In the May 3, 2004, edition of this newsletter, I wrote about a new commercial online genealogy service to be provided by Pearl Street Software. This is the same company that produces Family Tree Legends (FTL) genealogy software for Windows as well as the GenCircles online genealogy databases. The information provided five weeks ago was sketchy but alluded to a new online database containing birth, marriage, and death indexes from most states, as well as military records, land records, court and probate records, biographies, cemetery transcriptions, and hundreds of books. Now the company has released more details and an expected availability date.
Pearl Street Software has announced that the FTL Records Collection will be available on June 28th. Here is a small sampling of what will be in the online collection:
• Social Security Death Index
• Vital records indexes for many states, including Maine, Idaho, Texas, California, Kentucky, and many more.
• Many significant land and probate records
• Millions of military records from a variety of sources
• Nearly a thousand historical books with powerful search and viewing options
In addition, the new online service will be introducing a number of search enhancements that reportedly won't be found anywhere else. For example, users will be able to search on every field in every database, unlike the very simple First Name, Last Name, Keyword searches on other services. Users will also be able to read all of the books from cover to cover.
A screenshot demo of the upcoming service is now available, and I took a look at it. The search screens seem simple enough. The main search page looks quite similar to Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com, FamilySearch.org, and several other online genealogy databases. After all, there is only a finite number of ways to ask the user to type in the first and last names of people being searched.
The Global Search results and Database Search results also have similar layouts to other services, but the information contained looks interesting. I saw examples of California birth records, Idaho birth records, Texas Adjutant General Service records from 1836 to 1935, United Empire Loyalists (Canadian records) and search results from contributed family trees. The screen shot also shows that show all fields are searchable. The "My Favorites" page apparently allows the user to bookmark previously-found records and return to them easily at any time.
According to Cliff Shaw, President and CEO of Pearl Street Software, "The competition is really what got us into this market. Subscription prices have continued to rise for several years now. Personally, I don't feel like the existing services have improved enough to justify their increase in cost. So many of our customers have expressed frustration about the rising cost of genealogy data on the Internet. Some even say that they just can't afford to do genealogy any more, especially some of our users on fixed incomes. In my mind, the genealogy subscription market has become inflated because there's no competition to the existing services. We plan to restore some healthy competition to the subscription market and FAST!"
You can view the online preview demo of screen shots at http://www.familytreelegends.com/records/preview.
For a limited time, Pearl Street Software is offering a special pre-order price of $19.95 per year to become a charter member. The regular price will be $29.95.
You can find more information about this new service at http://www.familytreelegends.com/records