RUMORS OF WAR ON BETWEEN LATTER DAY SAINTS FAMILYSEARCH.ORG
and ANCESTRY.COM? IS IT HOT?
By Ancestry Worship Genealogy
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Since I've heard about this "war" between the Latter Day Saints, who have the currently free genealogy research database called FamilySearch.org, and the popular Ancestry.com databases, which are generally paid subscriptions, but offered free at many libraries that pay the fees involved, including Family History Centers owned by the Latter Day Saints Church, and genealogy societies and clubs, and including a couple of the city public libraries I use, I thought I'd make some commentary.
According to one LDS missionary I spoke to, Bishops throughout the country have been and are organizing church members to read and input data into the FamilySearch databases, and that this effort has the air of both competition between Stakes and cooperation. Some of the individual volunteers have personally imputed a hundred thousand names from census records, for example. The LDS Church members historically have pulled together and been as busy as bees and this is the latest project they are working on, you could say collectively and as a Church.
To understand the LDS's great on-going and eternal interest in genealogy information, you must understand their religion, something I won't get into here at length. The need to know the identity of ancestors is tied in with Temple Ordinances as well as the emphasis on family life. As I understand it members must submit to the church their family tree back to the great-grandparents but many go far beyond that. Since the Church sends missionaries out all over the earth and have many converts, while older historical members of the church are up to date, new converts have genealogy research and Temple Ordinances ahead of them.
Considering the vast amount of documents currently on microfilm and books, and the vast amount of documents that are yet to be microfilmed or published or even found, it's difficult for me to believe that in my lifetime such a project will ever be complete. Also, I have to emphasize that I periodically try to duplicate some of my personal research on these and other databases, and have yet to be able to do it, even when trying popular misspellings to pull up information. My personal research, going back over a decade, was and would still be dependent on the use of microfilms provided by LDS for rent. I simply love to get to as original a resource I can and I hope and pray that LDS does not stop renting the films after they are turned into text databases when the text databases do not suffice.
Ancestry.com has been, no doubt, a business, and a profitable one. They are a com - commercial. FamilySearch.org is an organization. Currently it aims to provide the same, more, and better information, including better organized information, than Ancestry.com.
Meanwhile Ancestry.com has always had competitors in the genealogy information business. There have been many upstarts. All of these databases that you pay to use also pay employees. I don't know how well. So is the focus by the LDS Church only to compete with Ancestry.com or all of the paid databases? (Or is the aim to put the professional genealogists out of business with all the hobbyists doing the work themselves? I can say that many hobbyists need coaching.)
I find this difficult to say, know, or find out.
One question would be, has the LDS Church found genealogy information profitable or do they want it to be?
While the cost of renting film has generally been low, if you need to use the same film for several weeks or continually, or you find yourself ordering many films over time, it can get pricy. But probably not as pricey as hiring a professional or traveling the old fashioned way to archives and so on all over the country or world. (That said, genealogy as a hobby is not for everyone. It requires certain character as well as skills and talents. There are very good reason to hire someone who charges for research, interviewing, and creating a book for a client.)
I can't say the rental of films has always been or is not for profit. Family History Centers have many resources that are entirely free to use while there, including some microfilms, many books and maps, but lately a few databases including Ancestry, Fold3, and others. I researched for years without ever walking into a Family History Center, went through a period where I was at one weekly, and currently find less need to go to one than before unless I am ordering in and using microfilms.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF A BATTLE FOR DOMINANCE IN THE GENEALOGY INFORMATION WAR?
According to some missionaries I spoke with, originally there was an agreement that all such genealogy information would be SHARED and FREE. Thus, some feel that Ancestry.com is becoming a monopoly for profit, gobbling up everything it can, and that the LDS church does not feel they have been sharing with the Church - playing fair.
Now, I use Ancestry.com and many other resources, including FamilySearch.org. I've reached out for help to volunteers at the LDS Church locally and at Salt Lake and I've also donated some books they didn't have at the time to the library and Church as a way of giving back.
I hear complaints that the Family History Centers missionaries are so preoccupied with entering information into databases that the research assistance one used to count on is no longer available.
Sometimes I switch between the two databases, back and forth, in a quest for information and I research often enough that I sometimes notice that FamilySearch has something up that Ancestry.com does not and visa versa. But Ancestry seems to have something new frequently.
At the same time, I have been frustrated with both sites because I think they have both gotten to the point where the amount of information they are hosting has become unwieldy, if not disorganized. I've heard a lot of grumbling about how many more clicks it takes to get to so called "Advanced Search" on Ancestry.com than it used to be.
* On FamilySearch.org I've found that some online collections with what I'll call Grand Titles need to be retitled and referenced on their start pages rather than clicking around to find that information because THE TITLE IS INCORRECT FOR WHAT THE COLLECTION ACTUALLY CONTAINS. You really have to hunt to find out that there are huge gaps in the information and what those gaps are. Rather than a Grand Title, instead I think the online information needs to be akin to the original microfilm in title and in organization. If I failed to find out what was really in a collection by clicking, calling local or Salt Lake volunteers did not provide me the answers. They were as confused as I was and simply wanted to follow my moves on a computer long distance as if that would take them somewhere different than where I went.
* I've noticed, being a member of JewishGen.org for research purposes, that JewishGen.org information that was compiled by volunteers, is now appearing on Ancestry.com, but meanwhile the begging for money by JewishGen.org has become so unending and guilt tripping I would say the word "pathetic" is spot on. I'm annoyed by the constant e-mails and the assumption that I'm Jewish and celebrate all those Jewish holidays just because I'm a member. Did JewishGen.org just fork over the information to Ancestry.com at no charge or sell information that was also supposed to be done by volunteers for free use? (Donations were to be used only for the purposes of keeping the web site and databases up on the Internet, as I remember it, the original idea.)
If JewishGen.org or any other database that is the work of volunteers and for free use did sell out like that, then they deserve, in my opinion, to be vamoosh! (Your word to your volunteers should count.)
* SEEMS TO ME NO "ORG" should be providing a "COM" with free information.
* I do not know if LDS plans to start charging to use their databases as they have their micro-films and the issue is FREE INFORMATION FOR EVERYONE AS PROVIDED FREE VIA VOLUNTEERS OF THE LDS CHRCH, if the "war" is economic. Obviously if the Church succeeded in dominating the genealogy information business and providing it free to everyone, that would put Ancestry.com and all other paid subscriptions out of business.
* Genealogy associates tell me that Ancestry.com is owned by Latter Day Saints and that they tithe the Church with their income.
* National Archives of the United States information is appearing in collaboration with both sites. I have no idea if this sharing was free or there is a financial transaction going on.
* We as researches must not forget that we can still go to original sources such as County, State, and City, as well as National Archives for information. That stamps and envelopes still work so long as the U.S. Mail Service is in operation, though some of these allow you to order on line and use PayPal type electronic money transfers.
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