APG-L ArchivesArchiver > APG > 2008-12 > 1229580752
Subject: Re: [APG] Chicago Marriage Records and other LDS databases
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2008 00:12:32 -0600
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> This is not some Mom and Pop
business we are talking about, it is the Federal Government. If they
see a cheap and easy way out of their dilemma, they're going to take it,
and that is what they have done by giving out contracts to LDS supported
businesses to sell the records that already belong to all of us (that we
shouldn't have to pay a subscription to see).
Thank you for reminding us that, as researchers, we have to thoughtfully
appraise the resources we use and never take any source for granted.
Being a researcher who has spent her professional life "out in the boonies"
rather than in the DC metropolitan area where I would have convenient access
to NARA, I have a significantly different perspective on the issues that you
raise. I'll focus here on just two aspects:
1. Paying for data that belongs to all of us.
You mentioned, in an earlier post, the Southern Claims Commission records
that are now being digitized by Footnote. Prior to the existence of
Footnote, my husband and I spent over $10,000 ordering SCC files for various
research projects. The microfilm and paper copies we received have a fair
share of barely legible pages; and we, too, had to wonder whether there were
other pages we did not receive because they were too faded or too aged to
photocopy. Today, I can download literally tens of thousands of SCC pages
from Footnote for $69--the cost of an annual subscription that also gives me
unlimited access to millions of other pages of documentary material.
2. Receiving incomplete access or service without notice of such.
Many times, Peggy, across many years, I have ordered records from NARA. With
those orders (as on my personal visits to NARA) I have found most staffers
to be diligent and responsive--some of them, exceedingly so. For part of
that time, NARA has also contracted out order-fulfillment services. Under
both systems, by mail or in person, there have been times when I would be
informed that the file did not exist; but, after three or more attempts to
order it, my request would land in the hands of someone who actually found
it. Under both systems there have been times when I would order a file and
receive, say, 11 pages; then a re-order for that same file would generate 8
pages; and the third time, I might get 32 pages. When I would receive the 8
pages or the 11 pages, the person who filled the order never told me that
there were more pages not being copied.
No system is perfect. We do help to improve the quality of a system when we
define the problems and devise an effective means to communicate that
problem to those who have the power to resolve it.
Realistically, knowing NARA's perennially short funds, I am grateful to NARA
for allowing commercial entities to microfilm records under the kind of
partnerships that have been announced. I am also grateful to the
entrepreneurs who have started these companies and found venture capital
within many different segments of America. I am grateful to the boards and
corporate officers who, even though they are non-LDS, are willing to partner
with FamilySearch and with each other to expand the access that all of us
enjoy. I am equally grateful to LDS for all it offers to the genealogical
community, asking nothing in return except volunteer help if we care to give
I don't agree that records are freely available anywhere. Records, by and
large, are "freely available" only to those who live close enough to access
them. But even in DC, the NARA records are not "free" to even "look at." If
I lived within the Beltway and visited NARA every time I needed to consult a
NARA record I can now access commercially on my desktop, I'd spend far more
on transit fares and time lost to transit than I now spend on those on-line
subscriptions. It seems to me that we all have to pay for what we want or
need, one way or another.
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
APG Member, Tennessee
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