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Recently, the browse experience at Footnote has been improved. There are two things that I want to be sure to point out.

First, the “search within” feature is still there, but it’s not below the browse info. It’s right above it. The second place that I looked, so to speak. This is an important feature, and elevating it may promote its use.

Second, the old limitation of showing 12 items at a time is gone. In the case of Detroit city directories, there are 63 of them. Previously, users had to “page” thru them 12 at a time to get to the one they wanted, and then do the same thing with the 3500 pages of the book.

Now, there is a scrolling list of the 63 books, in year order. That’s much easier to use and quicker. Admittedly, when you click on a book, you’ll find a “heavy” panel of 3500 thumbnails loading. But give me a scroll over a 12-item page any time. This is lots faster.

The browse information has been “striped” to make it easy to view a long list.

Altogether, a welcome (if long-overdue) enhancement to the site. One might hope that the unique data available can be found and used better.

Thanks, Footnote!

Happy 3rd Birthday

The Footnote.com website went live on 10-January-2007, the day of the signing of the partnership agreement with the National Archives. Last month, that anniversary passed unnoticed by tufblog. Let’s correct that oversight right now.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

In three years, more than 60 million pages have been published. The indexes are fully searchable for free. Much of the content is free as well. Most of the 60 million images are unique to the web, not available anywhere else. And there is even more data stored in “Footnote Pages” that includes the Social Security Death Index.

The contributions of the user community is not as large as was originally imagined. Don’t confuse quantity with quality, though. There are some priceless additions, as well as enhancements to the search index, from users. It is safe to say that Footnote’s social media offerings have been accepted well by their users, and that the level of user contribution is not matched elsewhere in their industry. (I wouldn’t want to have a debate about user contributed family trees, which are abundant elsewhere, and not on the Footnote site. It’s not their industry?) User photos and comments are richer than I have seen on competitive sites.

Congratulations to the folks at Footnote for reaching a milestone.

And now … the other shoe. I have only two questions.

  1. Where is the soundex search?
  2. Where is the fielded annotation?

WHY IS SOUNDEX IMPORTANT?

Sometime in the first month of researching historical individuals, whether famous or simply family, one discovers that the records don’t spell the name the same way. Ergo, finding all of the records for a person means finding records that have “variant expressions” of the name – that say Jim and not Jimmy, that say Sharber and not Sharbrough, and so on. If customers are limited to searching for exact matches, they will overlook records which have been accurately transcribed and indexed, but which don’t say what they expected.

Footnote has addressed this somewhat, by supporting a wild-card search. I can look for “Sharb*” and see all of the Sharbers and Sharbroughs. I can use “K*tzm*” to find Katzman, and Kartzmus, which are sometimes the same person. But success in that endeavor requires the customer to not only know HOW to use the wild cards, but WHEN to use them.

Further, many researchers have experience with Soundex and understand that it provides “near misses” or “close matches.”

By this point in time, one might have expected a “ranked search” feature on the site. Is is unreasonable for customers to ask for enhancements to search?

WHAT IS FIELDED ANNOTATION?

Since launch, Footnote has supported “annotation” of the images on the site. It’s a great feature. If you find a name in a newspaper, or an address, or an error, you can enter it. The problem is, user annotations are keywords. They are not added to the database. If you search on last name, you won’t find annotations. If you search on first name, you won’t find user annotations. If Footnote produced the document using OCR (optical character recognition, a form of “machine reading”), the data goes into keywords, and can’t be searched using the search refinement features for names, places, and years.

Footnote customers might want to pass on their congratulations to the company for the things that they’ve accomplished to date. They might also want to let them know how Footnote might be made more useful. I’ve made two suggestions here. Do you have others?

Years ago, when I was working at Footnote, I got a call from a librarian at Southern Utah University. She wondered if we might publish a single roll of microfilm that the library owned. The roll contained the account books of the Deseret Iron Company.

While I said sure, the project didn’t proceed past that point during my tenure there. But this week, the account books of the Deseret Iron Company were published on the footnote site. There are 551 pages, organized by year, and month, and page number. The page numbers are a continuous sequence – 1854 starts on page 1 and 1855 on page 21.

There wasn’t a lot of cash around, and employees were paid on account. These books tell a great deal about pioneer life in the area that later became Cedar City.

I’m not familiar enough with the records or the history to say why the gap exists between 1862 and the final year, 1867. Let’s speculate that the company ceased operation in 1862 and cleared up the books five years later. Making it up is so much easier than research. That’s why 74% of genealogists do it.

Kudos to Footnote and SUU for publishing original images of a unique historical record. I don’t have any pioneer Utah miners in my family tree, but I think it’s the kind of publishing decision that gives the site value.

