Research during coronavirus restrictions
edited September 28, 2020 in Suggest an Idea
John Packham said: With the closure of facilities to access church record images etc. (e.g. the National Archives at Kew, UK) due to the coronavirus and with genealogists probably having more time to fill due to work closures, could the FamilySearch archives be made more open to people at home now they don't have access? I appreciate a full open access would probably overwhelm the servers, so a restricted access, maybe one day a week, to specific places each day would allow research to continue.
Jeff Wiseman said: John,
Welcome to the FamilySearch forum at GetSatisfaction.com!
Your request has been made by others recently and would seem like a great idea.
Unfortunately, all access and access restrictions that can be seen in FamilySearch are legally controlled by the MANY contracts that are in place with the owners of those sources. In order to provide an exception to ANY of the contracts would require yet another contract to lay out the legal limitations of the new, temporary exception. Furthermore, I suspect that the owners of those sources would likely not be interested in spending money and a lot of time on their lawyers just to put temporary exception contracts in place when it doesn't provide them with any significant benefits.
So although the request would be nice, I'm pretty sure that such a thing is very unlikely to happen.
Note that like most folks posting on the forum here, I am not an employee of FamilySearch and I have no authority to speak for them. You can usually identify a FS employee that posts here by their icon and the text "Employee" on it.0
A van Helsdingen said: Overwhelming the servers has nothing to do with it. FS cannot allow access to records if the owner of the records hasn't approved it.
While I appreciate FS cannot discuss ongoing legal discussions, some sort of statement from them, even if it is "We will not comment on our approach to negotiations relating to access restrictions during the pandemic" would be polite and helpful.0
John Packham said: Thanks Jeff for the clarification.
I guess it's just one of those quirks. Everyone has access to these records, anyone can get to see them without restriction. But only if they go to certain places. I could take a 9 minute bus ride and access the records at the National Archives (except it's now closed) but at home (just over a mile away) I can't.
It'd be interesting to know why the owners of the sources placed a restriction on outlets but I guess we'll never know. Maybe someone from FamilySearch could enlighten us?0
A van Helsdingen said: The issue of restricted access to records is commonly discussed on this forum.
As a general rule FS never comments on why specific records are restricted, aside from saying that restrictions are due to contracts between them and the record owner.
The contracts are strictly confidential, but if the owner is a government, they may be legally obliged to make it public under Freedom of Information laws.
Some records are known to be restricted because of partnerships between FS and the major genealogical companies- Ancestry, MyHeritage and FMP. As part of the deal FS has to restrict access to those records to avoid people using FS instead of subscribing to those websites.
In many cases the record owner does not publicly say why they negotiated restrictions with FS, but usually the reason is fairly obvious- money. They want people to use their pay to use website or visit them in person rather than using FS.
For Catholic records, restrictions often exist because of the disagreements between the Catholic church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (who sponsor FS) over the use of genealogical records for LDS ordinances.
If a record set is in the Catalog but is not online at all, the reason is usually privacy laws.0
Jeff Wiseman said: John,
A van Helsdingen is right. Usually it's a matter of companies wanting to make money. If they charge for access on their sites, but lets FS provide access to their records to everyone for FREE, I'm sure they would see that as a bad thing.
One of the things that is interesting though, FS always tries to negotiate the best deals that will maximize our access. For example, Some organizations will let us freely access indexes of images that they have, only without access to the images themselves. This obviously provides us with some useful data, but is frustrating in that we can't verify that data as to whether or not it is really correct, and we can't see other data on the source images that has not been indexed but is still rather valuable). But FS has provided what they can in these situations and we at least have the indexes
Also when you go back several years to when many of these contracts were first put into place, the ONLY way you could see this stuff was to order a film from the Family History Library through your local FHC and then go view it at the FHC. Now that we can easily access any of that stuff from home, some contracts are still in place only allowing you to view them from a FHC, and there are even cases where the media owners want to tighten up their control on things more so that it doesn't influence any profits that they get out of their property rights to the images0
ATP said: Jeff,
What records do those commercial sites have that are not available in FS to validate and verify the vitals of any of the individuals in, say, my family tree posted in the FT? I don't use any of those commercial sites for any reason and for the most part have no serious trouble finding in FS the necessary records to verify the relationships in my portion of FT. And, if FS could make available indexes to deeds and images of the deeds, then, I would have no difficulty at all. Do those commercial sites have indexes and images of deeds' records? Thanks for any light you might shed on that matter!0
A van Helsdingen said: Of course different areas and record types have different arrangements. You would need to check the commercial websites to see whether records you want are there. The FS Wiki, local genealogy societies, the original record owner may be able to help you with questions about specific record sets. When viewing records on FS you may also see messages attributing the records to one of the commercial companies.
For some records the restrictions have nothing to do with commercial websites- e.g. several Catholic dioceses whose records are not online outside of FS have restrictions- their reasons are fees to view the records in-person and/or the Catholic-LDS disputes over LDS ordinances. So a restriction on viewing the records at FS does NOT mean the records are elsewhere on the internet.0
Jeff Wiseman said: I cannot answer your first question as I don't know of specific records as there are MANY different types. Others on this forum might speak regarding specific records that they need to get into.
