With two biggest organizations in genealogy seeking volunteers and historical records for their indexing programs, comparisons and questions about competition are inevitable.
began rolling out FamilySearch Indexing
in 2006. Volunteers around the world use an online application to view and index digitized records.
Subscription data service Ancestry.com
launched a similar program, the World Archives Project
, this year. A recently announced partnership with the Federation of Genealogical Societies
has societies providing volunteer indexers.
FamilySearch released a statement last week about the two programs. Though it started by welcoming all efforts “that provide more economical access to more genealogical and historically significant records,” subsequent claims that FamilySearch produces “More quality indexes, faster” and offers “Greater free public access to images” (among other assertions) struck a defensive note.Read the whole statement on Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter
A little competition would make sense: If FamilySearch makes genealogical records free, wouldn’t Ancestry.com lose customers? Will FamilySearch lose indexing volunteers to the World Archives Project?
No, both organizations insist. When I questioned FamilySearch, spokesperson Paul Nauta replied “FamilySearch believes the introduction of records access initiatives will only serve to improve progress toward making the world’s genealogical and historical records more available economically—an underlying goal of FamilySearch Indexing.”
World Archives Project manager Christopher Tracy also downplayed any competition and emphasized the shared goal of increasing records access. “There’s plenty of work. Billions and billions of records out there haven’t been indexed,” he says.
“They have a great community and they’re bringing more and more people into the [genealogy] space,” he adds of FamilySearch. Ancestry.com reiterated his points in its own written statement
The organizations collaborate on indexing the US census
, and they’re avoiding indexing the same records. “Each company has strategic relations representatives that speak or meet regularly to help accomplish these goals,” Nauta says.
So, now that the air is clear, how do the two programs compare? We’ll break it down:Records access for the public
- FamilySearch Indexing: All record indexes and many record images will be free to anyone through the FamilySearch Web site. If FamilySearch isn't able to secure permission to put certain images on FamilySearch's public site, you can access them at a local Family History Center.
Benefits to volunteers
- World Archives Project: All record indexes will be searchable free on Ancestry.com. Images of those records will be available to Ancestry.com’s paid subscribers, and they'll be free at public libraries that offer their patrons Ancestry Library Edition.
(aside from the warm fuzzies of helping genealogists)
- FamilySearch Indexing: Qualified volunteers (those who’ve keyed 900 names within a 90-day period) will receive free access to all record images, even those not on FamilySearch's public site.
Benefits to partnering organizations
- World Archives Project: Active indexers (who've keyed at least 900 records a quarter) will get free access to all record images, and can vote on which records the project should index. Active indexers who subscribe to Ancestry.com will receive a 10 to 15 percent discount on renewals.
- FamilySearch Indexing: Organizations that provide records for digitizing and indexing receive free copies of the record images and indexes.
- Ancestry.com: Genealogical societies that index a record set receive a copy of the images and indexes, as well as free advertising from Ancestry.com (I'm not sure what form the advertising will take).
Both programs have each record indexed twice, with an arbitrator to resolve differences. Having been around longer, FamilySearch Indexing has more record sets you can choose to index. Its indexing utility is Mac-compatible; Ancestry.com’s is PC-only.
The two programs’ indexing utilities work differently, and you might try both and decide you prefer one over the other. We’d love to hear about your experiences using the utilities—click Comments to post.