Friday, June 29, 2007

"Official" Launch and Free Documents announced it's "official" launch yesterday. While the site has been live since January and over 12.5 million images/documents are now available on the site, yesterday was the "hard" launch. (January would have been referred to as the "soft" launch). As far as I understand it, the difference is more a marketing difference than anything else.

So, to me, the most significant part of the release is the following:

As part of the launch, is making a significant portion of their millions of original Revolutionary War documents available for free from today until the end of July [my emphasis]. Included in these records are secret journals, intercepted letters from the British military, and letters written by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers. Click here ( to see samples of these Revolutionary War documents.
This promotion doesn't include the so-called "big" titles like the Revolutionary War Pensions or War Rolls, but includes:
Like the press release mentions, this includes things like Secret Journals, Secret Foreign Journals, Reports of the Army, Letters of Commendation, and the Credentials of the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

Full Press Release: Announces Official Launch of the Company and Reveals First-Hand Accounts of the Birth of America

Monday, June 25, 2007

US Constitution and Amendments on

Declaration of Independence? Check. Gettysburg Address? Check. Constitution of the United States? Uhhh, no?

Until late last week, the Constitution was not available on in the American Milestones collection. I'm happy to share that the Constitution, the Bill of Rights (previously available) and all the amendments are now available on Footnote. The American Milestones are meant to be a "living" collection of documents, meaning that Footnote will continue to add relevant and important documents. Are there any milestone documents that you feel are missing?

Related Footnote content: Ratified Amendments

Thursday, June 21, 2007

CRL + Footnote = More Awesome Documents

Footnote announced a partnership with the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) which means more content will be coming to the Footnote site soon. The blurb from the press release says the following about CRL:

Founded in 1949 by 10 major U.S. research universities, CRL is a nonprofit organization that supports advanced research and teaching in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences by ensuring the availability of diverse knowledge resources vital to those activities. In the years since its inception, CRL membership has grown to 233 North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries. It is based in Chicago and governed by a Board of Directors drawn entirely from the higher education and libraries community.
From the press release:
This new partnership will result in the digitization and indexing of historical documents including U.S. ethnic newspapers, military records, and other materials that provide a unique perspective on American history. This partnership will enable us to provide wider access to rare American materials, said Bernard Reilly, President of CRL.
I think the key phrase in there is "wider access to rare American materials". While wider access to "common" historical documents is fun (for example the American Milestones on Footnote), it is much cooler to enable wider access to those documents that have been sitting in boxes on shelves in warehouses similar to the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. In these rare documents are "real" history, the stuff that fills in the details left missing by Jr. High Social Studies class.

Press Release
Center for Research Libraries (CRL)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

City Directories on Footnote

I found this blog post on Creative Gene about City Directories called What's in a City Directory? At Footnote we have several early 20th and late 19th century city directories from the northeastern United States.

Bridgham Lorenzo; City Directories So what is in a city directory and why should you look into them? To the left is a thumbnail of one on the Footnote site. I've transcribed some of the gems from this page:

Bridgham Lorenzo, farmer, house near Young's corner
Briggs B. Franklin (E. F. Packard & Co.), Railroad sq., cor. Court, house Academy, opp. High School
Brooks Wallace W., shoemaker, bds. Mrs. R. Brooks', Main
Brown Orrin, card grinder Barker mill, h. 13 Second

So breaking it down we have names, occupations, company names, and addresses, all good stuff. In addition to the specific information about individuals (which is interesting to family historians), it gives a snapshot in location and time, and more importantly does so on an annual basis instead of every 10 years like a census. This is, of course, also valuable to all Family Historians, regardless of whether your ancestor is in the city directory.

On Footnote we don't have that many towns where we have multiple years yet. One example where we do is Bangor, Maine where we have 1871 and 1882. Looking at the first pages of each, we find that Peter Ackerman is still a fresco painter 11 years later but has moved. We see that the Adams Brothers are still running a hat manufacturing business and are still located at 5 Kenduskeag bridge.

