Very little frustrates me more than the commercialization of genealogy information. Want to search the NSW electoral rolls from 1935? You either have to physically turn up to an archive and look at them at microfiche (for free) OR you can get them online if you subscribe to a commercial genealogy database.

Oh, did I mention you can also buy the information on CD? For the low, low price of $59.95.

It seems family history is for the privileged.

My local library subscribes to a well-known commercial genealogy site, fantastic! I can use it for free. However, I have to be physically present in the library, on a library computer to use it. (Did I mention my public library is not open on Sundays or past 5pm on weekdays?)

Part of the real issue here is that the institutions who hold these records are considered ‘data owners’. Can an organisation really own data from 1935? It certainly can’t own facts. It can’t own the details of people’s lives.

If I had the resources I would go and type up every scrap of information in these historical data sets and publish them in a spreadsheet for free. And guess what, they would be searchable as well. This would be legal as well because you can’t own information. The only thing I’m not certain of is whether I would call myself a genealogy hacker, genealogy radical or a genealogy pirate.

-At this point, picture my fist raised in the air-


There is hope on the horizon. The open data movement is growing. I know some institutions publish their births, deaths and marriages information for FREE. Check out:

Not all of the Anglican Diocese registers held by the University of Newcastle are digitised but if they are they are publicly available for free. Some even have transcriptions.

CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL B7807 Marriages May 1837 – Dec. 1838
Transcription (PDF)
Page images (Flickr)

Let’s start promoting historical open datasets. Our past depends on it.


One thought on “Don’t Fee the Past, Free the Past – Battling Commercialised Genealogy

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