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Good news from FGS

It really is like Christmas in November, as an announcement from the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) gives the genealogical community something to be oh so thankful for here on this first day after the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.

The FGS press release-blog post1 is something we’ve all been waiting for, with bated breath, for months:

The pipeline is flowing again.

The wonderful crowdsource-funded flow of images of pension documents from the War of 1812 is once again moving forward.

It’s baby steps forward to be sure — images through the surname Moore (through William Moore, to be precise) have now begun to appear on the Fold3 website that’s free for us all to access — but any movement forward, seeing the pipeline begin to flow again — is Very Good News indeed.

These are the very first new images to be made available since the digitization process stopped dead in its tracks many months ago. You may recall the story, but just in case you need a refresher, here’s what happened:

So many of us contributed our funds and our time towards raising the money needed to ensure that all of the millions of pages of records of War of 1812 pension records held by the National Archives could be protected and preserved — and made available — for the future.

Through the Preserve the Pensions project, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) spearheaded this drive to digitize these oh-so-fragile documents that are in grave danger of deterioration.

The records documenting more than 180,000 pension records for War of 1812 soldiers and their families are among the most heavily requested documents at the National Archives and, because of their use, their age and their fragile nature, they really need to be digitized to protect them forever. FGS began the project, with matching funds support from Ancestry, and the way it works is that every image digitized becomes available, free, to the public, forever.

To fund the campaign, the Preserve the Pensions project needed to raise millions of dollars. And, in September 2016, what had seemed like it might be unimaginable happened: the fundraising went over the top. An anonymous contribution of $500,000, matched by Ancestry and added to the pot, put the project into the black.2

The pensions for surnames from A into M went online steadily. And then… and then… All of a sudden, we were stuck in the Ms.

We found out back in August what was happening when FGS President Rorey Cathcart explained that: “A security incident at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in St. Louis led to a work stoppage of digitization projects for security review. This incident was unrelated to the Preserve the Pensions project in Washington D.C., however, our project was impacted.”3

That explanation, back in August, held out some hope, as the FGS President said new security systems had been put in place and conservation work — the first step towards digitization — had resumed for the records.

Now we have the very first tangible evidence of progress on the digitization front: the first few new records with M surnames are now up on the Fold3 website.

This won’t be an overnight deal — progress will almost undoubtedly be slow (and slower than any of us might have wanted)… but at least now there is real visible progress in bringing the remaining pensions online — and all of the M-Q surnames may be completed as early as May 2018, with the remainder of the alphabet to follow.

Keep checking the Fold3 website as new records go online.

Maybe for you and your family (have a William Moore to look for???) there will be a big Christmas gift here in November.

And for the whole community seeing any progress again in getting these records online is at least a little Christmas gift here in November as we watch the pipeline once again begin to flow.

Onward to Z!!!


SOURCES

  1. Rorey Cathcart, “New Pension Images Have Arrived,” FGS Voice, posted 1 Aug 2017 (http://voice.fgs.org/ : accessed 24 Nov 2017).
  2. See Judy G. Russell, “Over the top!!!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 1 Sep 2016 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 24 Nov 2017).
  3. Rorey Cathcart, “Message from the President: Document Conservation Resumes for War of 1812 Pension Files,” FGS Voice, posted 1 Aug 2017 (http://voice.fgs.org/ : accessed 24 Nov 2017).
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