APG-L Archives

Archiver > APG > 2008-12 > 1229476106

From: "Peggy K. Reeves" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Records Imaging at Ancestry.com -- Was: Chicago MarriageRecords and other LDS databases
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 20:08:26 -0500
References: <E8A407E8542F9744A59AD8DDC605458F1112A77B17@ex01.myfamily.int>
In-Reply-To: <E8A407E8542F9744A59AD8DDC605458F1112A77B17@ex01.myfamily.int>

NARA researchers have always been able to request to see a document that
is not clear enough to read on-screen. We know what is there because we
can look at the microfilm indexes ourselves. But when new record groups
are scanned from original documents and new indexes to these records are
created by volunteers doing tedious work on a profit deadline (omitting
the more difficult images, or misreading names for lack of experience),
then the record disappears. In other words, how can we know to request
to see the actual document if we can't see it on an index to know that
it exists in the first place? We can't, and that is how records
disappear from our view forever.

I have done a great deal of work with the Civil War pension files. You
are correct that the Navy pensions were very dark on microfilm and
mostly not readable because the original cards were blue. But there are
many more pension card images that were very light on the microfilm (not
Navy pensions) that are just "missing", that your subscribers don't even
know about. You didn't mention those. Which database are those in at
Ancestry? How will we find them when the pension files are all
digitized and we can no longer request them? NARA has plans to make a
larger gift shop out of the present microfilm room, forcing us to be
more dependent on the online images and indexes, and they are likely to
get rid of the old microfilm when they can say that the indexes are
online. Yet we will still hear, as we do now, that there is full access
to everything for everyone, since they have computers on-site with free
subscriptions. Those who aren't on-site to see it really don't know the

I don't have a problem with folks making a living by selling records, as
long as I can still see those records, too. The records of the Federal
Government already belong to all of us taxpayers. The NARA contracts
allow more access and special favors to one group, with little or no
accountability for accuracy and competency, while limiting what the rest
of us can request and see, and that is a problem. Ancestry could have
carts of pension files--I can only get four in each pull, and I have to
sign them out one at a time. It's certainly not something for us to be
excited about, though I can see why the Ancestry folks would be excited
about it.

Peggy Reeves

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [APG] Records Imaging at Ancestry.com -- Was: Chicago Marriage
Records and other LDS databases
From: Chad Milliner <>
To: 'APGMailingList' <>
Date: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 7:12:49 PM
> 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
> Ancestry.com
> ..
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