Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Footnote Images - Part Two - Massachusetts Printed Vital Records

On Monday, I wrote about some of the issues I have had using the city directories on Footnote. Today I'm going to share my thoughts about the images for the Massachusetts printed vital records.

I have not really dived into my New England roots yet. Others have done lots of research on these lines and I haven't felt up to the challenge of digging through early New England records. But when I have consulted the Massachusetts printed vital records to find my ancestors with varying success.

Footnote has scanned images of many of these books. Most of these books are sorted by births, marriages and deaths and then in alphabetical order. These books work well for Footnote's image naming system. They divide the book into sections by birth, marriage or death. Then they label the image with the page number and the first name on the page. This is very similar to the way they name the imaged for the city directories. It's easy to find all the pages that list all the marriages of a certain surname.

But not all of the books were published in this format. Some were published listing all events by date. For example, the Boston vital records are in this order (or at least partly). Here is a page that is labeled Moore in the births category (you will need a subscription to view it on Footnote, but see the screen capture below). The problem with this page is that although it is labeled "Births and Baptisms" at the top of the page, it actually is a listing of marriages in chronological order.

This labeling system also gets the book's pages all out of order. The Moore page above is on page 57. When I click the next arrow, I find page 71, then 73, then 82. This makes it impossible to browse the page. If you were to search for the name Moore in this book you would find a page for baptisms, not marriages in the search results. It gives you no clue that it's actually a marriage page. Adding to that that the OCR is not perfect on any site and the labeling system that Footnote has created makes it very hard to use many of its images.

There is no good reason to label these books and put them online in a random page order. I wish that Footnote would take more time to look at the images they are labeling and make sure that their system makes sense for ALL images and sources.

Disclosure: I have not been paid by anyone for this review. I have an annual subscription to Footnote that I purchased myself.

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