14 October 2015

Even Ancestry.com Can't Keep Everything in Perpetuity and That's Not a Bad Thing!

Retention schedules provide guidance on what records an archive/repository needs to keep and for how long as part of its records management responsibilities.

By nature and necessity, not ALL records are retained in perpetuity.  Some records have content duplicated elsewhere, some records only have relevance for a short period of time, etc.

In a way, the same can hold true for the genealogy databases that we love to access.  Sometimes a “newer” database comes along that encompasses the content of an older database – for example, a database with a full index and digital originals supersedes what used to be a partial index with no images.  We like that.  An index + images can be a superior experience for researchers. 

Sometimes, material becomes available in other easily accessible places (Internet Archive, HathiTrust, Google Books, etc) and so a decision is made to remove that material from a database where it might have previously been included to make room for other newer “stuff.”

The nature of any archive or database is that they are not infinite.  They cannot keep everything.  Decisions have to be made about what to keep and what to retire.

We are reminded of this via a couple of posts by Randy Seaver, “Where Did 567 Databases on Ancestry.com Go?” and his follow up, “Where Did 567 Databases on Ancestry.com Go? An Answer. UPDATED!” and another by The Ancestry Insider, Ancestry Deletes Hundreds of Databases that discuss some recently deleted Ancestry.com databases and some of the motivation for the culling. From the latter post ...

While I’m not willing to spend enough time to look for all five hundred deleted data bases, it certainly looks like many are Mormon-related, and many are old, tiny, text-only, poorly formatted, and pretty-much invisible databases. 

So, it is helpful to read these posts for some perspective on the nature of the resources we use and how they are ever evolving and that doesn’t refer to just “adding” new material; sometimes it does mean the removing of content.

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