APG-L Archives

Archiver > APG > 2008-12 > 1229397808

From: "Peggy K. Reeves" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Chicago Marriage Records and other LDS databases
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2008 22:23:28 -0500
References: <45c595dc0812151235s2b75b96btc8604f757b67affc@mail.gmail.com> <45c595dc0812151235y57daf06i1883841027ee5fe4@mail.gmail.com> <45c595dc0812151236j3c36596fk12d28c607f794d8a@mail.gmail.com> <45c595dc0812151236v2a4e3338y574b92cf4483ccbe@mail.gmail.com><45c595dc0812151237h4c88c71ek8bfdd343182dacce@mail.gmail.com>
In-Reply-To: <45c595dc0812151237h4c88c71ek8bfdd343182dacce@mail.gmail.com>

Regarding Chicago Marriage records, and other images being put online...

How do you know they are all "sharp, clear digital images"? I have not
personally worked with Cook County records, but I can tell you what the
familysearch people are doing at NARA D.C. First, they recruit
"volunteers" (through this site and others) to do indexing projects in
exchange for free subscriptions to services such as footnote (owned by
members of the LDS church). These "volunteers" are not necessarily
professionals--they are anyone and everyone, experienced or not, who
will do the job for free to keep their overhead down. This is why the
indexing and transcriptions at ancestry and footnote are so poor.

The larger issue is the alleged "sharp, clear digital images". Some of
the images are sharp and clear, but what they don't tell you is that the
images that weren't very readable, or that they couldn't get a good
enough scan of at all, are not even included in the database, nor are
they indexed. They (the footnote folks) are scanning in poor quality
black-and-white images, and not from the original documents in most
cases, but from antiquated NARA microfilm that is difficult to read in
the first place. When it is scanned, the quality degrades further and
often is not readable at all. Dark microfilm turns out completely
black, and light microfilm scans as a blank image. If they were to
index all of these images from the microfilm, and include the dark and
light images in the database, then you would know just how much is
actually missing and not readable (and that would be bad PR, so it's
best to just toss them). You would also know what is available, and
could ask to see copies of the originals at NARA if it was not readable
online. But if you don't know that a file even exists, then you can't
even ask to see it. What you don't know won't hurt you, and as long as
you think you're getting it all, then you'll be willing to pay for the
subscriptions and believe the propaganda that they are "99.(whatever)
percent accurate".

The ancestry Civil War pension index is a good example. Many of those
cards are difficult to read on the NARA microfilm. Ancestry has a
disclaimer that says 10% of the images are "missing". They are NOT
"missing". The truth is that the subscription service chose not to
include the ones that scanned as all black or all blank, and it's more
like 20-30%, not 10%. If you scan the ancestry database for a soldier
to see if he was a pensioner, 2 or 3 out of every 10 pensioners will not
be found there, even though they are on the microfilm index at NARA.
Southern Claims and Confederate service records are other examples of
very poor microfilm that footnote has made so-called "sharp, clear
digital images" of. People mistakenly rely on these databases thinking
that they are complete, when they are FAR from complete. A great deal
of the valuable genealogical information in the Revolutionary War
pension files (online at footnote) is not readable, even though it might
be perfectly readable on the microfilm. The biggest example of this are
the files that include Bible pages of b/d/m. These torn-out pages,
usually mailed in by destitute widows to prove their marriage and
children, were often in poor condition, and many that I have seen are
readable on the NARA microfilm but not readable at all online.

Footnote is now scanning Civil War widow's pension files from the
original paper. The originals are on papers of many different colors,
and sometimes faded and difficult to read. The technology exists to
scan these valuable files with high-quality color scanning, but it is
not being done. The federal government, responsible for preserving the
records, is not doing so. The subscription services offered the federal
government a cheap alternative, and they sold out to the subscription
services. The problem is that once these files are filmed (no matter
how cheap and poor the images are), NARA will then take these files out
of circulation so that no one can request to see the originals any
more. In other words, we will all be stuck with whatever the
subscription services do, and a great deal of valuable information will
be forever lost to us ALL, because we won't be allowed to see the
originals any more. These services have a great deal of interest in
making a profit, skimming the easily readable stuff and selling it as
"sharp, clear digital images", but they show little regard for the
historic preservation of original documents, and there is absolutely no
quality control or accountability.

I don't have a blog. I am at NARA on a regular basis and know all this
from my own firsthand experience. The big question is: what can be done
about it to ensure access to ALL of the records for all of us? It is
troubling to see so much disappearing, and to see so many people
believing whatever the subscription services tell them to believe.

Peggy Reeves

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [APG] Chicago Marriage Records 1871-1920 going online
From: Tom Kemp <>
To: APGMailingList <>
Date: Monday, December 15, 2008 3:37:09 PM
> There are only a small handful of Internet sites that are putting up
> sharp, clear digital images of genealogical records, the kind of
> resources that genealogists want to use and will rely on for their
> research.
> www.FamilySearchLabs.org has been doing just that. They have just
> added Cook County (IL) Marriage Records from 1900 to 1920 and
> announced that they will expand these back further to 1871. Cook
> County - is more than just Chicago - it includes the townships of
> Barrington, Berwyn, Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Cicero, Elk Grove,
> Evanston, Hanover, Lemont, Leyden, Lyons, Maine, New Trier, Niles,
> Northfield, Norwood Park, Oak Park, Orland, Palatine, Palos, Proviso,
> Rich, River Forest, Riverside, Schaumburg, Stickney, Thornton,
> Wheeling, Worth.
> I wrote about it with an example at:
> http://blog.genealogybank.com/2008/12/chicago-marriage-certificates-1871-1920.html

This thread: