I have just learned that a major new online service for genealogists will be announced formally later this week. I managed to get an advance copy of the announcement and then discussed it with the manager in charge of this new genealogy database. I thought I would give newsletter readers advance notice of this new service.
The new online database will contain images of millions of documents of genealogical interest. Ninety-nine percent of these documents have never been available before in electronic format, and perhaps 50% of the documents have not even been available on microfilm. Many have never been available in any format other than the original paper documents, if you could find them. Now these millions of documents will be available to everyone in a new online database that will contain the equivalent of 100,000 books, fully indexed and searchable by every word. You will be able to see images of the original documents on your computer screen.
Picture this: you enter a genealogy library containing 100,000 books, and you can search all the books simultaneously, finding any word or phrase in any book within seconds. You can then retrieve all the listed books and view them on a computer screen within a few more seconds. Best of all, that computer screen is in your home. You do not need to leave home to access this vast resource. The "genealogy library" with 100,000 books is in your living room.
The new database will contain many thousands of genealogy books, obituaries, biographies, military records, marriage notices, local histories, and more. All this data is indexed and searchable by every word. You can search all the documents from one search page and locate all documents of interest within seconds. I have not yet seen the user interface, but I have been assured that it is fast, accurate and very intuitive.
NewsBank is a company that is well-known to historians and librarians but not as well known within the genealogy community. For several years, NewsBank has provided subscribing libraries with online databases containing the following:
- Early American Newspaper Collection (scanned images of old American newspapers)
- America's Obituaries
- U.S. & World Newspaper Collections
- American State Papers
- Early American Imprints (1639-1819)
- The U.S. Congressional Serial Set
NewsBank has been one of the best-kept secrets within genealogy. While librarians and historians usually are aware of the company's services, the company has never received much publicity amongst genealogists. A few knowledgeable genealogists have known about the great resources provided by NewsBank. A number of genealogy libraries already provide access to NewsBank's present services to members and library patrons. In most cases, you have to visit a subscribing library in person to access the NewsBank databases. A very few genealogy libraries offer in-home access to NewsBank.
The new "America's GenealogyBank" service from NewsBank will add millions of new documents to the available services and then will make these documents available to a much wider audience than ever before.
The new service will include the following collections:
Books, Pamphlets and Broadsides, 1639-1922
Thousands of genealogy books plus biographies, funeral sermons, local histories, city directories and similar works published in America before 1923
More than 1,000 American newspapers, including titles from all 50 states
Government Publications, 1789-1980
The entire American State Papers and selections from the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, such as service records, casualty lists, widow's requests, pension claims, and more
Archive of Americana
Published by Readex, a division of NewsBank, Inc.
This family of historical collections includes books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, government documents, and ephemera printed in America.
Early American Newspapers, Series I: 1690-1876
Hundreds of historic newspapers listed in Clarence Brigham's authoritative bibliography and in additional subsequent bibliographies. The new database will contain images of the original newspapers, not simply bibliographic citations.
Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800
Books, pamphlets, broadsides, and other imprints listed in the renowned bibliography by Charles Evans. Again, the new database will contain images of the original newspapers, not simply bibliographic citations.
Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819
Books, pamphlets, broadsides, and other imprints listed in the distinguished bibliography by Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker. Again, the new database will contain images of the original newspapers, not simply bibliographic citations.
American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series I
Broadsides printed between 1820 and 1900 and ephemera printed between 1760 and 1900
American State Papers, 1789-1838
Legislative and executive documents, many originating from the important period between 1789 and the beginning of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set in 1817
U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980
Reports, documents, and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, originally published in approximately 13,800 bound volumes
I'll repeat this one more time as it is important: the new database will contain scanned images of all of these documents, completely indexed and searchable by every word! You will be able to view images of the original documents on your own computer screen.
These documents range in size from many thousands of one-page printed items (funeral cards, announcements, etc.) up to the 13,800-volume U.S. Congressional Serial Set. Most of the smaller items have never been microfilmed or scanned until now. In tens of thousands of cases, the only method to obtain the information in the past was to personally visit a repository where each document was stored and to look at the originals. The new America's GenealogyBank will revolutionize that access.
Another big piece of this week's upcoming announcement will concern the availability of these databases. In the past, NewsBank always has offered its services only to libraries, not to individuals. If you want to access the big databases today, you need to visit a library that subscribes to NewsBank's services. There may or may not be such a library near you. A few libraries do offer remote, in-home access to library patrons.
The new "America's GenealogyBank" will change that business practice. For the first time, NewsBank will be offering its services to the general public. Private individuals will now be able to purchase their own subscriptions to America's GenealogyBank and access it from home or from any other Internet-connected computer, or even while traveling down the road if using a wireless Internet connection. Pricing has not yet been announced, but company officials have said that the cost of an individual subscription will be "competitive." NewsBank expects to attract thousands of individual subscribers as well as libraries, historical societies, and genealogical societies.
"America's GenealogyBank" will be officially announced later this week at the PLA Conference in Boston. I was able to obtain an advance copy of the announcement for this article.
While the new service will be announced this week, it will not be available to subscribers until the fourth quarter of this year, possibly very late in the fourth quarter. When that happens, I hope to write a "hands on" report. I believe this will be a very exciting new service for genealogists, historians, social scientists, and others.
In the meantime, keep an eye on http://www.newsbank.com. As I write these words, the site does not yet have any mention of America's GenealogyBank. I expect the official announcement will appear on the site later this week.