Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I don't understand.

Why are so many people "shocked" over the announcement by FamilySearch that images to the records being indexed may not necessarily be free to the general public? The INDEXES will always be free, although access to the images may not be.

All you have to do is read the original announcement FamilySearch to Provide Access to World's Genealogical Records. The key paragraph, which clearly states that there MAY be a charge for viewing document images outside FamilySearch facilities:
Working with the records custodians, FamilySearch can leverage its extensive microfilm and growing digital image collection to create digital images for affiliate genealogical websites at a fraction of the cost. The affiliate genealogy organization will create indices of the digital images and then publish the images and the indices on its own website, the archive's website, or a jointly published site. A copy of the index will also be made available for free on the popular FamilySearch website, which will help drive traffic to record images on the custodians' or affiliates' sites. Full, free access to both the indices and images will be provided to family history centers, FamilySearch managed facilities, and the archives. If the record custodian seeks revenue to sustain operations, a small fee may be required to access images outside FamilySearch managed facilities or the archive.
So why the shock factor? I imagine, the real consternation on the part of many FamilySearch indexers likely comes from the fact that the census images are part of an agreement FamilySearch made with Ancestry.com (whom many perceive to be the evil monster of the genealogical record world). The feeling is that the work being done on a volunteer basis is being turned over to the enemy!

Reality Check. The only way the records we need for our research will ever be put online is through collaboration. No entity can do it all on their own. Not FamilySearch. Not Ancestry. Not Footnote. Not the National Archives. Collaboration is the only way. Dick Eastman recently wrote an article about the costs associated with putting records online. I wholeheartedly agree with him on this point.

If you can't afford a subscription or to pay the fees that may be charged by other archive facilities, then simply head to your nearest FamilySearch Library/Center where you can view the images for free. Except, of course, for the price of gas to get you there...

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