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Review: Genline vs. Arkiv Digital


Arkiv Digital Example

Arkiv Digital Example

As the year ends, I am both clos­ing out an account at Genline (now a sub­sidiary of Ancestry), and try­ing out Arkiv Digital.

I have found Genline to be frus­trat­ing. Some of this, no doubt has to do with the fact that the fam­ily is not the eas­i­est to find, with the parish chang­ing names, as I men­tioned yes­ter­day. Some of it, though, is Genline’s inter­face and their images. In Genline, you select a län (County), one or more parishes, and one or more church record types. The inter­face is com­pletely in English on the Mac, so at least you don’t strug­gle with rudi­men­tary vocabulary.

Once you run your search, you receive a list of rel­e­vant pages. Each is marked with a Page Type (Normal Page, Register Start, Cover of Book, and so on). There are columns for place names and years, but these area all too often blank. (Imagine how quickly this would be indexed by year if they had an open com­mu­nity sourc­ing model like that at Footnote! Genline is start­ing to exper­i­ment with allow­ing users to anno­tate the images. I hope they con­tinue.) On both sites, many if not most of the pages are dis­tin­guished only by their num­ber. Arkiv Digital often pro­vides a typed sheet at the begin­ning of a book telling you which page to go to for a par­tic­u­lar year. Even when there isn’t such a rough time index, the pages load about 50% slower on Genline. (This is not sci­en­tific, but my per­cep­tion is that I was get­ting down­loads from Arkiv Digital in fewer than 3 sec­onds and in about 5 sec­onds from Genline.)

Genline Example

Genline Example

When you decide to dive in, you have grayscale images that were taken from the LDS micro­films. They are ser­vice­able, but do not always have the best con­trast. (Genline does pro­vide some tools for adjust­ing bright­ness and con­trast.) Arkiv Digital pro­vides clean, new high-contrast color images. I don’t know about you, but if I am going to be read­ing images line by line in 150-year-old Swedish script, I much pre­fer the Arkiv Digital prod­uct to that from Genline.

Genline offers a great fea­ture allow­ing to see where you are in the con­text of the image when you are zoomed in on the image, and might need some per­spec­tive, which I find handy. You can also use it to change how much of the image you want to see by inter­act­ing with this thumb­nail. However, I find it per­plex­ing that the search win­dow dis­ap­pears when I want to look at the result. I much pre­fer Arkiv DIgital’s approach, which uses tabs, like a mod­ern web browser.

Then, there is the pric­ing. Archiv Digital is 995 SEK (Swedish kro­nor) until January 9th, or about $146. Genline is 1295 SEK, or about $190. Both seem over priced if you com­pare their prices for access to the 24 mil­lion Swedish church records to those for sites like Ancestry ($300 a year for the run of all 6 bil­lion his­tor­i­cal records), or Footnote ($80 for a year, 72 mil­lion images).

One won­ders what Ancestry intends to do with sites like Genline, which (as does Arkiv Digital) requires an instal­la­tion of the user, and still remain intensely coun­try spe­cific. My hope is that Ancestry is try­ing to build its global brand by focus­ing on com­pet­ing in local mar­kets, where a size­able chunk of the address­able mar­ket is inter­act­ing with other ven­dors than Ancestry. If these prod­ucts can be folded into the Ancestry World Access prod­uct, or as some more rea­son­ably priced add on, I think they have some real oppor­tu­ni­ties. And putting the inno­va­tion engine that is Footnote into the mix — if Footnote is allowed to teach Ancestry and all of its brands a trick or two — really makes the new year inter­est­ing in the com­mer­cial ances­tral records market.

 
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