail and indexed information. Only those with a Fold3 subscription can follow the link and see the record on Fold3.

You can download an entire page or a select a region. They are trying to figure out how to download a multiple page record into a PDF. Today, it must be done one page at a time. You can share it. If you are a paying subscriber, non-subscribers can still see the records you share.

The image viewer uses HTML 5 instead of Flash.

You can zoom in and out and fit to window. You can adjust brightness or contrast or invert the image. You can rotate the document, which is useful for margin annotations found so commonly in historical documents. You can go full screen.

The lines in the filmstrip designate new files.

There is a watch button for search results. For a watched search, Fold3 will send you an email notification for new search matches.

Fold3 has an honor wall. Fold3 has started it with some memorial pages, but you can add your own. (See an example for Charles L Rodeback.) Starting with basic military documents, you can add warmth via stories and photographs.

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