What would be really interesting if somebody out there was a descendant of the Adams Brothers and had a photograph of the brothers at their factory or Peter Ackerman and one of his frescos. They could upload that image and build a story page tying their photo to the city directory of Bangor. Building those sorts of connections within original documents is what Footnote is all about. As we like to say at Footnote, there are hundreds, even thousands of stories here to be discovered and told.

Links referenced in this post:
What's in a City Directory? - Creative Gene
City Directories on
City Directories Footnote Catalog Description

Monday, June 11, 2007

Footnote Press in The Tampa Tribune was featured in an article in The Tampa Tribune over the weekend. It's a good overview of the site and includes a personal example of how the site helped the author, Sharon Tate Moody, to find information on her ancestors.

The files often are the only surviving records of a soldier's birth date. I have already been able to scratch off one of the tasks on my to-do list - something that would have required a trip to a facility that houses National Archives microfilm series M804.

Instead, sitting right here at my computer, I learned that John Blankenship of Virginia "was born in the county of Lunenburg in the state of Virginia I suppose in the year of 1760. I have no record of my age but know that I was about 20 years old when I first entered the service of the United States." Elsewhere in this affidavit, created as part of a pension claim, Blankenship reveals that his father's name also was John Blankenship. After the war, he returned to Lunenburg County, but three or four years later moved to Pittsylvania County, Va.

One of the exciting parts of press like this is that even if those that read this article don't subscribe, hopefully many will come to the site, become members and share their own stories, adding to the value for all that visit the site.

Growing Web Site Gets Better - And Cheaper

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Image of the Day: June 9th

One of the "core fields' that we try to get with every document or series of documents is a date. As a result most of our documents have a date or date range associated with them. Those that don't have that information when we push to the site can be annotated by you!

Here is the "image of the day" for June 9th...

Project Blue Book - UFO Investigations » 1964 » June » Westfield, Wisconsin

Letters like this are quite common in the Project Blue Book documents. Oft times a person who saw some sort of phenomenon in the sky would write to a news outlet, like the Chicago Tribune in this document, where they would write back and refer them to the Air Force or other government agency.

Page 5; Project Blue Book, 1947-1969

This is a "free image" so the links above take you directly to the image viewer.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Image of the Day: June 8th

One of the "core fields' that we try to get with every document or series of documents is a date. As a result most of our documents have a date or date range associated with them. Those that don't have that information when we push to the site can be annotated by you!

Given that this information on the site, I can pull an image up using today's date, June 8th, to see what happened "today in history".

So, here is the first "image of the day"...

Eisenhower Photos - 1955 - White House Press Conference

Page 1; Selected Photographs of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1943-1961

This is a "premium image" so if you are not a subscriber, you won't be able to see the image in the viewer, but the link will take you to a page with a thumbnail.

I'm probably not going to be able to do this every day, but thought it would be fun to do it occasionally. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

10 Million and Beyond

As humans, we generally have a fascination with the most significant digit on an odometer changing, whether that be special celebrations for birthdays or anniversaries that are multiples of ten or twenty-five, seeing a bank account reach a certain number of zeros or even just the clock hitting the top of the hour.

At Footnote, we've recently passed 10 Million images (across 52 titles) online, which is really just one click more on the odometer than 9,999,999, but it's still pretty cool. We are putting about 2 million digital images of original documents online each month so we're already well past 10,000,000 images and in a few months 10,000,000 will seem like chump change, just as 200,000 (the number of images we had a launch) seems like nothing now (we generally add that many images in two days).

Here are the excerpts of the blog post on the Blog: 10 million original documents and growing daily

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Free on Footnote

While you need a subscription to see a lot of the "original document" content on Footnote, there is a lot of things that you can do with a free membership on the site, or even without being a member at all. You do need to be registered to create story pages and make annotations, but there are several titles that are free on the site without registration.

For a list of what you can do on for free, go to What you can do for free on