Have You Exploited Footnote Lately



Missing Airmen Report Footnote.com


As a serious genealogist there is no doubt that you have earned your position at the research table in many libraries and historical societies in many of your ancestral regions.

You most likely also have subscribed to various online services such as ancestry.com, genealogybank.com and various subscription genealogical societies.

I have written about footnote.com on this blog several times in the past but now I want to call your attention to the massive amount of new information that is available to you on footnote. You will also note that many of the groups of records that are online at footnote also allow you to interact with the original records by submitting your own notations and additional documents, photos and research notes.

Footnote pioneered this interactivity a few years ago by allowing people to interact with the 1930 census and the Vietnam Wall records. Footnote does charge a reasonable annual fee to obtain full access to all of the data on their site, but they also provide many collections that are totally free to use by anyone.

Earlier this week I went to a local church supper and the program was a slide show and talk presented by my sister-in-law Janet Hillenbrand who presented an extremely interesting talk about her father Charlie Bennett who was a B17 pilot during World War II.

Charlie was on his 13th bombing mission on April 13th 1944 and though they had an engine shot out by flak over the ball bearing factory target, they were on their return and only a couple of miles from allied controlled Luxembourg when another flak burst along with a cannon shot through the cockpit from an ME109 forced the crew to bail out and the plane crashed.

One man was badly wounded and sent to hospital and all of the others were captured and spent the rest of the war in POW camps. The crew was split up and as Charlie was an officer he was sent to the north east part of Germany and actually was treated with more respect that he had expected.

Charlie always gave thanks to the Red Cross for the food packages that they received and claimed that in some cases the prisoners fared better than the boiled cabbage food rations that their captors were given.

It was an excellent program and the family has all of Charlies old uniforms and medals, letters, diaries and photos in an archive that is just great. Charley received the Distinguished Flying Cross and returned after the war to take over his family owned hardware business. Salt of the earth American history story for sure.

When I got home after the program I went to footnote.com and noticed that they have a large collection of World War II Air Force photos online in their free section that you all have access to and I found many images that were of interest regarding B17s.

Then I logged in to my account and searched on Charly’s name and found three documents that were original government documents called Missing Airmen Reports that gave all of the details about Charley and his crew mates.

This is just one small case of the sorts of things you will find on footnote. You can go to www.NARAgenealogy.com to learn more about the other categories of original records available online at footnote. You really need to exploit all types of original documents to flesh out your own genealogy and to help you find new clues that are in the National Archives Genealogy records

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10 Responses to “Have You Exploited Footnote Lately”

  • Laurie Velett:

    I signed up for footnote.com based largely on your recommendation. What a mistake! The search engine ignores the parameters I set, and turns up lots of useless, unorganized records, but NOT the ones I know exist (because I have easily found them elsewhere).

  • nygenes1:

    Hi Laurie, I appreciate your feedback and hear your frustration. I will say that the search methods are a little different than say Google or some others that we use. What I find very helpful is to use specific words or within quotes and then perhaps another identifier word to narrow things down. For instance “John Brown” civil war pension. There are now so many millions of original documents on footnote that it might take a little getting used to. I also find the category groupings over on the left hand side of the search return as being quite helpful to zero in on what you want. For instance if you search on a common name and get back 80,000 returns it might not be too helpful, but if you select the category from the left that fits your needs you should find it a lot quicker. One super strong thing that I did not mention in the original article is the unique feature that footnote uses to index handwritten documents. Real people have read through the original documents and when they come to a personal name they make it a hyperlink box around the name and it then becomes indexed. This is a great way to find your ancestors in places that you otherwise would never dream of looking for. One of my revolutionary war ancestors had a pension which gave me many documented facts about his involvement, but the neat thing is that I also was able to find his name in many other rev war documents and pension files for other men he served with where he had signed an affidavit or submitted a letter to another file. Without footnote’s indexing method I would have never located those other files. I believe they give you a free trial period and I know for a fact that if you try it for a while and are not satisfied that they will give you a full refund. Hope it works out for you. Dick Hillenbrand

  • Doris:

    I’ve subscribed to Footnote since its inception and love it. Every time I log on, I find that many more new records have been added. Like you, I’ve found my Rev. War and Civil War guys and their full military files, as well as World War I and II, but they also have newspapers from the mid-1700s at least. Their imaging software is really excellent, much better than most.

