Fold3: Original military records online

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10 million original documents and growing daily

There was a time not long ago when researching a Revolutionary War soldier or battle meant spending lots of money and time sifting through dusty archives in hopes that your document could be found.

Today, we’re happy to announce that we’re much closer to making such an experience a thing of the, uh, past.

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When Footnote launched the site had nearly 200,000 images from the American Revolution. A respectable collection but with room to grow.

Five months later we have millions of original War documents from muster rolls, officer pay, supply records, service records, pensions and Continental Congress Papers – more are being added daily.

For us, it would have been easier and cheaper to have just created simple indexes to these images. But it wouldn’t have been fun.

Being able to examine an original document first-hand can be a powerful experience. Click on a document and a richer story soon unfolds before you. Each document, with its unique handwriting, marginalia and weathered creases, tells more than the words say.

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On Footnote, each document can also show you other interested Members or be attached to Story Pages.

We believe that being able to access the actual image is important not only for serious researchers but also for those whose interest in history is just awakening.

But making it easy to search and view any of these 10 million images on Footnote takes some effort.

To start, the documents need to be findable. Using our Annotation tool found in the Viewer, we and our Members have added 3.5 million annotations. Each annotation identifies that person, place, date or transcribed text down to the pixel and makes hard to decipher handwriting a breeze to read.

The Annotation tool also lets anyone identify anything of interest in images that they upload to Footnote. Each annotation then becomes findable within seconds.

As of today, storing just these images requires more 5.4 terabytes of hard drive space – an amount equal to about what two public libraries might hold. But unlike a library, the vast majority of documents on Footnote are not available online anywhere else.

At Footnote we make the image the center of the history experience because this is where it all started. This is the evidence, the story. This where your research can begin, end or take you places you never expected.

Here are few unexpected stories that we have come across:

With our unique partnership with the National Archives you can expect to see many as 2 million new historical document added each month.

But those documents will never be able to tell the complete story. There are millions of other stories and missing pieces sitting in attics, photo albums and old shoe boxes across the country.

If you have a story to share, we encourage you to start a Free Story page.

Together we can discover a more complete history.

3 Comments

  1. I really appreciate that you at Footnote.com are doing this. Not only putting the images of actual documents online, but having the ability to annotate them makes a powerful tool. Using the story pages also is a great way to connect with fellow researchers. From someone who is unable to travel any great distance, let alone to my dream destination, the National Archives in Washington, D.C. — a hearty thanks!
    Kathy McArthur

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Kathy.

    Don’t be shy about sending suggestions about how we can do better.

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