To donate or not-that is the question! #general


Howard Margol
 

During the recent conference in Toronto, several organizations
with large databases on the internet, announced that without
additional donations their future may be a short lived one. Some
individuals took exception to this "request for money". Some felt
that their donation of "time" was sufficient and the request for
cash donations did not apply to them.

Whether we like it or not, the days of a "free lunch" are coming
closer and closer in ceasing to exist. I am afraid that all of us
have become spoiled by the free databases that have been made
available to us.

A number of major genealogy databases were, until recently, free.
Now, you have to pay a fee to access them. I am afraid that it is
only a matter of time before sites like Jewishgen, Litvak SIG, as
well as other databases, will either be "frozen in time", or have
to close down altogether due to a lack of funds. Volunteerism is
great but, if there is no money with which to purchase needed
hardware, software, search engines, records, etc., the volunteers
will have nothing to do or work with. Ancestry.com used to be free.
Now, they charge $100 USD per year to access their database. All
things considered, it is still a small price to pay for what they
offer that is accessible >from the comfort of your home.

At the recent conference in Toronto I was shocked when I learned
that of the many, many thousands who use Jewishgen almost on a daily
basis only a comparative few donate any money to Jewishgen. I find
it difficult to believe that most of these non-donators are living
on such a limited budget that they cannot afford 50 cents per week.
A minimum of 10,000 users (and that is a very conservative number),
donating 50 cents weekly to Jewishgen, would solve a lot of problems.
I wonder what the reaction would be if Jewishgen had to shut down
for an entire month. Perhaps we need to find out what it would be
like to be without Jewishgen. That action may serve as a wake-up
call to all of us.

I have always made it a personal policy to not tell others how to
spend their money. However, I have also been a firm believer in
marketing a good product. No one is forced to donate money even if
what they are being offered is well worth the price. Example: Litvak
SIG has a policy that if you donate $100 USD to a particular Uezyd,
or District, you will receive all of the translated records received
for that District many months prior to it appearing in the ALD. Is
that a bargain? You bet it is.

Contrast that with sending a research request to the Historical
Archive in Vilnius. You have to send a research fee of $100 USD
plus $13 for a translation of each record they find for your
ancestors. If you request a search for several surnames and several
different towns, more money will required to be sent. Sending a
research request to the Kaunas Archive will require similar amounts
to be sent there as well. For a single $100 donation to the Litvak
SIG, you will receive many, many records >from both archives. Rather
than look at it as a $100 expenditure you cannot afford, consider
it as a real bargain you cannot afford to pass up.

I am in no way criticizing the Lithuanian archives for what they
charge. They are forced to do that in order to support the service
they provide. Also, I have no official position with Jewishgen or
with the Litvak SIG so my comments involving those organizations
are strictly my own. Neither are my comments intended as criticizm
of those who would like to donate but, for various reasons, are
simply not in a position to do so. I would hope that those in that
situation would number in the hundreds and not in the thousands as
the facts suggest.

I am sure there are those who would disagree with my position. I
have no problem with that. I do think, however, that something needs
to be done before it is too late and the wonderful databases that
we have become accustomed to no longer exist.

Howard Margol
Atlanta, Georgia

MODERATOR NOTE: Contributions to JewishGen are both needed and
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