  • nygenes1:

    I agree with you Doris. I find real cool stuff every time I log in. Thanks for your comment. Dick

  • Sue Clark:

    Dick, I, too, am a fan of Footnote. I love browsing it’s collections. I always learn something new, and it’s exciting to view the original documents. Even if you don’t find your particular ancestor, going to Footnote is like visiting a history museum and can be very enlightening and entertaining. I think I will have to go there today! Sue

  • nygenes1:

    Ha ha! I sure agree with you. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have gone to footnote with a specific task and end up going off on an entirely different tangent once I find something super interesting. It’s sort of like an extended trip to Salt Lake City. You just never know what you are going to find. Thanks for the feedback Sue.

  • Linda Dabulewicz:

    I do not really like footnote. I tried a very short subscription a while back. I couldn’t find anything . I hated the way you had to search and it would come up with things not even remotely related to my search. I guess that is why you find yourself off on a tangent. I like genealogy bank and ancestry. Rootsweb used to be helpful but now ancestry is screwing it up. USGENWEB is totally worthless now and the individual pages have lots tons of information the last few months. I had donated lots of info to the local Broome County USGENWEB and it is all gone three diary transcriptions and a church list of doners. Linda

  • nygenes1:

    Hi Linda, Thanks for your feedback. I find that there is a little bit here and a little bit there and over time, I have been at this 40+ years, these little bits start to add up to something that makes sense. I use a Windows computer with two wide screen monitors which I can drag data or screens from one monitor to the other. So when I sit down for a time to do genealogy research I open one bookmark that opens all of the following tabs at the same time: Ancestry, Footnote, GenealogyBank, AmericanAncestors, Family Search, NewspaperArchive, OCPL databases (my local library), USGenWeb, WorldCat, GoogleBooks, SAMPUBCO, UNYG (my own site), ePodunk, and Google Maps. With the combination of all of these fabulous resources I can fairly well put any family in some sort of semblance of reality at any time that I want to. It was only about 20 years ago I would have to travel 200 miles to just see census microfilm for other states, by going to the Steele Memorial Library in Elmira, NY who had all of the U.S. census through 1880. There is no way that I can afford to travel to do research any more unless it is a very specific purpose. The few hundred dollars per year that I pay for all of the above subscriptions is a mere drop in the bucket to what it would cost if I had to travel for those resources. I still always bear in mind that almost everything that is online is highly suspect but all of the results found can usually be confirmed with original documents if you can take the time to do it right. Personally I love the internet and all that it provides us and in many cases totally free. Too bad about the data that you lost, after generously donating it to the Broome county site. Sometimes the rootsweb coordinators have changed servers after Ancestry bought it. If I had only one gripe to give, it would be that Ancestry is greedy and charges way too much for their subscriptions. They must be rolling in the dough. But that said, I will keep subscribing as I have since they first came out because I just can not imagine being without it. Wishing you great success in your research. Dick Hillenbrand

  • Shelly:

    I find that Footnote duplicates a lot of things that I can currently get through Ancestry, so I no longer subscribe. However, the Quick Look feature on Footnote can sometimes give us non-subscribers a nice peak at a document. It’s especially helpful for the city directories – if you know the name of the person’s street or the first name of a few adults in the household, you can add those to the search and see a bit more of the page.

  • Susan Skilton:

    Great topic! I was just looking through footnote today. A lot of the documents are free to view to anyone who registers. I think that is great. I found some very nice South Carolina documents. I agree with Laurie that the searches could be made easier. I hope that will change in time. I do love seeing the scanned images, and finding names I have been looking for.

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