News: Footnote is now Fold3. Does that make sense to you? Me neither. And we’re not alone

So, yes the site we all knew as is no more. If you go there, this is what you get, in front of the new Fold3 website:

I think the answer to “So what does it mean?” misses the point.

I have so many questions. And this post on the official blog of does little to answer them. Some things are clear. The new focus will be on military records. They state that clearly: “This new focus will direct our content plans and allow us to organize the site around military records.” So what does that mean for the non-military records digitized by Footnote? The blog post says: “You will still be able to access the great non-military records previously found on Footnote.” In my mind I added a phrase to that “. . . at least for now.” I mean, how does it make any sense to go to these lengths to re-brand yourself as a military-focused site and then have all these now (now) random non-military records on it? How long before those records get moved to yet another site? I mean, not that I really care as long as they are still available to the public (for a price, for the most part), but how does this make any sense? And I would guess that this means no new scanning projects of anything but military records, so there goes another way of increasing access to those kinds of records.

I found this whole thing confusing. Why? Why get rid of the name Footnote? And if you want to do that, why go with this military focus? In reading the comments on the Fold3 blog post, I found that I was not alone. Here are excerpts from some of the comments:

    • One of the reasons I subscribed to years ago was the ability it gave me to connect the *stuff* in my files to records in published collections. Over the years, I have uploaded historic photos and letters that I have scanned from my own collections, tagged them with locations and names, and connected them to census records, passport applications, naturalization and military records available on I can see that I’ll need a new strategy for sharing those documents, none of which are military records. I don’t care for the name, and think shifting an entire website’s focus to just one type of records doesn’t bode well for the “Other Collections.” For what it’s worth, I just changed my account settings so that my subscription will not renew when it runs out.
    • I’m interested in Indian and slave records, not military. It was great when you were adding records from the Dawes Commission and state archives. This new direction is a big disappointment.
    • No disrespect to our veterans, whom I esteem very highly, but I think the new name is a poor choice. As some others on here have said, any time you have to explain the meaning of your name, you can be sure it’s a poor choice.I doubt we’ll ever get the old back but please, please listen to the many disappointed customers and at least consider it. There’s absolutely no reason you couldn’t have continued to add military content to and by doing so you could have accomplished your goal to be the best military genealogical site while still retaining a name most genealogists recognize and respect.
    • Just seeing these changes. Will you be including the other year’s Census? I thought those were on here before.Also, since this site is a military collection now, what does the Woodstock collection have to do with this now?
    • fold3 vs. footnote ? Strange. I’m not looking at military records. To me footnote was about all kinds of records. Why the narrow focus on the military?
    • I find it very interesting that you state that footnotes “can carry a connotation of insignificance.” That certainly is not true in genealogy and history! Aren’t genealogists and historians your target audience?
    • As a librarian who is trying to encourage the usage of this database this name change will make it even more difficult to promote. Did you find available domain names and flip a coin? At lease footnote had some reference to research. Perhaps you will spin off the non-military content and charge more for two different products!
    • Footnote has been a major source of records for people of Native American heritage, such as the Dawes Rolls, the Indian census rolls, and the Eastern Cherokee applications. The name “Fold 3″ has nothing to do with that. Indian and census records have nothing to do with the military. What do you plan to do about all those records?
    • As a Genealogy/Local History Librarian, I had pitched the subscription to to my library director as a way of gaining access to more of the types of records our patrons want. Ultimately, he agreed to the more costly Footnote Plus addition so that we could also have access to the Native American, African-American and Holocaust records, among others. This was about a month ago. Now I feel like the victim of a “bait-and-switch.” I understand that the non-military records are still on the site, but for how long? And will you keep adding to those non-military records? Will you eventually migrate non-military records to Ancestry or somewhere else, where yet another subscription will be required? Library budgets and family budgets are being cut across the country. I sincerely hope this “re-focus” does not mean we’ll eventually have to subscribe to yet another site and pay more for the same records we have access to now. I can speculate all day on the how and why for this change (and several of us in our library have wasted time on that already), but I have to say that the change to “Fold3″ is inexplicable at least and ridiculous at worst. Even after reading the explanation for the name change and the meaning behind it, I think it’s an ill-advised move. My own father was a veteran, and he was honored with full military rites at his graveside. But the jump from the flag fold to the name for a records repository is head-scratching, indeed. I’m going to have to spend a lot of time explaining this to my patrons and reassuring them they still have access to the records we signed up for. My genealogy patrons knew what “Footnote” meant, and it never occurred to me that the name implied something “inconsequential.” I’ve learned quite a bit from reading footnotes over the years!

