Why Aren’t More Genealogy Records Online?

With scanning know-how being simpler and cheaper than ever earlier than, why aren’t extra family tree supplies on-line? The reply isn’t, “Simply scan it.” Right here’s a have a look at every little thing concerned in making family tree information out there on-line. 

Just lately, FamilySearch introduced that they’ve accomplished digitizing their assortment of two.4 million rolls of microfilm. However… they aren’t all on-line but. And when you consider the archives, libraries, authorities businesses, and different organizations which have information—why aren’t extra of them on-line?

Let’s stroll via a hypothetical (but life like) situation. Let’s faux you’re an archivist and there’s this actually cool assortment of hundreds of letters that you just simply know can be helpful to researchers. Wouldn’t it’s nice to digitize it and get it on-line? Let’s see what it could take.

Getting Permission

For an archive or library to make their supplies out there on-line, they first want to verify they’ve permission to take action. Typically that’s simple, like when it’s one thing within the public area. But when it isn’t within the public area and it’s one thing that was donated to them—comparable to authentic supplies or manuscripts—they want to verify they’ve the permission of the donor. Donor agreements generally prohibit what that library or archive can do with the fabric. Additionally, if it isn’t spelled out that the repository does have rights to digitize and distribute, they may have to re-negotiate an settlement permitting them to take action.

If it’s a authorities company, generally the information are restricted by legislation. The information is perhaps from a time interval that’s nonetheless in “embargo” (comparable to states that prohibit loss of life information for 50 years). The document sort itself is perhaps restricted; that is typically seen with state hospital and state asylum information.

In your (hypothetical) archive, you first want to search out the donor settlement. Whenever you discover that it doesn’t have the required permission, it’s a must to strive reaching out to the donor, which isn’t all the time a simple or quick factor to do. However for this instance, we’ll say that it solely took a month to achieve the donor and get his permission.

Getting Funding

As you’ll see, there’s a good amount of cash concerned in digitizing. Most archives have razor-thin budgets, and further initiatives merely don’t make the minimize.

You choose to go for grant funding for the required gear and extra staffing. Quick-forward a number of months, and also you’re notified you bought the grant. (You aren’t all the time so lucky. It isn’t uncommon to undergo a number of rounds of functions to varied foundations earlier than securing funding.)

Setting Some Floor Guidelines

Are you going to scan the back and front of all pages, or simply those with writing? Are you going to scan the envelope? (I hope the reply to that one is, “Sure.”) How are you going to deal with oversize pages that both gained’t match on the scanner or within the subject of the digital camera with out being actually tiny?

What format will they be scanned into? What decision? How will you retain collectively the recordsdata of the letters which might be a number of pages? File naming conventions?

Arranging and Making ready the Materials

Earlier than you arrange your scanner or digital digital camera, there’s work to do. These letters must be opened and the papers unfolded, unstapled, and un-paperclipped. This takes time. (So. A lot. Time.)  And there must be a option to maintain issues so as so papers don’t get combined up within the course of.

Getting the Vital Tools

There must be a scanner or digital digital camera with the required equipment, comparable to batteries, lighting, digital camera stand, and so on.

And other people. You’ll be able to’t digitize with out the folks do it.


Truthfully, that is often the simplest a part of the entire course of, but it surely nonetheless takes time. Scanning a ebook may be pretty quick, however when you’re working with unbound materials (like your hypothetical letter assortment), you’re going to go so much slower. Even when you are able to do a brand new picture each 5 seconds — which might be lightning velocity for some unbound supplies, it provides up. Let’s say it’s 5 second per web page. Multiply that by a letter that’s 6 pages lengthy plus an envelope… and there are 2000 letters to do. That’s 1167 minutes or virtually 20 hours. That’s presuming nothing slows you down. (Head’s up: There’s all the time one thing that may gradual you down.)


These photographs don’t do anybody good if no person is aware of what they’re. That requires somebody to arrange metadata—details about one thing that makes it extra usable. At a minimal, you want some sort of title for this group of photographs, however there often must be a extra sturdy description.

There’s additionally one thing referred to as “structural metadata,” which reveals how the pictures relate to 1 one other. This contains issues just like the sequence of the pictures, in order that web page 5 comes after web page 4 however earlier than web page 6. It can be assigning “waypoints.” Basically, this enables customers to see the place sections of the work are, very like a ebook’s desk of contents does. This additionally takes time and somebody to do it. (See a sample right here?)

Internet hosting

If these photographs are going to be on-line, they must be hosted someplace. (This isn’t the identical factor because the archive’s laborious drive the place they’re saved. By the best way, that’s extra gear that’s wanted.) There additionally must be some form of web site. There are frameworks referred to as “content material administration techniques” that assist libraries and archives handle this, however they’re typically too costly for small organizations to make use of. Even the organizations that do have a CMS nonetheless have to pay for the service and have folks to work on the technical side. (I hope you figured that into your grant proposal.)

Storage and Backups

When you’ve ever had a tough drive fail, you’ll perceive the necessity for an excellent system of backups. With computer systems, it isn’t a matter of if they are going to fail; it’s a matter of when. You’re going to want an excellent backup system (which features a clear option to recuperate information), in addition to a plan emigrate information to new media and/or codecs when essential.


You would possibly be capable of get a few of the work accomplished with the employees you have already got at your (hypothetical) archive, however it is a large mission. You have been good to incorporate in your grant proposal some funding for a part-time worker or intern to work with the mission. Even when you had opted to make use of all volunteers for this, volunteer labor shouldn’t be free. It nonetheless requires time to coach, supervise, and handle.

These Points Have an effect on Everybody

Whether or not it’s your (hypothetical) small archive or one of many main gamers within the family tree house, these points have an effect on everybody who’s attempting to get issues digitized and convey them on-line. True, the large gamers don’t want to use for grant funding, however they nonetheless have problems with time constraints, staffing, and know-how. Even for them, there are limits of individuals, time, and cash. It’s more durable for smaller organizations, as a result of they don’t have the economic system of scale that the bigger ones do.

So while you get annoyed (like I do generally) when that document you want isn’t on-line, do not forget that there’s extra to bringing information on-line than simply scanning.

Need to get extra out of your on-line searches? Click on to get a free copy of my information “5 On-line Search Methods Each Genealogist Ought to Know”




The submit Why Aren’t Extra Family tree Information On-line? appeared first on Amy Johnson Crow.

Powered by WPeMatico