The following table lists titles added or updated at Footnote.com this week.

title
News – Poughkeepsie Journal 380477 28514 30%
Texas Death Certificates 3002417 17336 61%
Civil War Soldiers – Union – MO 2071556 15433 97%
Naturalizations – NY Southern 848960 13954 54%
WWII Captured German Records 244183 12514 44%
News – Fort Wayne News (IN) 59741 10039 0%
News – Florida Today 69644 9471 0%
Naturalizations – NY Eastern 984279 8781 90%
Civil War “Widows’ Pensions” 569660 7664 1%
Census – US Federal 1930 2673813 4995 97%
Census – US Federal 1920 28338 3069 1%
Census – US Federal 1900 37588 3068 2%
Census – US Federal 1910 38659 2115 2%
TOTAL 136,953
PREV WEEK 268,470

“%age” is the percentage complete, according to the website

“total pages” is the total images for that title when I last measured it (they can change at any moment).
“last week” is the change in the number of images since the last similar blog post.
“prev week” is the number of pages added in the previous week.

No new titles were added this week.

The following table lists titles added or updated at Footnote.com this week.

title
News – Poughkeepsie Journal 351963 55259 27%
Civil War Soldiers – Union – MO 2056123 54184 96%
WWII Captured German Records 231669 44794 42%
Naturalizations – NY Eastern 975498 41446 89%
Texas Death Certificates 2985081 20958 61%
Census – US Federal 1910 36544 12328 1%
Civil War “Widows’ Pensions” 561996 9978 1%
Census – US Federal 1900 34520 8544 2%
Naturalizations – NY Southern 835006 7946 53%
Census – US Federal 1920 25269 4046 1%
Civil War Soldiers – Confederate – GA 1786298 2456 100%
News – Florida Today 60173 2128 0%
Census – US Federal 1930 2668818 2059 97%
News – Fort Wayne News (IN) 49702 1814 0%
Homestead Records 2562 530 0%
TOTAL 268,470

“%age” is the percentage complete, according to the website

“total pages” is the total images for that title when I last measured it (they can change at any moment).

“last week” is the change in the number of images since the last similar blog post.

No new titles were added this week. The %age for the GA Civil War Soldiers ticked over to 100.

On 29-Oct, Footnote announced the intent to complete the US Federal Census collection – at least the extant population schedules. At that time, we wondered what to expect. Would the project be completed quickly? Would other titles be pushed aside so that this project could be done sooner?

Two months later, we still don’t know for sure. But we do know what has been published since. Here is that report.

Continue Reading »

The following table lists titles added or updated at Footnote.com this week.

title total pages last week %age
Civil War Soldiers – Union – MO 2001939 101715 92%
Texas Death Certificates 2964123 30420 60%
Naturalizations – NY Eastern 934052 28235 86%
Civil War “Widows’ Pensions” 552018 14435 1%
Naturalizations – NY Southern 827060 13698 53%
Census – US Federal 1910 24216 9670 1%
WWII Captured German Records 186875 8552 33%
Census – US Federal 1920 21223 8389 1%
Census – US Federal 1900 25976 6690 1%
Civil War Soldiers – Union – KY 1243748 2543 98%
Homestead Records 2032 2032 0%
TOTAL 226,379

“%age” is the percentage complete, according to the website

“total pages” is the total images for that title when I last measured it (they can change at any moment).

“last week” is the change in the number of images since the last similar blog post.

One new title was added this week, “Homestead Records.” It’ s not clear how it compares to “Homestead Records – Broken Bow, Nebraska” which was published previously. The description says that the records are from “various land offices in Nebraska.” You might imagine it as being titled, “Homestead Records – other land offices, Nebraska” but that’s a bit verbose, I’ll admit.

Happy New Year!

The "Nagging" List

There are 31 titles on Footnote that are almost done, but have had no pages added in the past month. They are “stuck” – as if the runner had fallen right before the finish line.

Continue Reading »

Pages: 1 2

The following table lists titles added or updated at Footnote.com this week.

title total pages last week %age
Civil War Soldiers – Union – MO 1,900,224 33,310 87%
Naturalizations – NY Eastern 905,817 20,056 84%
Texas Death Certificates 2,933,703 17,177 60%
Civil War “Widows’ Pensions” 537,583 15,680 1%
Census – US Federal 1900 19,286 6,673 1%
Naturalizations – NY Southern 813,362 6,184 52%
News – Fort Wayne News (IN) 47,888 4,070 0%
Census – US Federal 1910 14,546 3,617 1%
Census – US Federal 1920 12,834 2,173 1%
News – Poughkeepsie Journal 296,704 2,015 23%
TOTAL 110,955

“%age” is the percentage complete, according to the website

“total pages” is the total images for that title when I last measured it (they can change at any moment).

“last week” is the change in the number of images since the last similar blog post.

No new titles were added to the site this week. Several newspapers have been added to the list, but no pages have been published for them yet. It’s a bit of a short week – I would normally wait another day to complete a week of production, but perhaps we’ll have a long week somewhere down the line.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

I keep a list of titles from the National Archives that have been   on Footnote.com. The list has been updated. These updates take place on a random schedule, the last having been 19-Oct.

The appearance of the list has changed significantly. I’ve taken the time to put the list into a table, instead of a straight text list. You might find it easier to scan. The list might have contained some duplicates before. I made an effort to minimize those this time.

As I said last time, next time, I may add the “% complete” from Footnote. I may. It could happen.

Oh, and I changed the publication date for the post. If you have been saving a link to the old list, I might have broken it. I’m amazed at how impermanent a permalink can be.

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