Saturday, March 29, 2014

402. County Societies Crush Ancestry Locally

I suspect that many members of local county societies look at Ancestry and FamilySearch and listen to their bragging about their billion-record totals and get really depressed about their own efforts. I, personally, don’t think county societies need to hang their heads.
            Let’s look at those numbers rationally: For one thing those billion records are for humans in the entire world, hardly any of whom you are related to, and they are for thousands of locations, almost none of which your folks ever lived in. When you bring those totals down to the local level where we all do live, the big boys don’t come off so well.
            I suspect that most genealogists are like me and my cohorts and seriously research in only a dozen or so counties. How many counties are there in the U.S., anyway—maybe around 3000? When you divide Ancestry’s U.S. records totals by 3000, each location goes way down.
            And did you notice that they pad their totals with modern things like phone books and such? I hardly ever research anyone who had a telephone. And the census records they play up—really, one page every ten years? And those census records from 1790 to 1840—try finding anything else from those fifty years!
            Most of my folks lived in small villages in rural counties with a population probably in the low hundreds, and Ancestry really looks bad in those places. And that is where the local county societies shine.
            The record types that county societies are working on—like school records, church records, lodges, probates, funeral homes, and such, are nearly non-existent on Ancestry and FamilySearch and all the other big boys. And let’s face it again, down in those places are where people really lived.
            A data file of a hundred or so names in a small rural county is a large percentage of the existing population. Add a few more of those locally-created research resources, and you cover about everyone in town and farm. If you add together all the files and names created by our local county societies in those 3000 counties, you will have billion-record totals, too.
            So, folks, to all of you toiling in some small office to extract some interesting little bunch of records, keep up the good work. Ancestry should have it so good!

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