However, I have a free "church" account on Ancestry.com. Occasionally when I'm have a problem finding sources in FS, I will try a search in Ancestry.com. This has occasionally been successful for me.
BTW, I see that you've only been on the forum here since December so I don't know how familiar you might be with the historic records in FS. You may not be aware that the BULK of all the images that have been digitized and stored in FS are NOT indexed yet (around 70% of them). That means when you are doing a normal search on a particular name of someone in the Tree, you are only searching up to 30% of all the records FS has!
Searching FS's unindexed records is quite a bit different in many ways. Robert Kehrer gave a GREAT presentation on this that you can find on YouTube.com. Just do a search on "Finding Elusive Records in FamilySearch" or use this link:
ATP said: Thanks very much for the responses. I have spent a great deal of time over the past 10 to 12 months attaching a great many primary and reliable secondary government and institutional records available on FS to those individuals and families in my part of FT who had no sources whatsoever, let alone sources validating immediate family relationships. And, that is not to say, the time, merging, detaching and correcting information of individuals and families, which in some number of cases can take days to straighten out with their often very large families.
Then, there were those sources attached that were unreliable or in error, among which were mostly GEDCOMs and ancestry.com. Fortunately, most of the GEDCOM issues now seemed to be resolved and almost without exception the ancestry.com "source(s)" was/were meaningless. So, I've been wondering what the big deal is about wanting access to those commercial websites.
There was a short time in Search Historical Records you could click on a map of the world (in my case the USA) and a window would open with list of all the states where then you could click on the state of interest and find a list of available sources listed by category. That map no longer exists and what has been put in its place has further complicated the process of providing sources validating relationships.
Except for some research in several parishes in England, most all my research is confined to the United States and its Colonial period. So, I can only speak for research in my bailiwick in which to validate individuals and their relationships within a family unit, even though basic research principles validating the vitals of an individual everywhere are the similar.0
A van Helsdingen said: "So, I've been wondering what the big deal is about wanting access to those commercial websites"
Ancestry has three major parts: family trees, DNA and historical records.
These Ancestry "sources" will come from family trees that people have posted there. Others come along and cite that tree as a source. Like GEDCOMS and the various other websites of the internet where you can publish family trees, Ancestry trees are often inaccurate due to wrong information being copied.
Ancestry has access to many historical records. I don't know the exact numbers but the number of indexed records would be comparable to FS. FS has many more non-indexed records in the Catalog than any other organisation. US federal censuses, vital records, directories, newspapers, immigration records, military drafts can all be found on Ancestry and the other major companies.
Commercial companies will also give you restriction-free access to records on FS with restricted access (e.g. having to visit a FHC)
Of course, the situation for every area/record type is different. For Netherlands genealogical research, for example , Ancestry and FMP are not needed- the records can be accessed for free either from the archives or in many cases at FS without restriction. What Ancestry has from the Netherlands is a copy of those free records. In other areas- maybe parts of the UK or US, you might be able to get census records on FS, but every other record will be unavailable or heavily restricted on FS and you need to use the genealogy company the local archives have chosen to partner with.0
Don M Thomas said:
John Packham said: Turning the conversation slightly. I'm looking for access to copies of the original church records that FS wonderfully have made available through their research centers. I'm not interested in family trees that others have made available (partly because it needs to be verified anyway), just the raw data. I'm looking mainly in the 1700's and before.
Which paid-for websites can offer access to the original data like FS does? If I'm going to be stuck with no access to the FS archives for some months to come then where should I look to get access to this info?0
A van Helsdingen said: As I said to ATP, just because records are restricted (e.g. only available at a FHC) on FS, it does not mean they can be found on another website (free or commercial)
Some record custodians charge you to view the records in person, so they restrict access to the records at FS. Some contracts are based on when the records were on microfilm which was only accessible at a FHC, and hasn't been updated to allow for online access from other locations- rather than the custodian restricting access for profit motives. Some record custodians can just be difficult and don't want too many people viewing their records online.
Sometimes the images of records on FS may be attributed to a particular company. The Wiki and other genealogical help resources is a good place to start to see which sites may have the records you're interested. The commercial websites also have catalogs of the records they have. The original record owner should be able to tell you which websites they have permitted to publish their records.
You could also ask us which records or places you're interested in and at least one of us may be able to help.0
ATP said: Thank you for your explanation. It clears up some of the questions I have as to the difference between the records on FS and the commercial sites. Thanks, again.0
Paul said: Possibly the "meanest" local authority in England is Suffolk County Council. As far as I know, they have the most restrictive practices in the country. I am fortunate that I have been able to travel to their record offices from my home in London, as I don't think parish register (and related records) images are available on any commercial website. Even then, I have had to pay for photocopies that include my ancestors' CMB details - even more expensive by post. Fortunately, many of the registers have been indexed, but are not available on FamilySearch.
With so many indexed records and images available online, spare a thought for those for whom research from home is very difficult - coronavirus or otherwise!0
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