Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Introduction to Footnote.com: An Online History Research Library by Justin Schroepfer

9 June 2007

Introduction to Speakers by Gerhard Ruf
Main Presentation: Justin Schroepfer – Introduction to Footnote.com: An Online History Research Library
Justin Schroepfer is the Marketing Director for Footnote.com, with 14 prior years in Marketing and Advertising experience. He used to work for Franklin Covey, Ancestry.com and a number of other companies. He received his BS and MSA degrees in Business from the University of Utah’s Business School. Footnote.com specializes in the preservation of historical data by subscriptions is a subsidiary of iArchives which is a document digitalization service for companies, industries, educational and governmental organizations. They help them access their historical data.

Justin Scheoepfer – Introduction to Footnote.com: An Online History Research Library

Through some recent discussion and a partnership that we created with the Church, Footnote is now going to be available in all the family history centers across the world. This will be a resource that we hope many of you will utilize in accessing some records that have never been on the internet before. We are pretty excited about that. We are really young and the website has only been out there five months.

Background – Where We’ve Been
1. History of iArchives
-Pioneering movement from paper to digital since 2000.
-Developed patented OCR know as OWR
-Wide range of digitization projects

Footnote stems from what was iArchives, it’s a digitization company. We were basically in business to digitize documents. It started in around 1999, 2000. We were primarily focused on digitizing trucker forms, medical forms doing that sort of type of documents. We created our own OCR technology and we patented it and called it OWR. We started to do that for those businesses. They would provide us with some documents and we would put it through our OWR software and index it for them. Now they would be able to search all these documents and find things a lot easier.

We started to do historical newspapers as well. We started to work with a few entities, universities, locally BYU and University of Utah and some others across the nation, as well as some libraries and organization. We are involved in the National Digital Newspaper Program. As we started to do this, the thought came to us, we are digitizing a lot of great content, especially historical newspapers, NewsBank had been one of our biggest clients. We would digitize, index it and then send it back. We thought wouldn’t it be fantastic if we created our own website so that we could put this information out to the public? Footnote started from that idea. We started conceptualizing the website back in January of 2006 and within a year we launched the website.

Transition to Footnote
-Build off of conversion core competency and host the data
-Create content repositories available through the internet
-Create a website that allows people to save, build, and share their discoveries.

Mission Statement:
Develop an online community for individuals who are passionate about collaboratively viewing, contributing, and preserving rich content.

That includes everyone from the casual family historian to the really hard-core genealogist, to those that are just interested in history. We see ourselves not just a genealogy site, we have information on there that is really dealing with all sorts of history. Of course, genealogist and family historians being historians we know that they will find a great amount of value in that.

In conjunction with our launch back in January this year we basically entered into a partnership with the National Archives. We have been talking with them for many, many months. We knew they had some amazing content and we wanted to be able to digitize that.

The National Archives and Records Administration
-Truly unique – no other organization is partnering with NARA in this way
-Working on digitizing the entire holdings in the National Archives
-Over 9 billion records

We are first going after the content that hasn’t been out on the internet before. The censuses are great records but they are already out there.

-World’s largest holder of genealogical information
-Footnote will be available for free in all 4,500 Family History Centers
-First project – 3 million Revolutionary War Pension Files

We are working with FamilySearch in helping to digitize their content as well. We have about 150,000 digitized Revolutionary War records on the website right now. We are moving really fast, there are 9 billion records just in the National Archives alone and we now have this part FamilySearch and we even have other partnerships that we are working with. There is so much to do.

We are actually putting on our site an average of about 2 million records per month. We have had all that experience from that digitization that we have been able to apply this concept to other projects, that way we can really pump out the information. We expect big things to hit the site on a regular basis.

Vision – Where We’re Going
-The Footnote difference.
We didn’t want to just be a records repository or a database of records that you could go and get. We thought to be different we could take the records of the images, digitize and index them, so they are searchable. We wanted to add community on top of that, to allow people to add their own comments and content and to be able to get in touch with other people that might have the same interests. I really think that is where genealogy is going to start to take off.

I recently worked at Ancestry.com and worked there for about 4 years. One of the things that surprised was we had about 800,000 paid subscribers to the site at the time. What percentage of the 800,000 subscribers to you think were LDS? It was about 3-5%. That shocked me. There is just a huge amount of people out there that are interested in genealogy that are doing this. Maybe not for the same reasons that the LDS church are but there are a lot of people doing this.

If I have done something on my Schroepfer line and I put something out on the internet and somebody finds a Schroepfer line they are interested in maybe they have some additional information that I can build out my tree. It’s helping each other that is really going to help spread this work. We have the community and tools to help people talk together to progress the work.

We have great content around the Revolutionary War, the founding fathers and the letters they wrote. We have a lot of content that goes beyond just genealogy work. We are currently working on a new search tool on the site. That should show up in the fall. We put all our indexed out on the internet for free. We don’t charge for people to access that metadata. We will provide a thumbnail of the record itself. So we can give people a better idea of what they are about to look at.

We are a subscription website and basically the only thing we require a paid membership for it is to look at the actual documents that we have digitized. Membership is $59.95 a year or $7.95 a month and that gives you access to everything. In a family history center is it all for free.

The Demonstration
We group our titles by time era for you so you can get into specific time periods or collections you are interested in. From “Early America: Before 1775” to “Post War: 1950 and After”, there are also “News and Town Records” and “Photos” collections too. You can click on a collection and then choose down a list of sub-categories to find your items. There is a search engine on the bottom of the page that will search on any of the collections or sub-categories you have highlighted.

The interesting thing about the information we have been able to go after is what a lot of genealogist may not be familiar with. Dick Eastman has written a variety of stories about our collections. It’s been interesting to read based on his perspective as a genealogist. For example we have a collection called the Bureau of Investigation files that preceded the FBI. About 1908-1922 they are basically case files that the government kept. They will report on people suspect of supporting Germans or pro-abition, things of that type. That doesn’t necessarily sound like a very strong genealogy type database, but people have been able to go in there and what they find is amazing. It gives very detailed information on the people, where they lived, their occupations, family relationship and what they were doing at that time frame. Along with contextual information there is a lot of vital information as well. We are excited that people can access these records on the internet instead of having to order a microfilm or visit a National Archive on their own.

For typed records we can use OCR to read and index them for hand written documents we will digitize them and then we send them to get indexed for primary names, etc. We also allow our members to annotate the documents.

More partnerships to come

Content Providers
-National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP)
-University of Utah
-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
-Tundra Time

After digitizing records for many people we thought this is great content wouldn’t it be nice to put it on the internet.

The transcription to this presentation is not yet completed.

This presentation is available on DVDs #116 for UVPAFUG members to borrow or purchase.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great idea, but these documents should be available to the public for free. Americans shouldn't have to pay $60 a year to view information that is in the public domain. Aren't my tax dollars being used to support the National Archives? Shame on you for making this a for-profit enterprise.