Sorry to go on at length, but it was so tempting to keep adding more. You should really go and read them for yourself. Oh wait, here’s one that’s not really related to this matter but was too inflammatory to ignore:

  • I too would like to know more about the renamed database and the partnership with the National Archives. As I recall, part of the agreement was that a record set would be made free five years after completion of digitization. Have others noticed that some record sets, for example, the Bureau of Investigation records, have been at 98 percent completion for years? Is Footnote/Fold3 taking advantage of a loophole in the agreement? That is, if digitization of the record set never reaches completion, the set will never become free. I look forward to an explanation.

So, why the change? I’m sure it all boils down to money in some way. Maybe they will eventually spin off another site for the non-military records and charge users for another subscription to that. Why the odd name? A pretty bad decision on someone’s part, I guess. What will happen to the non-military records? The blog post says they will still be available on the site, but I wonder for how long and where they will eventually end up. Somewhere in’s vast domain, I’m sure. (Ancestry bought out Footnote a while back, in case you didn’t know.) Is all this just a lot of fuss over a name? Possibly, but still, such an abrupt and significant shift in direction leaves a lot of room for speculation.  Do you have an thoughts to add to the irate former-Footnote users’ comments?  I’ll keep you updated if I learn more and please let me know if you hear more about this.


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7 thoughts on “News: Footnote is now Fold3. Does that make sense to you? Me neither. And we’re not alone”

  1. That “Other Records” category into which they are dumping their non-military records might as well be labeled “File 13” under this re-branding effort, and the notion that the word “footnote” connotes “insignificance” is equally disturbing to me as a historian.

  2. I’m wondering uneasily if this is a harbinger. NARA & the GPO have opened site content of the Federal Register to all apps developers, for free. Can other content be far behind? Is this behind the (former) Footnote paradigm shift? Will NARA stop in-house automated records access interfaces? I’d call myself paranoid but the Fold3 stuff is already a fait accompli.

  3. You know what really frosts my cupcakes? OWNS Fold3! So now if you have a subscription to, you no longer have access to all the military records IT used to have….NOW you’re directed to Fold3 AND ASKED TO PAY FOR A SUBSCRIPTION!

    Can we say….GREED? I’m very, VERY disappointed in I think most people I’ve spoken with do not realize that Fold3 is owned by This is a thinly veiled attempt for to bilk even more money from its customers, full well knowing that it’s the monster of online genealogy records. So, if you want the military records you used to be able to access on, you’ll have to pay for a subscription to Fold3. Moreover, if you’ve already saved military records to your tree/s on, you no longer will be able to see them or access them but instead are directed to the Fold3 website and asked to pay.

    Of course, my beef with that is that I acquired these records with a paid subscription to and now they should be mine. Apparently doesn’t think so – they want to be paid TWICE. Wouldn’t we all!

    Also, has anyone ever consulted one of Ancestry’s “experts”? Bah humbug. Don’t waste your money. I “consulted” with one of their “experts” on a matter and was shocked at his lack of research knowledge. And this guy had the nerve to tell me that he was getting his “degree” in Genealogical Research – I suppose from Brigham Young University, since it is that institution and the Mormon “church” that own both and Fold3, as well as (at least the latter is still free…, but its accuracy is also suspect at times). I knew more than he did and actually had to instruct him! HA!

    Yes, I’m very disappointed and I don’t like the greed nor the deceit displayed by Like I said, their whole scam just frosts my cupcakes.

  4. NARA is still digitizing their own records in-house, and fold3/ancestry and familysearch are all working in partnership with them to digitize more collections. In fact NARA is currently digitizing records in RG109 (the Chapter/Volume Confederate Military records) and not in partnership with anyone. So, its not fair to slam NARA – they are working on this – but there just isn’t funding to do it on a grand-scale.

    Sorry to disappoint the conspiracy nuts but the partners are not owned by the LDS church. Now its would be putting my head in the sand to deny that they all collaborate and work collectively towards a goal but they are technically distinct business entities, but – who also share a common group of investors and serve the same customer base.

    I have used the sites for years, sine ancestry started and since 2007 with footnote/fold3. They are well worth the money if you conduct serious long-term research. The cost is very reasonable for what you get. For $155.00 you get one year worth of I use it everyday, and for less than $1 per day that is not bad. I couldn’t hire a genealogist to get me the same data for $1 per day, more like $1 per minute. Footnote/fold3 is even cheaper and I use it even more – if you are a military historian, the site is worth every penny at $79.95 a year (less than $7 a month).

    If anyone wants to create an open-source, free site that has a comprehensive index and dishes out records – then let’s work together because that is the ultimate goal – BUT it will take many years to accomplish. Until NARA has a large share of its own records scanned, we will be using the pay services simply because we have no alternatives.

  5. I don’t believe the comment from kentuckywoman2 (“I suppose from Brigham Young University, since it is that institution and the Mormon ‘church’ that own both and Fold3, as well as….”) is correct. While it is true that the Mormon Church owns and operates, the other two sites mentioned ( and Fold3) are not owned by the church. They have no connection to the Mormon Church other than that their founders might happen to be members of the church. is a publicly traded corporation.

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