This is my first post on the Ancestry.com Blog. I work in the Content group and I’m responsible for many of the relationships with State Archives and Vital Records groups.
This past week, I along with Quinton Atkinson and Brian Peterson, some of the Content group colleagues, attended a conference of the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), of which the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) is a subset. Most all of the states were represented there by their State Archivist and some of their staff. It was a great opportunity to get together with them and understand their needs and how Ancestry.com can work with them. We were specifically focused on how we can collaborate on digitization efforts.
Currently Ancestry.com has either signed or has pending agreements with close to 20 U.S. State Archives. The agreements cover various types of records including vital, military, naturalization, court and land records and address mutually beneficial priorities.
At the conference, Ancestry.com personnel participated in several sessions. We joined FamilySearch for a grant writing reality type presentation. Both parties offered grants to NAGARA members for digitization services. The applicant finalists made presentations and then a peer review committee (like American Idol judges) gave critiques of the grant proposals. Finally, two winners were announced and we explained why we selected their proposals. Ancestry.com will assist FamilySearch in the digitization of Summit County, OH Vital Records.
Ancestry.com also announced that we would be awarding $1.5 million in digitization services grants through State Archives in the first quarter of 2009. We handed out Grant Packets to nearly 70 interested parties and there was palpable excitement over the announcement.
Many of the sessions emphasized how Ancestry.com and FamilySearch are working on a cooperative basis on joint digitization projects. The conference was the platform for announcing the Enhanced U.S. Census Project: http://tgn.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=123
Another prominent topic at the conference was the “Preserving the American Historical Record” (PAHR) bill, which was sponsored by CoSA and introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 14, 2008, as H.R. 6056. You can follow the progress of this bill at http://www.archivists.org/pahr/. The State Archivists have tried for many years to get funding from the federal level to preserve and create access to historic records. This is the farthest they’ve ever gotten. Ancestry.com has been very supportive of this effort and participated in the PAHR presentation. The above link has a place where you can go to contact your representative to help get this important genealogical legislation past.
Our attendance at the NAGARA/CoSA conference emphasizes Ancestry.com’s strategy to work closely with state and local governments to digitize significant amounts of their content and to do so collaboratively. I would be glad to hear from any of the Blog’s readers about how you would like us to work with the archivist community.