Monday, January 28, 2013

A Sad Day for Chicago Researchers

The Cook County birth, marriage, and death records on FamilySearch no longer have images available. I noticed this in passing on Sunday, wondered if it was a glitch. Sadly, it's not. Cynthia has a good explanation and links at ChicagoGenealogy.

Those of us in the trenches rarely have the opportunity or occasion to notice this, but digitization is not a process free of negotiation, politics, secrecy, and spin. For obvious reasons the powerful parties involved rarely disclose exactly what's going on or what was traded off. The note on FamilySearch Wiki to which Cynthia links is opaque, referring only to "provisions and guidelines of a newly revised contract" and the promise of "an additional 4.7 million records for FamilySearch patrons." What records? Will those images be available? (And, most alarmingly, did this change in contract have anything to do with the widely held but false view that open records promote fraud?)

Cynthia is ever optimistic. It's very hard for me to see this as a win for genealogy, but then we don't know what the alternatives were. And we probably never will. Gather ye images while ye may!




Harold Henderson, "A Sad Day for Chicago Researchers," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 28 January 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]




4 comments:

Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana said...

Oh, Harold...I suspect you know why the images are no longer there! You can find everything neatly tucked away on the (fairly new) Cook County Genealogy website. They are more than happy to take your $15 PER IMAGE. The records are there, but ya gotta pay...

Michael Hait said...

So wait, the Chicago government is now trying to PREVENT fraud?

Harold said...

Laura -- That might be part of the equation, but the CCG web site and the $15 charge is a few years old -- not new in cyber time anyway.

Michael -- LOL, I have no idea what is going on, that was just speculation. Opacity however is par for the course.

Jacqi Stevens said...

Harold, the minute I saw mention of your post on Twitter, my heart sank...and then I did a mental calculation of how many of my Chicago ancestors I've already completely researched. It's a sinking-pit-of-the-stomach feeling to read something like this, especially with as many Chicago connections as my family has. At $15 a copy, that is indeed bad news for me...but bad news for those seeking even one copy. This is government making our own history inaccessible to the people.