FamilySearch is a nonprofit educational institution entirely funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dedicated to promoting the preservation and sharing of genealogical information throughout the world. For the first time ever, FamilySearch recently offered to provide free services to archives and other records custodians who wish to digitize, index, publish, and preserve their collections. (See my earlier article about this topic at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2007/05/familysearch_to.html.)
Today, FamilySearch issued an RFI (Request For Information) to commecial and non-profit organizations that might be interested in joining forces to place genealogy-related information online. The RFI lists many records of interest to the folks at FamilySearch and also solicits suggestions from interested Records Custodians and potential Service Providers.
NOTE: A "Service Provider" is a company that publishes information online. Examples of present-day service providers would include Footnote.com, Ancestry.com, the New England Historic Genealogical Society (a non-profit service provider), FindMyPast.com and many others. FamilySearch is seeking agreements with service providers in the United States as well as in many other countries.
The RFI proposes to provide images of original records to genealogists around the world. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection.
The RFI states that FamilySearch will make these images of original records available at no cost to service providers although the publishing of the online information must conform to a set of guidelines. For instance, all records published under this project must be made available at no charge to patrons at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and to patrons at local FamilySearch Family History Centers around the world. The information also must be available to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at no charge. In effect, this is the "payment" for obtaining easy access to the information. The information also must be published in a manner that allows for the index to be available on www.FamilySearch.org.
In addition, the service providers are free to charge reasonable fees to anyone else who wishes to access the same information. The assumption is that genealogists, historians, and others will want to access this information from their homes or offices and will be willing to pay fees. It is expected that most service providers will also sell institutional subscriptions to libraries, universities and others. These fees will be used to cover the expenses of the service providers and to hopefully generate a profit.
Under this arrangement, users will always have a choice: obtain free access to the information by traveling to a local Family History Center or to obtain access to exactly the same information from the convenience of their own homes for a modest fee.
Another part of this agreement is the coalescing of meta data. "Coalescing" is (my) fancy word that means "you can always start your search from one place: www.FamilySearch.org." That site contains all the meta data. Once you find what you want on www.FamilySearch.org, you can click on a link to go directly to the service provider's web site to view the original document. I would expect that most service providers will also publish indexes to the content available on their own sites.
I also expect most service providers will publish even more records than those they obtain from FamilySearch. This is a non-exclusive arrangement: each service provider is free to obtain additional records from other sources.
The Request For Information (RFI) is being sent to many service providers around the world and is also soon to be published on FamilySearch's web site (exact URL to be announced as soon as it is posted online). Contact information is included within the RFI.
The following is an EXCERPT from the RFI. For details, please contact FamilySearch directly:
You are invited to submit a proposal for the FamilySearch Records Access Genesis project in accordance with the requirements set forth in the attached request for information (RFI), which is also available on-line in the Projects and Activities section at gensocietyofutah.org.
NOTE by Dick Eastman: I am quoting from an advance copy of the RFI. As of the date this article is being written, the RFI is not yet available at the Projects and Activities section at gensocietyofutah.org. However, I do expect that it will appear there within the next few days.
The Genealogical Society of Utah, doing business as FamilySearch (hereinafter referred to as "FamilySearch"), located in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a Utah nonprofit corporation. 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. The FamilySearch Records Access program provides personnel and state-of-the-art digital cameras, software, and web-based applications to assist record custodians who wish to digitize, index, publish, or preserve parts of their collections.
For archives and heritage societies, the Records Access program benefits include:
- Digitally capture, preserve, and publish records online
- Increase access to records while maintaining control and ownership
- Increase patronage and business viability
- Over 100 years of archival and publishing experience
For service providers, the Records Access program helps them:
- Benefit from the knowledge and relationships of FamilySearch with the archival community worldwide
- Significantly lower costs associated with acquiring, preserving, or providing access to data
- Increase business viability and website traffic
- Leverage an open platform that develops value-added services around FamilySearch, the world's largest repository of genealogical data
If you intend to respond to the RFI, contact Dave Harding or Ransom Love in writing by fax or, preferably, by e-mail. The original, copies, and an electronic version of your proposal must be received not later than noon, September 14, 2007, or your proposal will otherwise be disqualified.
The service provider(s) whose proposal is the best solution for targeted datasets will be selected on [Date to be provided in the RFI]. All proposal submitters will be notified whether they are accepted, disqualified, rejected, or unsuccessful (see section [X] of the RFI).
Dave Harding and Ransom Love will be the single points of contact for all inquiries and correspondences.
Thank you for your time, effort, and interest in Records Access Genesis project.
[End of Excerpt from the RFI]
The full RFI, with attachments, fills more than 70 pages so I will skip the rest in this newsletter. The full RFI also specifies record sets of current interest to FamilySearch, including U.S. census records; census records from England and Wales; U.S. County Wills; U.S. County Estate Files; U.S. County Deeds; U.S. Church Records; Spain Parish Registers; Southern Poland Catholic Parish Registers; Southern Poland Lutheran Parish Registers; Germany, Bavaria, Brenner Genealogy Collection; Italy Parish Registers; Portugal Church and Civil Registration; Ukraine L'viv Greek Catholic Church Records; Ukraine L'viv Roman Catholic Church Records; Hungary Civil Registration; Germany NARA SS Genealogy Collection; Denmark Civil Registration of Marriages and more. In addition, FamilySearch will consider publishing other records as suggested by service providers. For details, consult the RFI.
All in all, this is exciting news. We are all at the "second dawn" of online genealogy information. The "first dawn" was when such information first became online from a number of commercial and non-profit vendors. These were often transcribed records although a minority included scanned images of the originals.
The "second dawn" is an expansion of the same thing in which we see the amount of available online information becomes multiplied by ten or perhaps one hundred or possibly by thousands of times as much information. In every case, you can sit at home or in a Family History Center and view a scanned image of an original record on your computer screen. That's right: original source records available on your nearest computer!
We live in exciting times for genealogists.