Review: Archives.com

It’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that I’m miss­ing some­thing when I look at the Archive.com web­site.

This new genealog­i­cal site launched in July 2009, and while it is attract­ing a lot of hits, it remains pret­ty unknown among the most avid geneal­o­gists. (Quant­cast esti­mates that they have over 900,000 view­ers a day.) In offer­ing com­pli­men­ta­ry 3-month access to mem­bers of the Nation­al Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety, Archives.com admits that “Despite … [being one of the most vis­it­ed geneal­o­gy web­sites], many peo­ple still don’t know about us!”

I took a look, and I have to say I’m not impressed.

For researchers with a copy of Ancestry’s Red Book and a Foot­note account, and/or an Ances­try account, this site will seem duplica­tive and sim­plis­tic.  Through a part­ner­ship with Foot­note, they pro­vide many Footote images, but one needs to be a mem­ber of Foot­note, or pay an addi­tion­al fee (thank­ful­ly, on a per doc­u­ment basis, allow­ing for a quick, inex­pen­sive easy retrieval if there are just an image or two you want). There is also a fair amount of infor­ma­tion on the local resources, such as coun­ty cour­t­hous­es, but this is not dif­fi­cult to find infor­ma­tion. Many vital records pages also link to VitalChek, a fee-for-ser­vice firm that will pull vital records from most (if not all) state gov­ern­ments. VitalChek’s fees are a lit­tle steep when one com­pares them to the cost of deal­ing with the gov­ern­ment direct­ly, and what they are real­ly offer­ing is a con­ve­nient way for you to get records when you know they are already there.

Many of these issues lead to a per­cep­tion that the site sim­pli­fies genealog­i­cal research.

They claim 1.2 bil­lion images, but my guess is that this num­ber includes the Foot­note images.

Their coun­ty records sec­tion is basi­cal­ly a pitch to allow them to pull records in var­i­ous coun­ties for you. The price is not ter­ri­bly high: At $24.95 a search, it’s much cheap­er than fly­ing across the coun­try. This has some sim­i­lar­i­ties with Ancestry’s Expert­Con­nect, though Archives.com has a clean­er, more invit­ing site, and it’s more ori­ent­ed toward the sim­ple pulling of records.

There are well writ­ten “how-to” arti­cles on the site. Though there are not as many (and per­haps because there are not as many), they are eas­i­er to nav­i­gate to than are the ones on Foot­note and Ances­try.

There are tools for research­ing liv­ing per­sons, includ­ing reverse phone num­ber lookups.

Over­all, I would say that if you are dab­bling in geneal­o­gy and are look­ing for a place to get start­ed, Archives.com might be a rea­son­able place to start. It’s an easy to nav­i­gate web­site, and the arti­cles will pro­vide some guid­ance, as will the point­ers to the coun­ty cour­t­hous­es. How­ev­er, it pales in com­par­i­son to the vast resources of FamilySearch.org (which has a won­der­ful genealog­i­cal wiki, by the way), Ances­try, and Foot­note. You would do bet­ter to buy Ancestry’s Red Book and a Foot­note account, how­ev­er, unless and until Archives.com deliv­ers enough unique con­tent to jus­ti­fy the expense. Promis­ing, but not yet rec­om­mend­ed.