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Web Site Provides Millions of Military Records

The family history Web site Ancestry.com contains 90 million military documents dating back to the first English settlement in Jamestown, Va. Company CEO Tim Sullivan and genealogist Craig Scott discuss the possible uses of the records.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Just in time for Memorial Day, a commercial Web site, Ancestry.com, last night unveiled a special collection of war records containing tens of millions of names of Americans who served.

    HARRY TRUMAN, Former President of the United States: This is a solemn but glorious hour.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Spanning hundreds of years and six major wars, the online database includes draft registration cards, unit rosters, enlistment records, photographs and newsreel film…

  • FILM NARRATOR:

    … victory ships they call them now…

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    … and much more.

  • FILM NARRATOR:

    And there they go!

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Ancestry.com says it spent $3 million to digitize military records it culled from the National Archives and other public sources. The collection is by no means exhaustive, and records from some wars are more comprehensive than from others, but users can search for data on a relative by simply logging on and entering the name.

    They can also turn up some intriguing documents of famous people. George Herman Ruth's World War II draft card can be found here. He's better known as "The Babe." And one of America's most celebrated magicians signed his name as Harry "Handcuff" Houdini on his 1918 World War I draft card.

    The Web site is touting free access to the database between now and the D-Day anniversary, June 6th, though if you want to see more than the most basic information, you must register and submit your e-mail address. Ancestry.com, which already boasts almost a million subscribers, will require users to sign up for its basic $155-a-year membership after that.

    And for more about this military database and how it fits into the growing interest in genealogy, we turn to Tim Sullivan, the CEO of Ancestry.com, in Utah. He previously was CEO of the online dating service Match.com. And Craig Scott, a certified genealogist who specializes in military records, among others, he is president and CEO of Heritage Books, a genealogical publishing firm in Maryland.

    Welcome to you both.

    So, Mr. Sullivan, how vast, how comprehensive is this database that you've compiled?

  • TIM SULLIVAN, CEO, Ancestry.com:

    It's pretty big. We've gathered over 700 different database and collections. You know, it's a very broad collection, 90 million names, hundreds of millions of images. It was very exciting to put it online. It's probably the broadest collection we've ever put online at one time.

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