apg-L Archives

Archiver > apg > 2008-12 > 1229646978

From: "Peggy K. Reeves" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] LDS databases and accountability
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2008 19:36:18 -0500
References: <45c595dc0812151235s2b75b96btc8604f757b67affc@mail.gmail.com> <45c595dc0812151235y57daf06i1883841027ee5fe4@mail.gmail.com> <45c595dc0812151236j3c36596fk12d28c607f794d8a@mail.gmail.com> <45c595dc0812151236v2a4e3338y574b92cf4483ccbe@mail.gmail.com> <45c595dc0812151237h4c88c71ek8bfdd343182dacce@mail.gmail.com> <49471F30.9030507@reevesweb.com> <fd58173f0812161832w728688efhb26223805c199443@mail.gmail.com> <4948828E.4070506@reevesweb.com><01db01c960d7$9d797e30$d86c7a90$@net>
In-Reply-To: <01db01c960d7$9d797e30$d86c7a90$@net>


Thanks for your thoughtful answer. Regarding transit fees and lost time
to go to NARA in person, I live outside the D.C. beltway, at the far
reach of the bus lines into town. I can get downtown for $1.25, and
while on the bus I can review the day's work, or read or just relax.
Others are also starting work before they get there, working on their
laptops and blackberries. There really isn't any wasted time, not
compared to the search time and time to load each page of a database or
file online at Footnote or Ancestry! Not to mention the frustrating
times when the servers are very slow because of high volume, or when you
get the message from Ancestry saying "come back soon" when you try to
search something.

You are right that the Southern Claims microfiche was very poor in both
quality and readability. The newer copiers have made those fiche a
little easier to copy, BUT if you are looking at a fiche or film that
you can't get a readable copy of, you can still ask to see the
original. How many Southern Claims are just absent from the Footnote
collection, so that a subscriber would have no idea they exist and thus
not know they can request to see it? The Footnote screen says that
Southern Claims are "100% complete". For more information, they refer
you to the Eastman's blog which states: "Footnote's online Southern
Claims Commission database contains images of every claim and all
accompanying paperwork". No, it doesn't! The truth is that many of the
larger and more informative claims, including many that were involved in
estate settlements that name heirs (which are the good ones!), were
referred to Congress through the U.S. Court of Claims, and were settled
there. There is nothing at all on the microfiche for those Southern
Claims, because they are in a completely different record group--one
that Footnote does not have online. This is one example of
misinformation given to unsuspecting subscribers by folks who either
aren't familiar enough with the NARA records to know they exist, or find
it too time-consuming and detrimental to their profit margin to digitize
the ones that require a little more time and effort. After all, you pay
the same subscription price whether they scan them all or not...

You are right that the contract service that NARA used for mail-in
requests made poor copies, sometimes only copying one side of an
affidavit and omitting the back side that had the signatures and date.
The reason you may have only gotten 8 copies instead of 32 is because it
was profit-driven. There was a set fee per file. Those making the
copies were paid by the file. Sometimes they even told people the file
doesn't exist, tossing it and moving on to the next request in order to
"earn" more (since you paid in advance). You paid the same price
regardless of how many copies they decided to make. That's a great
incentive to fudge the file and get done more quickly--because they
figured you'd never know what's missing anyway. It shouldn't be so hard
to understand, then, that the subscription services have that SAME
incentive with the SAME results--you pay a flat subscription fee, no
matter what they want to give you and what they want to omit.

I realize that there are many people on this list and other lists who
are employed or volunteer for these subscription services, and don't
want to bite the hand that is feeding them...but I don't have any such
attachments and can therefore tell the truth.

