Disappearing Collections

Genealogy tip: ALWAYS download document images you find online. ALWAYS. You never know when a collection will disappear. It can happen for a variety of reasons, and you will be given no notice.

Example: The Catholic Parish Registers for Ireland. They were (and still are) available via the National Library of Ireland’s website, but those images are unindexed. Likewise FamilySearch filmed the registers years ago, and unindexed images are available via their website (access unindexed films through the FamilySearch card catalog).

A few years ago, Ancestry and Findmypast entered a joint agreement to index the images and make them available for free via their websites. The searchable index and images are still live at Findmypast (and presumably free, though that part of the agreement may have an expiration date). They have disappeared from Ancestry’s website. I noticed that searches that should return hits for that collection didn’t, so I looked at their card catalog, and the title is entirely missing.

In this case, no real harm is done, because those images are available elsewhere. But what if they weren’t?

A similar issue occurred a few years back, with the Drouin Collection (Catholic Parish records from Canada). They had been available, largely unindexed, on Ancestry’s website. Then one day they disappeared. Turns out, the licensing agreement required Ancestry to index the images, which they hadn’t done, so the collection’s owners told Ancestry to pull the images until they were indexed. It took a couple of years to finish the project, but one day the Drouin Collection magically appeared again on Ancestry. Thankfully I’d downloaded the images I’d managed to find, so I wasn’t affected. And since Drouin Collection 2.0 is mostly indexed, I have found even more images.


Also, you can see from this screen shot that FamilySearch (top) imaged the registers independently of NLI (bottom). It pays to check both sets of images, because in some cases NLI’s images are better, and in others, FamilySearch has better images. The images available at Findmypast (and formerly at Ancestry) are NLI’s images. And in fact, Findmypast includes the direct link to the image at NLI’s website, in the index page. And note at the bottom of the index page below, from Findmypast? The copyright statement for the transcript credits Ancestry.

Index Page from Findmypast

I mention all of this because it pays to find out this information–how collections get digitized and who owns what. It can help you track down information when it goes AWOL, and it can help you cut through multiple layers of crud that gets attached with every iteration. And ultimately, you may find that a lot of the collections at pay sites are licensed and repackaged from sites that provide the info for free.

Leave a comment

Filed under Genealogy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s