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Hankering to probe Lincoln’s death? Digitized documents at your fingertips

Lindon-based company releases images of the original records

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

LINDON — Saturday marked the 142nd anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and now anyone can access digitized images of documents relating to his death.

Footnote.com, a Lindon-based company, is releasing a new collection of papers titled "The Investigation and Trial Papers Relating to the Assassination of President Lincoln." Available now on their Web site, the digitized images of these original records give more than a glimpse into a defining moment in American history.

"These are public documents all on microfilm or paper where you had to go to Washington, D.C., to request to see them," said Russell Wilding, CEO of Footnote.com. "Now we are digitizing them. They are all online and can be used as an education system as well as for hard-core researchers and hobbyists."

The company was formed in 1994 and in 2000 transitioned to digitizing microfilm, said Wilding. A year ago it started focusing on creating a repository of historical content.

Some points on the site require a fee, but free information is available as well. If you see an image you want, you pay $1.99 for it. Another option is to pay a monthly $9.99 fee or an annual $99 fee, both providing unlimited access.

"We want to be the world's shoebox," Wilding said. "We also have a free area where people can go in and upload their own content for others to see." Unlike Wikipedia, other site visitors will not be able to change the information, but they will be able to make comments on what is listed there.

All of the documents come from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., which holds a daunting 9 billion documents. So far, Footnote.com has 7 million of those documents online, with an estimated 50 million by the end of the year. They are scanning in 2 million images a month.

"The National Archives is only one place we'll pull records from," Wilding said. "We'll also access state archives and others domestically and internationally."

Justin Schroepfer, director of marketing, said the initial response to the site has been good. The company did a soft launch in January but realized that with anniversaries such as Lincoln's assassination, they could get more people interested in what they have to offer.

"Now that we've launched the site, we're going to do releases with content," Schroepfer said. "The Lincoln assassination is something people are familiar with." He said the company will tie in other events such as the Emancipation Proclamation or presidents' birthdays in the future.

Although there are many genealogy sites online, there isn't anything like this where valuable, historical documents are readily available. And other companies were vying for what Footnote.com now has rights to.

Google was considered in the mix to provide this service, said Schroepfer. But Footnote.com had this service as its main focus and it is excited to partner with the National Archives to provide the service.

"It took time to dot the i's and cross the t's," Schroepfer said. "We have a lot of bottled energy at this place. We just want to get the word out and tell people what we're trying to do."

E-mail: knelson@desnews.com