The other day, I was fortunate to discover that two resources that I needed for my research were put online. The Tilburg Regional Archives put up the population registers of Terheijden, a town where some of my maternal ancestors come from. Shortly afterwards, I noticed that the Gelderland Archives put the death duties files online, which allowed me to trace the real estate owned by dozens of paternal ancestors.
Once again, I realized how lucky I am to have online access to all these sources. For most of my pedigree I can consult the major sources online, often not just the indexes but digital images as well. These aren’t just put online by archives, but by private citizens as well. Thank you!
In other countries, things are often very different. My research often takes me across the border, sometimes physically but mostly digitally. Almost all of my ancestors lived near a border, so I have several lines that go back to present-day Belgium or Germany. I also research people that emigrated from the Netherlands to the United States and Brazil. Often, I am disappointed by how much I can find online. In Belgium I can find some relevant indexes, but hardly any digital images. In Germany, I cannot even find indexes for the towns where I need to do research. More than in the Netherlands, archives in these countries seem to be hoarding their collections and do not want to ‘give them away’ by making them available online. How well off we are in the Netherlands.
When you follow Dutch discussions on newsgroups and forums, it turns out that not everybody counts himself lucky. Some people seem to take it for granted that so much is available online. Our expectations about online services keep increasing. We are not satisfied with searching the indexes, but we also want to be able to click through to the scans. And shame on the website owner who wants to charge a fee to cover at least part of the ever increasing costs. But is it fair to ask the site-owner, and indirectly often the tax payer, to pay the entire bill?
The other day, my home town asked our input to balance the budget. An interactive tool allowed me to pull sliders to show how I wanted to spend the money and where I wanted to cut spending. The choices were hard: will we increase property taxes or do we spend less money on language classes for minorities? Do we ask people with disabilities to pay for their own aids or do we cut back on supervising childcare? While I fiddled with the sliders, I wondered: if there was a slider to make genealogical sources available online for free, how many people would pull the slider off the zero?