Thursday, September 18, 2008

Footnote Pages, a rival to Ancestry of sorts, has launched a new feature - Footnote Pages. I have not played with it too much but it seems interesting. They basically took the Social Security Death Index and made individual pages for every person contained within that index. Each page contains some basic information on the person, whatever was included in the SSDI, plus a historical time line and map. It also allows contributors to add photos, stories, facts and links. Think of this as a MySpace for dead people.

It is a pretty neat idea in general, giving a social aspect to genealogy. You can leave notes on their page telling others to contact you for more info. It is a way to both share what you know about a deceased person plus meet others interested in that individual. I would not expect a lot of connections to be found as these people have not been dead very long. You probably know their descendants to begin with. If Footnote Pages took all of the names from like the 1850 census instead, maybe it would help make more connections, some older sources of names.

I am pretty sure you have to be a member of Footnote to use all of the features. I am a member so I was able to play around with it a little bit. I added a few things to the page for my grandmother, Pearl Malissa Lawson Lett. It took me about one minute to add a photo and a link to a blog post I did on her family. The program flows very smoothly.

Overall, I think this is a neat idea but I doubt it will catch on with established researchers. They are less interested with modern history and this pertains to life, pretty much after 1950. Some of the people in the SSDI were born in the late 1800s but not a large population. I think people might find updating a few pages fun but will get bored with it in short order. If Footnote Pages could import data from your GEDCOM, that might make it more interesting and allow for importing more data.

Younger people just getting interested in genealogy will like this, especially to start the ball rolling. It is a social format that they can relate to and it will probably spike their interest. In all honesty, it would probably serve Footnote better to give this part of their site away for free. They can sell ads to help bring in revenue. Younger people are probably not going to subscribe to such a service when things like MySpace and Facebook are free. This advertising model brings in millions of dollars for them.

If any of you are members of Footnote, try out the Pages section and let me know what you think. If not, you should be able to get a free trial by clicking on one of the links in this posting. I think it is only for like three days but that is long enough to try it out. If you have a membership or get a trial, you can check out the page for my grandmother, the one I was playing with. Just click here...

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