The NorthEast Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogy Society
A Summary of Events and Topics of Interest to Online Genealogists
Vol. 12 No. 3--July 1, 2007
compiled by Luther Olson
NorthEast Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogy [NEOCAG] serves Eastern Cuyahoga,
Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Portage & Summit Counties.
Regular meetings 2nd Saturday of each month
St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church
435 S.O.M. Road, Mayfield Village, OH.
Jerry Kliot -- President
> Revolutionary War Pension Files Will Be Available for Free at All Family History Centers Worldwide
> World Vital Records Databases Added Recently
> Some Thoughts About Publishing Your Genealogy Data
> Hands-on / Track your flight in 3D
> WeRelate.Org Aims to Be No. 1 Genealogy Web Site
> Ancestry.Com Puts 90M War Records Online
> Google Expands Office Software
> Revolutionary War Pension Files Will Be Available for Free at All Family History Centers Worldwide
Source: Footnote, Inc. Tuesday May 15, 6:15 am ET
LINDON, Utah--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, Footnote.com announced an agreement with FamilySearch, historically known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch is the world's largest repository of genealogical information.
This new partnership brings together two organizations that will utilize their combined resources to digitize and make available many large historical collections. The first project will be the three million U.S. Revolutionary War Pension files which will be published for the first time online in their entirety.
"The Revolutionary War Pensions will provide an intimate look into the historical events and individuals that shaped our country's history," said Russell Wilding, CEO of Footnote.com . "We are excited about this relationship which enables us to put many more historical collections online."
The Revolutionary War Pension Files feature original records that include muster rolls, payrolls, strength returns and other miscellaneous personnel pay and supply records of American Army Units from 1775-1783. They provide a wealth of new information for historians and genealogists which they can share with other colleagues and family members.
"We are excited to partner with Footnote.com to provide historians and genealogists alike a tremendous source of data that will assist greatly in putting puzzle pieces together to create a rich family history," said Paul Nauta, manager of Public Affairs for FamilySearch. "This affiliation allows us to better meet one of our goals to provide as much data online as fast as possible for those working on their genealogy."
Also, as a part of this agreement, Footnote.com will be accessible for free in all FamilySearch operated centers worldwide. FamilySearch has more than 4,500 Family History Centers in 70 countries.
Since partnering with the National Archives in January 2007, Footnote.com has digitized over eight million historical records. Each month an additional two million documents are digitized and added to the site. Footnote.com estimates that by the end of 2007 it will have made over 25 million digitized documents available on its web site.
To see free examples of the Revolutionary War Pension Files, go to www.footnote.com/revolutionary-war.php.
Footnote.com has now begun offering free seven-day trial memberships. To start a free trial, visit www.footnote.com/freetrial.php
About Footnote, Inc.
Founded in 1997 as iArchives, Inc., Footnote is a subscription-based website that features searchable original documents that provide users with an unaltered view of the events , places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At Footnote.com all are invited to come to share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit www.footnote.com.
About Family Search
FamilySearch (historically known Genealogical Society of Utah) is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources accessed through FamilySearch.org, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries.
> World Vital Records Databases Added Recently
World Vital Records, Volume 1, Issue 35 May 18, 2007
Allegations for Marriage Licenses Issued by the Bishop of London, 1520 to 1828, Volume 1 (Free Until May 26, 2007)
A Selection of Wills From the Registry At York (Free Until May 25, 2007)
Baptisms, Marriages and Burials of Saint Ignace Parish Willow Bunch, Saskatchewan 1882-1910 (Free Until May 25, 2007)
Cassell's Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 2 (Free Until May 25, 2007)
Cassell's Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 1 (Free Until May 25, 2007)
Dictionnaire Topographique Du Department de l'Eure (Free Until May 25, 2007)
Itinerary of the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry 1861-1864 (Free Until May 25, 2007)
Staffordshire pedigrees based on the visitation of that county made by William Dugdale, esquire, Norroy king of arms in the years 1663-1664 (Free Until May 26, 2007)
The Mackinac Register (St-Ignace de Michilimakinak) Baptisms 1695-1821; Marriages 1725-1821; and Burials 1743-1806 (Free Until May 25, 2007)
White Cloud Kansas Chief Births, Marriages, Deaths and other News Items and Events from 1857 - 1871 (Free Until May 23, 2007)
(Specific data sets will be announced as they are launched.)
* Transcriptions of church records from Denmark
* Immigration records from Switzerland
* Vital statistics from Canada
* German land records
* Hungarian land records
* Vital statistics from England
* Scottish ancestry records
* Historical records from Ireland
World Vital Records Seeks Individuals to be on International Advisory Boards
WorldVitalRecords.com is in the process of forming international advisory boards with experts for every country who are closely tied to the genealogy field who have connections to others genealogists, have memberships in a variety of genealogical associations, and/or have expertise in genealogy.
WorldVitalRecords.com is dedicated to working with all genealogy and family history companies in providing access to national and international data sets.
We are eager to listen to experts and our users to learn more about the genealogy needs they have that are not being met and to assist with those needs.
Individuals who are interested in becoming a member of one of our international advisory board should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 4,500 FamilySearch Family History Centers throughout the world will now have free access to WorldVitalRecords.com
Provo, UT, May 16, 2007 --- More than 4,500 FamilySearch Family History Centers throughout the world will now have free access to WorldVitalRecords.com's genealogical records and resources, as a result of an agreement signed between FamilySearch (TM) and WorldVitalRecords.com.
"We are looking for a new breed of genealogy websites that are willing to work with FamilySearch to meet the needs and interests of record custodians and our patrons. WorldVitalRecords.com was uniquely positioned because of its rapid growth in the industry and potential for success, along with additional genealogical providers to fill this void. We are certain this agreement with WorldVitalRecords.com will greatly benefit a worldwide audience of genealogists with this free service," said Paul Nauta, Manager of Public Affairs, FamilySearch (TM).
WorldVitalRecords.com will provide a vast collection of genealogical materials including vital, land, immigration, and military records; newspapers, international databases, and a collection of reference material.
WorldVitalRecords.com also partnered with Everton Publishers last year to provide the Everton Genealogical Library containing numerous databases, as well as 60 years of the Everton Genealogical Helper and 150,000 Everton Pedigree Files and Family Group Sheets.
"At Everton we are excited about the fact that for the first time, genealogists have easy access to tens of thousands of queries, family group sheets, pedigree charts, and more from the past 60 years of the Genealogical Helper," said Leland Meitzler, Managing Editor, Everton Publishers.
Quintin Publications Partners With WorldVitalRecords.com To Make Thousands of Genealogical Databases Accessible
Quintin Publications to receive increased exposure and reach new audience from partnership with WorldVitalRecords.com.
Provo, UT, May 16, 2007 --- Quintin Publications announced a partnership with WorldVitalRecords.com today to provide access to thousands of genealogical and historical databases.
"We chose to partner with WorldVitalRecords.com because we have watched their solid pattern of growth and felt it would be an excellent venue for the material we have collected and enhanced during the past 30 years," said Phil Quintin, President, Quintin Publications.
As part of the partnership, Quintin Publications will provide WorldVitalRecords with more than 10,000 books and articles. WorldVitalRecords.com will OCR (optical character reading), and index the material, and then make it available on its site.
"We have been looking at Quintin Publications' material for quite a while and have been anxious to collaborate with them," said David Lifferth, President, WorldVitalRecords.com.
Quintin Publications' extensive collection of records includes state vital records, town and county histories, family histories, historical maps and gazetteers, modern publications by genealogists (after 1923), and international works.
Historic Ellis Island Passenger Records Receive Expanded Online Access at WorldVitalRecords.com
May 16, 2007 (Ellis Island, NY and Provo, UT) - - The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., World Vital Records, Inc. and FamilySearch announced today at the National Genealogical Society Conference a partnership whereby the historic collection of Ellis Island passenger arrival records will now also be freely available to visitors of the www.worldvitalrecords.com and www.familylink.com websites.
"This is an exciting time in the long history of American immigration," noted Stephen A. Briganti, President and CEO of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. "Last month we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the busiest day at Ellis Island by hosting our annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards. Today, we're pleased to announce the expanded availability of passenger arrival records which the Foundation has continued to provide at Ellis Island and as a free service online since first introducing the database in April 2001." The records document the arrival of 25 million immigrants, U.S. citizens, and crew members arriving through the Port of New York from 1892 to 1924.
According to Briganti, the initial project was made possible through corporate and private donations, most notably by FamilySearch, a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More than 12,000 FamilySearch volunteers donated 5.6 million hours over a 7-year period to transcribe nearly 25 million passenger records.
2 year World Vital Records' Membership Just $48
+ Free Everton Handybook Download
+ Free Ancestral Quest 12 Genealogy Software
Snapp Conner PR for Footnote.com
Jeremy Kartchner, 801-994-9625
Paul Nauta, 801-240-6498
> Some Thoughts About Publishing Your Genealogy Data
Posted by Dick Eastman, May 03, 2007
Watching the comments posted to this newsletter's web site prompts many questions: Just how private are the facts that we record? Can we really "protect" our genealogy data? Should I copyright my data? Is my data automatically under copyright protection when I publish? Should I keep my data secret? Is it a good idea to do so? Or should I publish my genealogy data for all to see?
I do not know all the answers, but perhaps I can offer a few thoughts for your digestion.
First of all, there is one major issue that we all need to recognize: facts are not protected by copyright laws in the United States. A collection of facts is public domain information. We might be able to claim a copyright on the originality used in arranging of those facts, and we might be able to claim a compilation copyright on large collections of facts; but each individual fact remains in the public domain.
Next, there is the question of exactly what is "my data." The genealogy data that I have collected consists of a collection of facts. As already stated, facts are not "owned" or copyrighted by anyone. I don't own that information, at least not in the legal sense.
Next, most of the genealogy data we collect is obtained from public domain sources. I know that I obtained most of my information from birth records, marriage records, census records, military pension applications, and more. All of these are public domain sources of information and are already available to others, should they wish to look. In no way is the data to be considered "my private data" as I have no ownership over it. I simply transcribed data that is already in the public domain. I copied the information for my personal use, the same way anyone else can do by spending the same effort that I did to find the original (public) records. Therefore, it is not "my" data, it is everyone's public domain data that I happened to transcribe.
In a few cases, I may have supplemented those public facts with even more information that I obtained from family members or other non-public sources. Indeed, I did obtain a few pieces of information from a family Bible in my possession, information that has never been published before. However, the U.S. laws still insist that facts cannot be copyrighted. I interpret this to mean that facts are facts, regardless of the source of information. Whether I obtain a fact from a public record or from a private conversation or from an ancestor's Bible, it is still a fact, is not subject to copyright, and is not owned by me. A family relationship that I learned from a cousin is also a fact, not my "private" bit of information.
Next, what is the purpose of my hiding the information? Am I protecting anybody or any facts? As already mentioned, the facts are mostly public already. Most facts are readily available in public domain census records, birth records, death records and other locations.
I cannot "protect" those facts. In the case of deceased people, I don't see how I am protecting anyone. I never publicize information about living people; so, whether I publish my data online or not, I am not protecting anyone.
(There might be one exception here: by not publishing I am protecting myself from the embarrassment of others finding errors in my research efforts.)
I have seen arguments that "Other people may take my data and republish it." In my mind, that's a good thing. If I have done a good job of research, wouldn't I want the correct information to be available to other descendants of these people, my distant cousins?
Next, I have seen arguments that "Other people publish inaccurate information, so I don't trust them and I will not publish my information." This strikes me as self-defeating: you are allowing their inaccurate information to remain unchallenged and uncorrected. When others search the web, they will find incorrect information and will probably perpetuate it by republishing those errors themselves. If you have correct information, it seems to me that you could do more good by publishing the correct information and thereby refuting the errors.
If you collect stories about the family and retell them in narrative form, you may be able to claim copyrights and "ownership" of those stories. However, that ownership excludes the facts buried within the stories. Facts are still facts and are not protected by copyrights or by any other legal protections in the United States.
Again, I do not have all the answers; but there is one thing that I am certain of: private individuals do not own "facts."
Good points. Up until recently, publishing information online was simply a one-way information flow, but I think we're starting to see the point where collaboration online is becoming more popular. That way, hopefully fewer inaccuracies will be perpetuated.
I can appreciate the comment, however, that "other people take my information and republish it." In my experience, most people aren't really upset about the republication necessarily, but about the cases where no credit is given to them for their countless hours of work. Do any of the following opinions agree with your philosophy? LO
When I was still fairly new to genealogy, I was more protective of my research (on which I'd already spent countless hours and dollars), thinking maybe I'd write a book or something and be the first to "break" some of the stories. I used to share it freely with relatives, but not post it publicly.
But now, I share and post almost everything (except of course information on the living), having long ago concluded that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks (and that the protectiveness was just silly):
+ Publishing my research improves my chances of contact from other relatives (however distant), and researchers with overlapping interests (places, historical events, military units, etc.)
+ Much of my research is automatically backed up by publishing it, and it is much more likely to survive over time.
- People will use my research privately and never contact me. This is the most unfortunate aspect. I know from web site statistics that many people spend a lot of time looking at my research, but too often it doesn't show up anywhere else publicly and I don't get email about it.
- People will use my research and, by not at least indicating that it came from somewhere else, pass it off as their own. I don't even want my name (and especially not my email address) plastered all over, but it's not hard for someone sharing my research to put a link to my Rootsweb tree where they found it.
I think everyone should ask themselves why they do genealogy, and then consider whether their research and publication styles match those reasons.
Posted by: Dave Grow | May 03, 2007 at 10:43 PM
What I have done could be of help here: Publish your information, inviting collaboration. Withhold your citations, but offer them in exchange for collaborative efforts.
Oh, and stories? Ahhh, these are great enticements to collaboration. I've done a couple where I did not give the name of the mystery ancestor or relative. I made it a puzzler for the family (and lurkers) to reason out. Great fun! And one of the stories led to some unknown leads and information.
Keep your mind sharp and your eyes open for such opportunities. They are all around us.
May 04, 2007
I've published two web sites (both of which now need updating because of lots of new data on side lineages) and I'm working on a third (and I never put data about living relatives online; I keep that in a separate database). On the home pages of each web site I acknowledge the collaborative efforts and people who have helped me in one way or another over the last nearly 45 years of genealogy research. Genealogy research is not done in a vacuum, it's almost always a collaborative effort, and I've been given everything from tips on where and how to find info from strangers in libraries at microfilm viewers sitting next to me to having been send .jpgs of documents by other researchers (and I return the favor when I can; I've a network of individuals who have collaborated on lots of data on one of my genealogy lineages and we've shared our data and documents with each other).
I do want to share my information, and I publish bibliographic citations with quotes from books and URLs of public data I've found for each individual if it's online, so my sources are credited, even if the info is in the public domain or there's duplicate info online of data I've found in books. That way anyone who wants to can check out my sources if they have incorrect data from somewhere else - or, they can correct me if someone thinks I've found incorrect info, but they have to be able to verify what they say and/or send me bibliographic citations or .jpgs of documents if they challenge my sources - I do not go by repeated stories from any old great-aunt when I've found documents that directly contradict what her great-niece three times removed says - I love old family stories, but not all of them are accurate. I'm not as concerned with finding living relatives as I am about publishing correct data. I'm aware of some incorrect info about some ancestors and I want the correct information "out there."
Not giving me credit for finding data someone else uses as their own (not "real" genealogy researchers in my book, but copiers) kind of hurts, since, like others, I've spent countless hours and buku bucks on my research, but I have to develop a thick skin and console myself that I've tried to publish only facts that are correct, and at least that may rectify the incorrect data I know is published elsewhere.
The only thing I have to do in my old age is decide where my genealogy papers go when I die someday. I may have to make CDs and distribute them to county historical societies or history centers in various areas where some of these people lived. I've not finished doing genealogy research and I don't know when or if I'll ever "finish" it, but I've got rather complete data on many individuals (with supporting documents) and don't know how much I'll be able to add in the future. Still, I need to make my wishes known and leave the information to organizations where it may benefit someone else in a couple of hundred years.
Posted by: Bev Anderson | May 04, 2007
Never trust anybody with your data. I had the unpleasant experience of sharing data on common relatives with a cousin of mine as we had common 3 x great-grandparents. About a month after contact with this relative, I found my data submitted to Rootsweb including details of living people without any permission. I had a devil of a time trying to get the relative to remove the information from rootsweb but eventually he did. The worst part of all this was that about six months after, the same relative submitted the same data including living relatives to Pedigree Resource File which as you may know cannot be removed. Needless to say that I was riled and now regret having contacted that relative in the first place. Moral of the story, under no circumstances should you ever share details of living people with anybody outside your family circle.
Posted by: Bradley Martin | May 04, 2007
I see your points and agree with your statements about facts being public domain.
Personally I'm a firm believer in open source research and try to share everything I have available, including old stories and letters that have been passed down to me. The only exception being when it involves living people or somebody sends me an old letter they don't want shared outside the family. In that case I'll quote the pertinent portion of the letter and state in an appendix or addendum the source is private but available with permission.
If I have the original letter in my personal collection there’s no question as to my right to publish it. If someone sends me a copy of an original letter from their own collection, I feel a responsibility to get permission to publish it.
Even in old letters you find errors. If you can post a graphic of the original on webpage and use a metascript to draw the attention of search engines, it sometimes generates new sources, which can either collaborate or correct the story. Sure you may develop a personal relationship with some of your ancestor’s old letters. But I’ve found sharing them openly usually develops a much better understanding of the subject than one would have if they held the letters back from other researchers.
In the past you’ve given me some excellent advice in formatting narratives with unverified information. Some people won’t publish information that cannot be supported. I feel it’s like the question no one ever asks, so it’s never answered. If you publish it as an obviously unsupported fact, you’re asking the question and essentially inviting others to share what they may know about the subject. This comes up a lot when examining old letters, which some people may feel they want to hold back.
As far as perpetuating false information, it’s going to happen no matter what I do. It’s been happing since at least 1901 in our family. Genealogy is research by its nature, anyone who doesn’t attempt to verify facts found in other studies, isn’t a researcher they’re a transcriber and they get what they deserve.
Posted by: Matthew Bivins Rogers | May 04, 2007
I used to hold back from publishing online.....thinking one day I'd have the definitive genealogy with all facts supported with citations, scanned certificates, etc. I figured I'd publish once everything was done. Foolish at best, for nobody ever really finishes a genealogy.
Now I just publish everything online: on Ancestry ( I don't care if they charge), FamilySearch (I don't care if they baptize my great-great grandparents after-the-fact), and GenCircles. Why? Because there are no guarantees in life. Any one of us could drop dead tomorrow. I've spent too much time and effort to have it all end up on a crashed hard-drive or on a password-protected backup drive nobody else will even care about when I'm gone. Don't flatter yourself that any of your heirs will share your passion about great-grandma Smith's actual birth date. They just want to know how much money you left them.
My ancestors took the family history to the grave, I don't need to repeat that error.
Posted by: Gary | May 04, 2007
> Hands-on / Track your flight in 3D
By Kent German – April 26, 2007
(Credit: FboWeb.com)I'm a big fan of Google Earth and have been known to spend hours just cruising around the globe. But now I fear I'll spend even more online aerial time with my recent discovery of one of the coolest Web apps in the universe. You've probably heard of Web sites like FboWeb and FlightAware that allow you to track the position of an airline flight and see data like the plane's speed and altitude. While that's cool enough by itself, the map is a boring two-dimensional graphic that shows little beyond state boundaries and the flight's origin and destination. But then the other day I discovered that FboWeb offers a 3D tracker in conjunction with my beloved Google Earth. Trust me, it's completely awesome.
After downloading a layer from FboWeb.com and opening Google Earth, you almost become an airplane yourself. Rather than looking at a simple dot on a map, you can zoom in on the tiny plane-shaped icons and sweep around them as they fly above the virtual landscape. It's all in real time and the icons (all aircraft in a 30-mile radius) continuously move across the sky as their positions changes. So if Aunt Jenny is flying in from O'Hare for a visit, you can see exactly where she is above the planet.
FboWeb offers a few options. You can track a specific flight or ask to see all flights en route to a specific airport. Only the larger U.S. airports are supported but it's pretty fun to see a line of flights lined up for an LAX arrival. Each plane is labeled with its airline and flight number (though the airline is abbreviated) while the route the flight has traveled is displayed with a solid line. Occasionally, the GPS tracking can be a bit erratic; indeed I watched a United Airlines flight doing wild zigzags above San Francisco, but it's remarkably effective most of the time. By clicking on an individual flight you can get such information as its destination airport, and you can even see all flights in the air over the United States at once (a mind-blowing number to say the least). Plus, you're able to see elements such as restricted airspace.
The best thing about the service is it's completely free if you have Google Earth, which is a free download as well. Check it out as it's definitely worth the trip (so to speak).
Posted on: Tuesday, 17 April 2007 (c) 2007 Cincinnati Post. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.
Recently, the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the Foundation for On-line Genealogy formed a progressive partnership for the purpose of operating an expansive social networking Web site called WeRelate.org. The goal, as noted on the site's home page, is "to be the number one community Web site for genealogy."
This free resource combines many innovative and interactive features which will provide Internet-savvy family historians with vast resource-sharing opportunities, totally free of charge.
For those who are unfamiliar with social networking terms, WeRelate.org defines wikis as "a type of Internet software that helps multiple users share information by allowing them to easily create and edit Web pages, without needing advanced computer skills."
Currently, WeRelate.org has more than 430,000 wiki pages for both historical and current places, and 115,000 given and surname wiki pages.
The site also serves as a sharing platform, allowing genealogists to upload detailed family histories, annotated photographs and scanned images of original documents.
According to a recent announcement featured in Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, in just the past few weeks, WeRelate.org has uploaded over 73,000 ancestor wiki pages. The site also features a powerful search engine which targets genealogy-specific content.
Upon entering various keywords or other search terms of their choice -- such as surnames, given names or locations -- researchers will be able to view results canvassed from more than 6 million genealogy Web pages as well as many library catalog items from off-line sources such as the Family History Library Catalog. WeRelate.org also makes it much easier for genealogists to upload their family trees, connect with others researching the same lines, and share resources with other genealogists across the nation.
For those interested in learning more about the site's online, collaborative opportunities for genealogical resource sharing, WeRelate.org can be found at http://www.werelate.org/wiki/ Main_Page.
Genealogy tips are provided by the Kentucky history staff of the Kenton County Public Library. This tip was provided by Jan Mueller. Contact the library's local history department by calling (859) 962- 4085 or via e-mail at email@example.com . The library's genealogy Web site can be found at http://www.kentonlibrary.org/ genealogy.
> Ancestry.Com Puts 90M War Records Online
By DONNA BORAK, AP Business Writer Thu May 24, 10:00 AM ET
WASHINGTON - For every generation in this country there has been a war. And with wars come millions of records that can shed light on family history, detailing everything from the color of soldiers' eyes to what their neighbors may have said about them.
On Thursday, Ancestry.com unveils more than 90 million U.S. war records from the first English settlement at Jamestown in 1607 through the Vietnam War's end in 1975. The site also has the names of 3.5 million U.S. soldiers killed in action, including 2,000 who died in Iraq.
"The history of our families is intertwined with the history of our country," Tim Sullivan, chief executive of Ancestry.com, said in a telephone interview. "Almost every family has a family member or a loved one that has served their country in the military."
The records, which can be accessed free until the anniversary of D-Day on June 6, came from the National Archives and Records Administration and include 37 million images, draft registration cards from both world wars, military yearbooks, prisoner-of-war records from four wars, unit rosters from the Marine Corps from 1893 through 1958, and Civil War pension records, among others.
The popularity of genealogy in the U.S. has increased steadily alongside the Internet's growth. Specialized search engines on sites like Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com and FamilySearch.com, along with general search portals like Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) and Google Inc., have helped fuel interest.
"The Internet has created this massive democratization in the whole family history world," said Megan Smolenyak, chief family historian for Ancestry.com. "It's like a global game of tag."
Ancestry.com, which is owned by Generations Network, spent $3 million to digitize the military records. It took nearly a year, including some 1,500 handwriting specialists racking up 270,000 hours to review the oldest records.
The 10-year-old Provo, Utah-based company doesn't have every U.S. military record. Over the past four centuries, some have been lost or destroyed. Some records remain classified.
However, this is the first time a for-profit Web site is featuring this many military records as part of a $100 million investment in what Sullivan says is the largest genealogy Web site with 900,000 paying subscribers. He joined Ancestry.com 18 months ago after leaving the CEO post at online dating giant Match.com.
After June 6, users can pay $155.40 a year for unlimited access to thousands of U.S. record databases, Sullivan said.
Budget constraints and a long list of unfinished priorities have limited federal efforts to make roughly 9 billion public documents available online, said National Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper.
"In a perfect world, we would do all this ourselves and it would up there for free," she said. "While we continue to work to make our materials accessible as widely as possible, we can't do everything."
Subscribers can set up their own family tree pages on the Ancestry.com site and combine personal information with public records from the site. If they want to restrict access to their pages, privacy controls are available. And information posted about people who were born after 1922, or people born earlier but who are still alive, is automatically blocked from public view.
As for public records that contain what family members might not want the rest of the world to see, there's little recourse involving records on the deceased. Privacy laws don't cover public records of the dead.
Most novice genealogists, however, seem to be more interested in finding out whether they're related to battlefield heroes than they are worried about embarrassing revelations.
Loren Whitney, 30, a software engineer at the company since 2002, has been tracking his family's military history for seven years and discovered a relative going back seven generations from the newest records.
Whitney, an Arkansas native, learned that his mother's third-great-grandfather Thomas Bingham served in the Mormon Battalion to help the U.S. Army in the Mexican War around 1846. That discovery led to Bingham's great-grandfather, Capt. David Perry, who had published chronicles of the French and Indian War in 1819.
"It's exhilarating to find these connections and to see how other people's lives have connected with yours in the way they put you in the situation and circumstances that you are in," Whitney said.
Professional historian Curt Witcher recommends that people have fun and maintain realistic expectations when it comes to genealogy.
A small percentage of amateurs "have this hope, this aspiration, this belief, they've arrived at Mecca and in a few minutes we'll bring the golden tablets out," Witcher said. Most of the time they find out relatives weren't historical celebrities.
