While Genealogy Today went online in the early part of 1999, it wasn't until the Spring of 2002, or more precisely, the start of "garage sale" season, that the idea of providing subscription data arose.
I'm not really an avid garage sale person, but that Spring while I was out browsing with my wife, I stumbled upon (quite literally as it's a large book) a copy of "Who's Who in New England 1909," and thought what a tremendous resource it could be for genealogists. It was at that point that I decided to see what other kinds of unique books and original documents I could collect, and within a year had started to grow quite a collection.
In December 2003, I launched my first database project, Family Tree Connection, with 10,000 records of information. I wasn't sure how genealogists would respond to it, so I didn't actually announce it until the following April.
As that database project (and the collection of original materials) continued to grow, I decided to start some other specialized collections, and created separate companion paid subscription databases for them. These included Town Reports Online, the Military Roots Project, and Ancestral Criminal Records.
In 2010, in response to subscriber feedback, I decided to consolidate all of these projects into one with "Genealogy Today Subscription Data" as the title. On the surface, most visitors probably won't even notice. The search engines at GenealogyToday.com and LiveRoots.com have both used "Subscription Data" as the section heading where results from these projects are displayed for several years. But, subscribers will see a difference in how the resources from the smaller collections are now displayed, and the fact that they will be able to access them for no additional charge!
It is important to note that GenealogyToday.com also hosts third-party subscription databases (e.g. New England Early Genealogy, et. al.), and those products will NOT be consolidated into this new service. Search results from third-party databases will continue to appear under a "The Marketplace" heading.
There are plenty of excellent companies, including Ancestry.com, GenealogyBank.com, Footnote.com and FamilySearch.org, that specialize in very large collections often with a strong focus on vital records. We focus primarily on SMALL documents, often from obscure sources, with a focus on the social history of our ancestors.
The books and documents in our collection can reveal activities in your ancestors' lives. Where did they go to school? Where did they work? Did they belong to a lodge? Or a local woman's club? And while many of these resources are social or service oriented, many contain vital records as well.
Since our focus is on smaller documents (most with fewer than a thousand names), we're able to release several a week (typically on Sunday). We always try to include a thumbnail image of the document cover, and non-subscribers may search the name indexes free of charge.
We purchase original copies of the resources used as source material for Genealogy Today Subscription Data from a variety of places, including estate sales, regional book, paper and ephemera sales, used book stores, several used books sellers that we've worked with over the years, and, of course, eBay! Some materials are also donated to us from libraries and visitors to our web site.
The information in our database is transcribed by hand, and verified for accuracy, from these original documents mostly published between 1830 and 1930 -- including Masonic rosters, rural school and college catalogues, vintage telephone directories, insurance claims, tax records, church catalogues, railroad seniority rosters, fraternal group and business association memberships, farm directories and all sorts of clubs and societies! The amount of information available for each individual varies from document to document, with some documents listing just the person's name. Photographs of individuals included in these documents are made available online for subscribers upon request.
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