07 July 2012

Repository in Review- Fold3.com

My apologies for the lateness of this week's post. I had something planned, but as can often happen in genealogy, a new avenue presented itself mid-week. This one just happened to have a time limit. From now until July 15, Fold3.com is offering free access to their Revolutionary War records. I thought, "Great. Since I plan to review some genealogy sites for my blog, I'll just start with Fold3 this Friday." Of course, I am an honest and careful researcher, so I decided to see what I could find on my revolutionaries and give you my personal testimony. Before I knew it, it was Saturday night. Don't Judge.

The Features and Benefits

Fold3 touts itself as the place for U.S. military records. From 2007 to 2010, it was known as Footnote. In October 2010, it was purchased by Ancestry and, by 2011, renamed to Fold3. Ancestry has since kept it as a separate subscription entity. However, Ancestry's search feature will pull up links to Fold3 records. That could be helpful since you don't need to do two separate searches to know more is available. I've heard some complain that they aren't paying Ancestry to redirect them to other websites, to which I say, "you'd rather not know about them?"

A browse of their titles show records for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, both World Wars, Mexican-American and Indian wars, and some non-military records including newspapers, Native American, African American and naturalisation records. If you use the drop-down menu under "Records", you can list all available databases. On the left of each title is a progress bar informing the user of how much of the database has been indexed and is searchable by name. On the right of the title, it will let you know if the database is a FREE database. There is a counter that states they have over 94 million images to browse and growing. Pretty impressive. And it is all images. I like that, because you see the facts as they were laid out. Sometimes an exerpt can omit data that the transcriber didn't find important, but you need.

Being military focused, Fold3 also provides an area for Memorials. These are user-made pages that will include information about a veteran, photos and stories. It's like an Ancestry member tree, and just as reliable. You should take all "data" with a grain of salt, but it's great for connecting with people who may have more info. This folds into the social aspects available. If you have a blog or website, you can get a Fold3 badge that shows your user name, how many connections you've made and any memorial pages. You can save images to a gallery page just for you to review and save. You can bookmark people, images and memorial pages for later research. They have a place for a "watch list", so that if anything new happens for a person or search, you'll get an email. You can set email preferences to daily, weekly, monthly, whenever something new happens or never. If you're like me, "never" is a good one. I've got enough coming into my email and I always check my watch list.

Dollars and Sense

So what does it cost? You have three options. A basic free account, a month-by-month, and a yearly. Basic free gets you free databases and access when they hold special events like the one running until July 15th. The access is limited to those collections, but the general search isn't. When you do a general search, each result has a thumbnail photo. If it's free, it'll say so. If you need to pay, it'll say premium. Of course, if it's a premium and you aren't paying, it'll direct you to subscribe if you click on it. If you want to search only the event's records, click on the advertisement on the home page to be directed to the limited search; don't use the keyword search on the home page.

The subscriptions are currently $11.95/month or $79.95/year. If you subscribe to Ancestry.com, you can get a discount off of Fold3's subscription price. I haven't checked lately, but it's usually about half the year's price. There is also a free 7 day trial period so you can view some documents to see if subscribing will be worth it to you. As I always recommend, use a prepaid credit card to manage your budget and keep accidental charges to a minimum. If you want to cancel service, make sure to get a confirmation of cancellation prior to the end of your trial period (or last month of subscription).

A note about this free week!
Prior to starting your search, you need to make a user name and password. Do that first, because if you search the free databases and then have to sign in/up, sometimes it'll try to get you to subscribe. Then you'll freak out, because you thought these records were free until July 15th. They are, it's a computer thing.

My Two Cents

I like it. I searched for my revolutionary Joel Gibson and any Kempers in Virginia. Joel brought up records I found on FamilySearch. I will note however, the records on FamilySearch aren't indexed, so I found them by browsing the images in an entire collection. If I had used Fold3 first, I would've found them faster. Of course, I'd have to pay for them if it wasn't this week, so it's a toss-up on what would be preferential. I haven't looked through all the Kemper links yet. There were 595 hits, with about 100 images being from Virginia. I know just about every Kemper in Virginia is related, so that was a good deal of new info to browse. I downloaded the images to my computer to look at them as I have time and cite them to my family tree on Ancestry. I also downloaded Kempers in Pennsylvania as I know a 7th great grand uncle immigrated there and those may lead to new hints. I like that I can download the images for later. I couldn't imagine getting to all of these records right now.

As far as other databases, I found some stuff in the Civil War collection. I wasn't able to find my grandfather in the WWII collection. I wasn't sure about other relatives, so I left the search at that. They have non-military documents, like census records. But when I looked at how much was indexed, it's not worth it for those. It is worth it for some of their African American collections and documents on Indian treaties. Long story short, check the status of indexing on a database to see if you'll need to browse by image or if a simple name search will help.

Should you pay? If you do a search and come up with a lot of hits that could only be your ancestor, yes. If you do one of the free events and it opens up avenues to explore into the premium collections, yes. If your ancestors had deep ties to the military, yes. If you've got a lot of research in many branches, few military ancestors, or a disciplined research schedule, no. I wait for the freebie weekends and gather what I can. If I exhaust all that is given on the anniversaries and memorial periods, and still need records from collections not offered free, then I'll pay. But that's a lot of records to go through before I get to that point. And I may run across those other databases elsewhere...... never know til you look.

Happy Hunting


  1. Thanks for the review!

  2. Anonymous10/7/13 22:56

    I have a current "Annual World Explorer Membership" at Ancestry.com. Under "Upgrade Options:" Ancestry tells me that "You have complete access to Ancestry.com!"

    Then I do a search for a military record and I am told that I need to pay an additional fee to Fold3 to view this premium document. This doesn't seen right.

    1. It *is* a separate service. They had at one time considered folding it in to the regular site, but would've had to raise prices to cover the costs of the collections they were buying from Footnote. People complained that not everyone needed/wanted military records, so the hike would be unfair to them. You get a 50% discount for being an Ancestry.com member. And word has it that they'll be offering a bundle of Ancestry.com, Fold3.com and their new Newspapers.com for one price sometime in the future. They did the bundle recently for a very short time, but the response was tremendous! Make sure you're signed up for all the emails and watch for the discount.

      Also, I make a list of the records I need and wait for their free week(end)s. They do them around military anniversaries and I usually get quite a bit of use out of that time. If I had more military ancestors (or needed some of the more specialised collections), I'd certainly see no problem with the year fee. But I don't need it, so I'm glad they aren't charging me extra to cover it in one lump fee.

  3. How do I make sure I am not being charged, what is the phone number to call? My free week is up today.

  4. Anonymous2/1/19 14:01

    Records from 1912 to 1960 do not exist because:
    on July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF). No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. Neither were any indexes created prior to the fire. Records that were affected by this are:
    Army Personnel discharged November1, 1912 to January 1, 1960 80% loss

    Air Force Personnel discharged Sept. 25.1947 to January 1, 1964 75% loss
    (with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)

    Some records do still exist and they can be requested at the following sites:

    To order existing military service records (1954 and after) from the National Archives:

    To order existing military service records (pre-1954) from the National Archives: