Footnote.com Review: Genealogy Sites
|Great document viewer and fascinating archives; is better for historians than most family-tree builders|
Footnote is rather different from the other genealogy research sites we've reviewed because it's primarily a database of resources, not connections. In fact, there is no real family tree functionality to speak of. But that's not to say that it's not without its uses—or its charms.
Here's what Footnote.com is: a massive database of printed records and ephemera (newspapers, census data, missing crew reports, photographs, comic strips, revolutionary war pensions) that have been scanned and archived. Footnote boasts a unique partnership with the National Archives, bringing a lot of information which is unavailable elsewhere.
Much of the material has been archived with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, meaning all that inky black century-old type can be searched using Footnote.com's web interface. So genealogists can search for ancestors' names and come up with a variety of sources. While there is no family tree builder per se, when you find a relative in a document you can create a relationship note. Notes can be connected to notes, but it's not quite a family tree.
While the search is good and the collection is enormous, it just didn't work as well for genealogy research as we'd hoped. We were able to find few results for our own ancestors, compared with, say Ancestry.com. Which is not to say that Footnote won't be helpful to some people, but it will be difficult for most people to build their family tree with it from scratch. Its census coverage is spotty.
On the other hand, Footnote.com is a lot of fun for those interested in history as a whole. Included in the collection are the Amistad federal court records, materials from the Apollo Missions, German Holocaust materials, and slave emancipation records. Its document viewer is amazing and full featured, the best we've seen. We found that it was very easy to lose hours and hours reading old comic strips, newspapers, and military records. Particularly addictive is the "News of the Weird" feature where we read stories such as "Sermon causes riot: Hell is full of infants" and "Husband was woman; She knew it not," both of which we read in their original newspaper context. Records can be shared on social networking sites like Facebook and can be annotated and saved to the user's computer. Users can also upload their own documents and share them with others.
A monthly membership to Footnote.com is $11.95 per month. An annual subscription is $79.95, which comes out to about $6.70 per month. Spending time on Footnote.com is like going back into history. You get the feeling of browsing through paper ephemera in a junk shop, only without inhaling all the dust. While it may be somewhat limited in usefulness to most beginning genealogists, it may be helpful to others in filling out some info, particularly with documents that aren't a part of the standard set of resources. Either way, it's a pleasure to use.
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- Footnote Review
Here is NextAdvisor's review of Footnote: http://www.nextadvisor.com/genealogy/footnote_review.php