Today I had to get a Civil War pension file for someone. After I looked
up their soldier on the microfilm, I decided to do a random spot-check.
I rewound the microfilm and jotted down the first 25 pension cards on
that particular film. With regard to evaluating the sources that we
use, here's an actual example to evaluate. This is from the Civil War
era pension index (the one digitized at ancestry), #T-288, and this
sample of the first 25 cards is from roll #402 (name, regiment,
certificate #):

1. Roe, Charles - B1 TX Inf - ctf #1187312

2. Roe, Charles B., alias Charles Rogers - D 10 OH Cav & E 8 OH Inf -
ctf #464620 inf, ctf #698145 widow Catherine B. Roe

3. Roe, Charles E. - B 1 FL Inf & L(?)22 U.S. Inf (SA War) ctf #1294569

4. Roe, Charles E. - K 89 IL Inf, QMS 89 IL Inf - ctf #1014449 inv, ctf
#704736 widow Sarah

5. Roe, Charles E. - K 1 IA Cav & B 12 IA Inf - ctf #189672 inv, ctf
#645225 widow Rebecca V.

6. Roe, Charles E. - I 5 MA Inf - ctf #1148997

7. Roe, Charles F. - Unassigned 3 U.S.C Inf, 11 U.S. Inf (Capt), 26
U.S. Inf, C 9 NY Inf - widow only, ctf #536186 Lydia F.

8. Roe, Charles H. - G 12 IL Inf - ctf #1000315

9. Roe, Charles H. - E 156 NY Inf - ctf #853656 inv, app only for widow
Cathrene B. #1043795

10. Roe, Charles K. - I 4 MO S.M. Cav - ctf #1112664 inv, ctf
#A-6-14-28 widow Frances

11. Roe, Charles O. - G 52 NY Inf - ctf #388195 inv, ctf #941982 widow
Helen C.

12. Roe, Charles S. - G 6 IL Inf - ctf #1291570

13. Roe, Charles T. - I 146 OH Inf - ctf #578623

14. Roe, Chauncey C. - F 16 MI Inf - no ctf, app #962733

15. Roe, Chester K. - D 1 MMB USV Inf & A 1 MMB USV Inf - ctf #841542
inv, ctf #A-3-8-28 widow Mary E.

16. Roe, Christopher - F 106 OH Inf - ctf #1010257

17. Roe, Clarke - Unassigned 17 NY Inf - no ctf, app #1229984

18. Roe, Clem - G 3 WI Inf (SA War) (I didn't copy the # for this one),
widow Emma

19. Roe, Cornelius B. - D 26 KY Inf - ctf #927453

20. Roe, Cyrus A. - I 50 NY Engineers - ctf #559866 inv, ctf #615547
widow Samira A.

21. Roe, Dalton - D 6 U.S. Inf & E 21 U.S. Inf (SA War) - no ctf, app

22. Roe, Daniel - B 65 IL Inf - no ctf, app #1267282

23. Roe, Daniel E. - F 27 IA Inf & K 4 VRC - ctf #1077346 inv, ctf
#A-1-18-29 widow Louisa R.

24. Roe, Daniel J., Jr. - A 156 NY Inf - ctf #411967

25. Roe, Daniel M. - F 1 FL Cav - ctf #368117

I invite each of you to evaluate your online source by scanning for each
of these names in the Civil War pension database at Ancestry. Know how
many you'll find? When I looked them up on the NARA computers today, I
found only ONE out of the 25. By the way, none of these cards were Navy
pensions, so that is not the reason they aren't there. All but two or
three digits were very readable on the NARA microfilm. So where is the
"high quality digital imaging" and the "cutting-edge technology", when
microfilm that I can read with the naked eye can't be properly digitized?

As I previously stated, there is apparently no auditing or
accountability, and we are paying the price for it in lost records.
When NARA does away with those microfilm indexes (because all the
microfilm rolls take up so much room), all of these soldiers and many
thousands of others will be lost and unknown, sitting on a shelf where
no one can get to them or even know that they have pension files.

Everyone makes mistakes, but there needs to be some honesty about it,
and accountability. If a record can't be legibly scanned, the name and
numbers should still be indexed so that we know a file exists, instead
of telling us something is 100% complete and tossing out what isn't
pretty or easy to scan. What kind of professionalism is that?! It's

As far as "forming a committee" to solve the problem...well, first
people have to recognize that a problem actually exists. Hopefully my
time spent on this is not wasted time.

Peggy Reeves

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re:[APG] Chicago Marriage Records and other LDS databases
From: <>
To: 'APGMailingList' <>
Date: Thursday, December 18, 2008 1:12:32 AM
> Peggy wrote:
>> 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).
> Peggy,
> 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
> it.
> 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.
> Regards,
> Elizabeth
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
> APG Member, Tennessee

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