APG-L Archives

Archiver > APG > 2008-12 > 1229472769

From: Chad Milliner <>
Subject: [APG] Records Imaging at Ancestry.com -- Was: Chicago MarriageRecords and other LDS databases
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 17:12:49 -0700

The National Archives and Records Administration and Ancestry.com have a digitization partnership. The National Archives typically does withdraw from public access record sets that we have imaged -- or that FamilySearch or Footnote have imaged. This is because the National Archives wants to ensure that the original documents are preserved for future generations. Every time a record is handled by a researcher, it gets slightly more worn. I am sure we have all had the experience of handling an original document that is so brittle that little pieces of paper break off when we unfold and refold it. So providing access to the original records via the scanned images is a reasonable compromise. That said, a researcher who still has a need to see the original will be able to do so once s/he explains that need to a reference consultant at the National Archives.

Imaging the original records is expensive, which is why in the past, Ancestry.com focused on imaging records that had already been microfilmed. Sometimes the quality of the microfilm was not what we had hoped for. The General Index to Pensions referred to earlier in this thread was one such example. That microfilm contained images that were too dark for the scanning machines we then had available. The imaging of those cards began about ten years ago. Think about how much consumer-grade digital cameras have improved in the last decade. The same is true for commercial microfilm scanners, which are really just a type of very expensive digital camera.

Most of the overly-dark images were index cards for Navy pensioners, because the original cards had blue backgrounds. So if you are searching for a Civil War pension for a person who served in the Navy, and you don't find the entry you are looking for in that database, I recommend instead using this database that we added earlier this year: http://www.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1357, U.S. Navy Pension Index, 1861-1910.

Going forward, we will be imaging many original records at the National Archives, and that work is already in progress. We will image those original records in color when there is a need to do so. Our agreement with the National Archives requires us to adhere to standards they set. National Archives employees will do all the transportation of the documents to and from the vaults and they will do any of the physical work required to prepare the documents for imaging, such as flattening tri-folded files. Because the cost of imaging original records is many times greater than the cost of scanning microfilm, the National Archives gives Ancestry.com (and Footnote and FamilySearch) a few years of exclusive access to the images created. But access to the images will always be free at National Archives facilities, and once we no longer have exclusive rights to the images we create, the National Archives will make the images available to everyone everywhere.

You can see a complete list of what National Archives materials we have made accessible to researchers during the past decade here: http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/nara.aspx (scroll down past the search box). We are extremely excited about being able to partner with the National Archives in their efforts to preserve original records for future generations while still allowing public access to the information that those records contain.

Chad Milliner, AG

This thread: