Blazing Digital Trails at FamilySearch
Syllabus for class presented by Bill Mangum, Product Management at FamilySearch, presented at NGS 2010 Conference.
Have you ever wondered where the records on FamilySearch come from? Are you curious about why a certain collection is available, but another one you want is not yet there? FamilySearch is very motivated to make as many genealogical records available as fast as we can. In this presentation we will review how we make records available, what is available today, and how you can see what is currently being worked on. You will also learn how to influence what we do and how you can help make records available even faster.
YOU CAN FIND EVIDENCE OF YOUR ANCESTORS
FamilySearch is focused on making more genealogical records available to more people faster, but we are not doing this work alone. There is a great community out there that works very hard to make this happen. We are a major player in the community and will continue making more genealogical information available for a long time to come. That is good news for you and everyone who wants to learn about their family history.
You can find your ancestors by searching for them at FamilySearch.org because:
- FamilySearch has experts searching throughout the world for records that identify important events in the lives of people, including birth, marriage, death, and other information of genealogical importance.
- Images are captured in archives or transferred from film to digital images. Volunteers and affiliates help capture, describe, and transcribe the images to make them easier to find.
- All the images, indexes, and record information are published on FamilySearch.org and partner affiliate Web sites so you can view the images and search the information over the Internet right from the comfort of your home.
HOW IT IS ALL DONE
Finding the Records
FamilySearch has a team of collection managers whose goal is to find records that cover a certain geographic location for each period of time. These collection managers consider record types, event types, dates, sample images, and record counts.
Experts and volunteers from the genealogical community can help by identifying areas that are not currently covered and discovering unknown collections. It is very common for new records and collections to be discovered or rediscovered.
Once the records are identified, an agreement must be reached between FamilySearch and the record custodian to capture the collections.
Digitizing the Records
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been microfilming records of genealogical importance for over 70 years, first under the Genealogical Society of Utah and now through FamilySearch. This effort has resulted in over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm that are stored in the Granite Mountain Records Vault near Salt Lake City, Utah.
Today, those microfilms are being converted to digital images. In addition, new cameras and software are being used to capture original records in archives in digital format. The images are processed for publishing, and an exact copy version is preserved for the future. It is estimated that in the next 15 years, FamilySearch will have over 100 petabytes of information.
How Big Is a Petabyte?
A petabyte (derived from the SI prefix peta- ) is a unit of information or computer storage equal to one quadrillion bytes (short scale), or 1000 terabytes, or 1,000,000 gigabytes. It is abbreviated PB. The prefix peta- (P) indicates a power of 1000:
1 PB = 1,000,000,000,000,000 B = 10005 B = 1015 bytes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petabyte
Describing and Indexing the Records
Records are described as they are found and as we learn more about them.
Guidelines are provided to help those who describe the records understand what information to look for in a record. For example:
- The type of record that is being described: birth, marriage, death, census, probate, tax.
- The location and date ranges that are covered by the records as well as how many records there are and if they are in a book or free pages.
Grouping images together makes images easier to navigate. This is called Waypointing. For example you could group images (waypoint) by country, state, county, city, and then by district.
Data Straight Through
This is how to make information available faster and still make it usable. By describing the records up front and associating the description with images as they are digitized, the images can be published and be usable immediately.
Indexing is what we call the transcription of the key fields in a record. It is not a complete transcription but a capture of the key elements of the record so it will be searchable.
- There are over 140,000 people signed up to do volunteer Indexing, and the volunteers are currently doing about 1 million names per day.
- More people are needed to make this even more successful.
- Go to http://www.FamilySearch.org to get started indexing today.
- All of the records you index are published for you and the rest of the world to search and use in creating the stories about the lives of your family.
- Volunteers can gain access to restricted images. Indexes are free, but not all images are available for free access unless you have contributed or volunteered service to FamilySearch. Record custodians at times are dependent on revenue from their collections, and they will collect some payment to view images in order to sustain their organization.
Publishing the Records
- Indexes Only–Indexes take time to create and are highly valued.
- The most important records will be indexed first. You can volunteer to help make more indexes available faster.
- Images Only–Images can be made available quickly.
- Image Grouping and Waypointing.
- Indexes and Images.
- With the help of volunteers, many images are transcribed and linked to the indexes, making the records easier to find.
- Affiliate Partners host some of the images.
- FamilySearch works with record custodians to make as much information available as possible to as many people as possible. Not all of the agreements allow FamilySearch to post the images. Some agreements restrict how much of the indexes can be published on FamilySearch.
- The value FamilySearch brings is helping you find the records and how to get access to them. We will partner with the record custodians to make them easier to find and access.
Preservation is a key service that FamilySearch provides, ensuring the records will be available for generations to come.
- Integral to making family history come to life is learning about those that passed away. The records that describe the evidence of their lives help us to do this. The digitization of images and the creation of the indexes and other descriptive information about those records will help more people have access to the information right from their own homes.
- Piecing together the story and creating a way to see how our families fit together makes the family come to life and helps us understand more about ourselves and our immediate families.
- Come back to FamilySearch often to see what has been added. Also come back to see if there are areas where you can help others by contributing your time and what you know to make more information available.