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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 9:04 a.m., Thursday, May 24, 2007

Limited free access online to U.S. military war records

Bloomberg News Service

Ancestry.com, the world's largest online family history database, released U.S. military war records today including 37 million images spanning 400 years and 90 million names.

The digitized records date from a Jamestown militia in 1607 to Iraq war records from 2006. They include burial registries from 1768, military yearbooks, unit rosters, Civil War pension records, newspapers and draft registration cards from both world wars. The Web site also has the only complete online collection of WWII United Newsreel counter-propaganda videos.

"We are scrambling and watching our servers minute by minute to meet the demand to access some of these records that have never been available before online," chief executive Tim Sullivan said in a telephone interview. "Military records, military history, is inextricably integrated into the history of our country and almost every family in the United States."

The records, which come from the National Archives and Records Administration, can be viewed at no cost until the June 6 anniversary of D-Day. Ancestry.com, a unit of Provo, Utah-based MyFamily.com Inc., spent $3 million to digitize the information as part of its $100 million investment in the Web site, Sullivan said.

"Google's doing a good job of organizing the world's information. We think we're doing a pretty good job of trying to organize the world's family history information," he said.

Ancestry.com is the largest subsidiary of closely-held Generations Network, responsible for 760,000 of its 900,000 subscribers and the majority of its $151 million 2006 sales, spokesman Mike Ward said. The Web site, which costs $155.40 a year, allows users to upload personal family documents and map family histories from its 24,000 databases and titles.

Sullivan said he found his great-grandfather's signed World War I draft registration card online and has spent hours viewing the United Newsreel videos, "knowing that these were the films my mom and dad were watching in a dark film theater at home in the United States while their relatives were overseas fighting."

To view the company's U.S. military archives, see www.ancestry.com/military.