Product Review: GenealogyBank.com

GenealogyBank.com is a new offering from Newsbank Inc., a company known to many researchers and archivists. This site is an amalgamation of several products. It offers historical newspapers, historical documents, historical books, obituaries, and a version of the Social Security death index. It’s just recently gone live and I decided to check it out.

Some of the content on GenealogyBank is available from other sources; obviously the SSDI is widely available, and some of the obituaries and newspapers are also available elsewhere. But the more interesting part of the site is the digitized images of these sources. The quality of the images is fairly good, on average, depending on the age and condition of the original. One aspect I particularly like is in the historical newspapers collection. The search function on GenealogyBank.com focuses fairly specifically on the searched words in the imaged document. So for example if you’re searching for the name John Smith, the resulting image will be a portion of the article in which the name John Smith appears. The program then allows you to expand to see the entire page. Compare that with Ancestry.com where you would immediately get the entire page and have to manually search for the name or words you were looking for. GenealogyBank.com will allow you to save either the entire page or the smaller clipping as a PDF file. Additionally, it’s very easy to navigate to other pages in the document that you have retrieved. And having done that, one may easily focus on individual stories on any page. In fact, the program lists on the left-hand side of the page the stories available on that page.

The number of newspapers is somewhat limited, but the company says that they are adding new content daily.

In the historical documents area, there are a number of rather obscure government documents. For example, my searched using my great uncle’s name Herman Walker produced among others, “Annual report of the Commissioner of patents for the year 1899″, “Report of the board of managers of the national home for disabled volunteer soldiers for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1894,” and “Official register of the United States, containing a list of the officers and employees in a civil military and naval service on the first of July 1891; together with a list of vessels belonging to the United States.” By the way my great uncle Herman Walker does not appear in any of these documents.

GenealogyBank describes its historical books collection thusly: “A unique source that provides you with complete text of more than 17,000 books, pamphlets and printed items including: genealogies, biographies, funeral sermons, local histories, cards, charts and more – all published in the U.S. prior to 1900.”

Although I didn’t find anything of particular relevance on my exploratory venture into GenealogyBank.com, on the whole I was satisfied with the experience.

One annoyance I have with the site is that occasionally when I start a new search, it takes me back to the subscription sign-up page. I don’t have to resubscribe of course but I do have to click on the “already a member” link. A subscription is presently priced at $19.95 a month.

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Craig


October 2006
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