Professional researchers, like Witcher, though praise Ancestry.com and other sites that have put vast collections of public data online.
"Bureaucracies generate paper and for researchers that is golden," said Witcher, manager of the historical genealogy department at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind. He oversees the second-largest genealogical library in the world, and his library helps more than 82,000 people a year authenticate family trees.
As fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan continues, there seems to be a natural draw to tales of military ancestry, a desire to preserve history.
William Endicott, an 81-year-old veteran who served in the 33rd Infantry division of Illinois in World War II, researched his family tree for two decades and found out that his great-grandparents traveled across the Oregon Trail during the 1870s to settle in Eastern Oregon.
Endicott said he tells his veteran buddies all the time: "Our memories are dimming at the ages that we are. Get your history down."
(This version CORRECTS name of Ancestry.com's parent company to Generations Network.) )
> Google Expands Office Software
Copyright © 2007 The
Associated Press. But Schmidt,
noting that Microsoft and AT&T have had their share of antitrust
skirmishes, retorted, "Give me a break." "They're wrong,"
Schmidt said. "It's false." The
verbal volleys come as Microsoft and Google escalate the rivalry to
control how people use the Internet. Microsoft has long dominated the
computer desktop with its Windows operating system. But people are
increasingly using home pages, bookmarks, search engines and other
Web-based programs to determine where they shop, how they communicate
and how they play videos, music and movies. The
two companies already offer e-mail, word processing and spreadsheet
programs, and other tools. Google's new presentation software will
compete against Microsoft's ubiquitous PowerPoint software that's part
of its popular Office suite. "This
completes what most users of PCs consider the Office suite," said John
Battelle, who leads Federated Media Publishing and grilled Schmidt
about the product at the conference. Microsoft
spokeswoman Lisa Koetz said competition is good for customers, and
Microsoft is listening to the 450 million people who use Microsoft
Office to ensure it is meeting their needs. "The
success we are seeing with the 2007 release of Microsoft Office tells
us we are heading in the right direction," Koetz said. People
use Google's software over the Internet and can simply log in from any
computer through a Web browser, while Microsoft Office must be
installed on an individual computer. Schmidt, who used
a beta version to flash slides at the conference, downplayed the
Microsoft rivalry. "It
does not have all the functionality nor is it intended to have all
functionality of Microsoft Office," he said, but quickly added, "It
seems to be a better fit to how people use the Web." Google Inc.:
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press.
But Schmidt, noting that Microsoft and AT&T have had their share of antitrust skirmishes, retorted, "Give me a break."
"They're wrong," Schmidt said. "It's false."
The verbal volleys come as Microsoft and Google escalate the rivalry to control how people use the Internet. Microsoft has long dominated the computer desktop with its Windows operating system. But people are increasingly using home pages, bookmarks, search engines and other Web-based programs to determine where they shop, how they communicate and how they play videos, music and movies.
The two companies already offer e-mail, word processing and spreadsheet programs, and other tools. Google's new presentation software will compete against Microsoft's ubiquitous PowerPoint software that's part of its popular Office suite.
"This completes what most users of PCs consider the Office suite," said John Battelle, who leads Federated Media Publishing and grilled Schmidt about the product at the conference.
Microsoft spokeswoman Lisa Koetz said competition is good for customers, and Microsoft is listening to the 450 million people who use Microsoft Office to ensure it is meeting their needs.
"The success we are seeing with the 2007 release of Microsoft Office tells us we are heading in the right direction," Koetz said.
People use Google's software over the Internet and can simply log in from any computer through a Web browser, while Microsoft Office must be installed on an individual computer.
Schmidt, who used a beta version to flash slides at the conference, downplayed the Microsoft rivalry.
"It does not have all the functionality nor is it intended to have all functionality of Microsoft Office," he said, but quickly added, "It seems to be a better fit to how people use the Web."
Google Inc.: http://www.google.com