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Archiver > APG > 2008-12 > 1229434904

Subject: Re: [APG] Chicago Marriage Records and other LDS databases
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 07:41:44 -0600

Tom --

I appreciate your points, and that you were discussing Cook County and not
NARA. But can you respond to Peggy's larger concerns, namely

* that difficult images are left out altogether rather than being noted?

* that original records once indexed and filmed will no longer be available to

The good quality of online images pulled, and the existence of free indexes,
are indeed great news, but they don't speak to these two disturbing questions
she raised.

Harold Henderson

Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 00:28:06 -0500
From: "Tom Kemp" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Chicago Marriage Records and other LDS databases
To: APGMailingList <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1

In my experience:
1. The images on FamilySearch.org are terrific. The Chicago marriage
certificate images I have pulled are all perfectly clear. The census
images that they put up were remarkably clear - so much so that some
of the vendors have worked out arrangements to use the new FHL images
because they are so much better quality. The FHL created images are
free on their site.
2. The FHL indexes are done by volunteers - but note that they are
being done by two different indexers - independent of each other -
compared and when there is not a match a third person makes the call.
The "barter" arrangements you wrote about is a vendor that is offering
indexers access to their content for their indexing projects. The
indexes on the FHL are free.
3. Seems to me like a massive effort - created and managed by hundreds
of employees, over decades; worked on by thousands of volunteers and
the result is totally free to the public - 24/7 on the website.

I wrote about the Cook County marriage certificates going online -
free indexes, free images.
I can't see a downside to this effort but see this as a great day for

The indexing & images created for the FHL site - did not follow the
process used at the commercial sites mentioned in the e-mail below.

Ron Jackson created the AIS Census Indexes and changed the way
genealogists operated. He opened up the census like never before.

Were they perfect indexes?
Nope - but they sure helped.

Ancestry, HeritageQuest etc. hired indexers in other countries - and
created indexes that did an even better job.
Were they perfect?
No - they weren't perfect either - but the impact was huge.
People, regular people could look for their ancestors and actually find them.
The process was compelling - they were hooked.
A new and huge generation of genealogists was born.

It's all good and getting better.
Today is a day like I've never seen in the 43 years I have been
actively working on my family's history and every week brings more
content. Having this content free online is the icing on the cake.


On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 10:23 PM, Peggy K. Reeves <> wrote:
> 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-

Harold Henderson
Research and Writing from Northwest Indiana

home office 219/324-2620

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