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Archiver > APG > 2008-12 > 1229399469

From: Ray Beere Johnson II <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Chicago Marriage Records and other LDS databases
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2008 19:51:09 -0800 (PST)
In-Reply-To: <49471F30.9030507@reevesweb.com>

Start a blog. You can do so at no cost. Post about these things, get anyone you know who is a witness to join you and post. Learn how to gain visibility for your blog. The Internet offers everyone the chance to make their voices heard. You can use this tool to stir people up, to put pressure on either the government or the paid services to do a better job.
Yes, it will take work, but if the problems are half as bad as you indicate (and I suspect they are more than half as bad, personally), it needs to be done. The rewards far outweigh the effort.
One caution: I am not a lawyer, and what I am saying is not legal advice. But you will be annoying businesses with a _lot_ of revenue at stake. You should seek competent legal advice to make sure you do not write anything which could leave you legally exposed.
Ray Beere Johnson II

--- On Mon, 12/15/08, Peggy K. Reeves <> wrote:
> 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

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