02 July 2013

Living on FamilySearch.org

If you spend as much time on FamilySearch as your loved ones spend on Facebook, perhaps you are living on FamilySearch.org. That could be me.

Today's post is about a different topic though.

United States, Public Records Index, released June 28, 2013.

This collection is a major step by FamilySearch to include records of living people. This index is obtained from a third party.(1) There are many websites that feature the addresses, numbers, suggested relatives, and even birth date of almost everyone in the USA.(2) That isn't new, but FamilySearch has only now joined the list after noticing demand, and a careful overview from their legal team.(3) In helping beginners, I have seen them try to type the name of a living relative. Finding living relatives is an important part of genealogy. I'm an advocate because I found many cousins this way. I also use such sources for my career as an investigative genealogist and heir searcher. With the recent panic about identity theft and privacy, many question whether this historically public information should now be restricted. Names and addresses have been public since the 1800's in cities who have developed city directories, and when phones became popular, that data was public in phone books. Possible relatives may seem new, but is done by comparing individuals living at the same address. This analysis can be done in databases with ease because of computers. The Internet also makes it easier to show birth dates. Heir searchers, mineral and property rights workers, and other investigative careers rely on all of this data to complete their work and distribute assets to the correct persons. The data aggregation is done by 3rd parties, but comes from public sources like phone books, property records, tax records etc. Such records can be found on many county websites.

This data contained in this collection is described on the collection page and associated wiki page. The collection name actually appears to be a place holder for future locality expansion. The collection today only includes New York City. The current description reads:

"This collection is an index of names, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, and possible relatives of people who resided in the five boroughs of New York City between 1970 and 2010. These records were generated from telephone directories, driver licenses, property tax assessments, credit applications, voter registration lists and other records available to the public."(4)

1. Source information, "From a third party aggregator of publicly available information," https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2199956.
2. Examples: Ancestry.com, U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 1. Intelius.com. ZabaSearch.com etc.
3. Conversation with Dan Peay, multi-area manager and collections strategist at FamilySearch.
4.  https://familysearch.org/search/collection/2199956

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