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Sunday, 2nd May 2010

Genealogy Database News: FamilySearch.org Adds 300 Million Names; Ancestry.com Provides Free Access to Two Major Reference Books

It was just the other day when we posted that FamilySearch.org had launched a beta site at:

http://fsbeta.familysearch.org/

Since our post we have learned more about the beta site.

The LDS Church [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] has added 300 million names to the database that can be searched for free.

From the St. Lake Tribune Article:

The records contain information genealogists would have had to painstakingly pick through to find an ancestor's name or they would have had to contact a specific government agency or travel to the area of study to research. Among the indexed records are the 1935 South Dakota state census; Washington, D.C., deaths and burials 1840-1964; and Utah marriages, 1887-1966.

[Snip]

FamilySearch has established a temporary website, fsbeta.FamilySearch.org for the newly released names. In the next several weeks, the site will become a permanent part of FamilySearch.org.

The indexed records come from a massive stone vault carved into the mountains overlooking Salt Lake City. The Granite Mountain Records Vault contains worldwide historical documents preserved on 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Eventually all the microfilm will be digitized, giving the public access to billions of people's names in more than 100 countries and recorded in 170 languages.

Also, like many search and database companies provide, FamilySearch Labs has several projects underway. You can keep updated with news from the lab with the Labs Blog.

Another genealogy database provider, Ancestry.com also made a couple of announcements.

From a Blog Post:

What if the respected genealogical resources The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy and Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources could be updated on a more regular basis? With all of the information these two books provide us in our family history research, the details can easily become outdated. Well now these two exhaustive guides to American genealogy can be updated regularly with the launch of the beta version of the Ancestry.com Wiki.

There is no charge to read or add data to the wiki.

Additionally, Ancestry.com announced this they will release a Mac version of their Family Tree Software later this year.

See Also: Genealogy Files Moving to Digital (via Standard-Examiner, UT)

Under the old system of scanning microfilm, digitizing the 3.5 billion images stored in the vault would have taken more than 100 years, so FamilySearch worked with technology providers to create a new way of scanning.

[Jay] Verkler [President and CEO of FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of the LDS Church] said the new equipment does not skip images, adjusts for the exposure of each image and the density of each roll.

By creating digital images of the microfilm, he said they are making it even easier for people around the world to access the records in the vault and creating backup that will not deteriorate with reproduction as a photocopy or microfilm copy would.

See Also: Mormon Church's Storied Granite Mountain Vault Opened For Virtual Tour (via Deseret News)

...the vault boasts the world's largest collection of family history information.

Microfilm masters negatives used for duplication and digitization occupy 60 percent of Granite Mountain's space. Duplicate rolls are sent to the Family History Library, family history centers and patrons to the tune of 4 million images a week. Digital images are indexed and used in online research.

Digitization started in 2002 as a tedious process. Scanners of that era had trouble reading underexposed and overexposed images as light densities varied even on the same microfilm roll, meaning operators had to closely watch for problems, stop, back up, readjust and repeat.

Conversion to digital images was projected then to take more than a century, [Jay] Verkler [President and CEO of FamilySearch, the genealogy arm of the LDS Church] said.


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