SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Genealogy website Ancestry.com launched an online, searchable collection of the burial sites of more than 500,000 members of the military on Monday, Veterans Day.
The project, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Archives and Records Administration, allows people to search by name - for a fee - through an online collection of military burial sites at Ancestry.com.
The collection includes burial information for prominent figures in history, including President Abraham Lincoln and Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who died with more than 200 of his men in the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn against a coalition of Native American tribes.
"We are excited to be able to share this wealth of primary documentation," Steve L. Muro, the VA's undersecretary for memorial affairs, said in a statement. "With the help of Ancestry.com, we have opened the doors to thousands of service members' histories through the information contained in these burial ledgers."
The National Cemetery Administration has overseen U.S. military burial documents for 82 national cemeteries since 1973. Concerned for the fragility of the documents and wanting to expand public access to the contents, the administration scanned about 60 handwritten ledgers to produce more than 9,344 pages of high-quality digital images.
However, those images couldn't be searched, making it difficult to find records.
We are excited to be able to share this wealth of primary documentation. With the help of Ancestry.com, we have opened the doors to thousands of service members' histories through the information contained in these burial ledgers.
–Steve L. Muro
In 2011, the administration partnered with Ancestry.com to index the pages so users can search them more easily. Ancestry.com spent close to 3,000 hours indexing the records to make them searchable by name, at no expense to the government or taxpayers, the company said in a statement.
The project includes two new, searchable collections of U.S. burial registers, military posts and national cemeteries from 1862-1960 and of U.S. headstone applications from 1926-1963.
Ancestry.com operates a website for researching family history and has more than 2 million paying subscribers. The company develops and acquires systems that digitize handwritten historical documents, and it works with government archives, historical societies and religious institutions around the world.
The company says more than 10 billion records have been added to its site over the past 15 years.
Last month, the company announced it had agreed to be acquired by a group led by European private equity firm Permira Funds in a cash deal valued at about $1.6 billion.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)