RootsTech 2014

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who owns the genealogy companies?

One of the trends of modern society is the centralization of the production, transportation and sale of goods and services, particularly information services, in larger and larger international corporations. The Internet reflects the world at large in concentrating a lot of resources under the control of a few very large organizations. Perhaps, finding out who owns and runs these organizations and where they are located would be an eye opener. To discover this information, it sometimes takes following a long history of acquisitions and mergers to discover what entity is in control of the present organization. In some cases, Wikipedia is useful in providing background information. I would assume that if a particular Wikipedia article was inaccurate, these larger companies would take steps to correct the misinformation. In all of this, I do not claim to have any particular insight or knowledge about the companies other than what I can discover online. It looks like this will turn into a series of articles, the history of these companies is so complex.

First on the list is Ancestry.com.

Back in 1987, Curt Allen, and his brother-in-law Brad Pelo, both students at Brigham Young University, founded a company called Folio Corporation to publish content on local area networks, and on digital CD-ROMs for use on desktop computers. Wikipedia.  In 1990 Paul Allen and Dan Taggart, two graduates of BYU, created Infobases, Inc., and began offering LDS publications on computer floppy disks. They chose to use Folio Views as their infobase indexing and presentation technology that Allen was familiar with, having worked at Folio Corporation since that company's founding in 1987. Following Folio Corporation in all of is corporate changes is a prime example of the path most of these Internet startup companies have followed. Folio Corporation was purchased by MDC LexisNexis in 1993, then the company was purchased by Open Market in 1997, then to NextPage in 1999, to Fast Search in 2004, Microsoft in 2008 and is presently owned by Rocket Software since 2009.
 Western Standard Publishing was formed in 1997 and provides online services to its partners World Book Encyclopedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Western Standard Publishing is listed as the parent company of Infobases, Inc. In 1997, Western Standard Publishing purchased Ancestry.com, the publisher of Ancestry magazine and genealogy books. Ancestry magazine began as a small genealogy based newsletter in 1984. Ancestry Magazine has recently ceased publication. Quoting from Answers.com:
In July 1997, Allen and Taggart purchased Western Standard's interest in Ancestry, Inc. At the time, Brad Pelo was president and CEO of Infobases, and president of Western Standard. Less than six months earlier, he had been president of Folio Corporation, whose digital technology Infobases was using. In March, 1997, Folio was sold to Open Market for $45 million.[11] The first public evidence of the change in ownership of Ancestry Magazine came with the July/August 1997 issue, which showed a newly reorganized Ancestry, Inc., as its publisher. That issue's masthead also included the first use of the Ancestry.com web address.


There doesn't seem to be much online about how Western Standard became the "parent company" of Infobase. But in 1997, Ancestry.com began to operate separately from Infobase and began creating an online subscription based, genealogy database service. Following acquisition of Bookcraft, Inc., a book publishing company, the owners began running Ancestry Inc. independently from Infobases. In 1998, Ancestry.com also started a website called MyFamily.com and ultimately, in 1999 changed its name from Ancestry.com to MyFamily.com. It then began another major website called FamilyHistory.com. MyFamily acquired Encounter Technologies in 2006. Late in 2006, the company changed its name to The Generations Network and then in 2009 changed its name back to Ancestry.com. In 2010, Ancestry.com sold its book publishing interests to Turner Publishing.

Presently, all of the links in MyFamily.com referring to "About Us" are directed to Ancestry.com which describes itself as follows:
Ancestry.com is the world’s largest online resource for family history, with more than one million paying subscribers around the world as of December 2009. Since starting as publishing company in 1983, we have been a leader in the family history market for over 20 years and have helped pioneer the market for online family history research. We believe that most people have a fundamental desire to understand who they are and from where they came, and that anyone interested in discovering, preserving and sharing their family history is a potential user of Ancestry.com. We strive to make our service valuable to individuals ranging from the most committed family historians to those taking their first steps towards satisfying their curiosity about their family stories.


Click on this link to find out more information about Ancestry.com corporate.

Ancestry.com, like most web based businesses, continues to rapidly evolve. Anything you say about it will likely change in the near future except that it will likely get larger. Now, all the above said, who owns Ancestry.com today? Back in 2007, investment headlines said that Ancestry.com was being acquired by Spectrum Equity Investors which also owns/invests in companies like AMC, CellularOne, and many others. Quoting from CrunchBase:
Founded in 1994, Spectrum Equity Investors have raised five investment funds representing $4 billion of private equity capital. They seek opportunities in businesses with common economic characteristics: recurring revenue, significant operating leverage, healthy operating margins, strong free cash flow, and franchise customer loyalty. Their investment activity is focused on business services, entertainment, communications, information services, media, and related growth sectors.


The companies in which they invest are leaders in their industries, have well-established business models, are run by experienced management teams, and have significant opportunities for future growth either organically, through acquisition, or both. Their investment activity includes private companies, public companies, and divisions of larger companies. They invest, either as a minority or majority investor, providing equity capital in a wide variety of transactions
Other investors in Ancestry.com include Sorenson Media, CMGI@Ventures and EsNet Group. See paidContent.org.

24 comments:

  1. I think your article about who owns Ancestry.com missed the biggest point -- the present situation. Since November 2009, Ancestry.com has been a publicly-owned company traded on NASDAQ. So to answer your question as to who owns Ancestry.com, the answer is -- anyone who wants to buy a share.

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  2. Spectrum Equity Investors and its affiliates still own more than half of Ancestry.com, despite it being publicly traded.

    Ancestry also owns Genealogy.com and Rootsweb.com. They also just completed purchase of Genline, the Swedish parish registers database.

    Hoover's: The year before, Ancestry.com launched Mundia.com, a global, multilanguage family-history networking product. And in 2008 the company launched Chinese family history website Jiapu.com."

    What I think is interesting is that Wall Street analysts think Ancestry has a wide moat, but FamilySearch certainly seems to be gaining on them.

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  3. So, does the Mormon church have a stake in it or not? That's the biggest question to me. So, for example, as Ancestry.com collects all this information from people, is it going to lead to guys in suits knocking on the door and trying to convert them to Mormonism?

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  4. World Traveller, you're joking, right? Humor doesn't translate well into text... In the off chance you were serious, I can't help by respond. Whether or not FamilySearch has any kind of financial stake in Ancestry.com, I couldn't begin to guess. FamilySearch and Ancestry.com do collaborate on projects, and that's a win for everyone with an interest in genealogical research.

    Family History Centers that are funded by the church, and which are generally housed in LDS chapels all over the world, are open to the world at no cost. Patrons of other faiths with an interest in learning more about the church that so generously provides the research facility may request more information from a FHC worker, who will direct them to missionaries who can answer their questions. (Policy statement from Family History Center Operations Guide, p. 15).

    Sheesh!

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    1. That what I what to know does the LDS have anything to do with Ancestry it sounds like two Mormons might have started it but now could be owned by someone else but I don't want anyone that thinks it ok to baptized dead people into their church which is one of many problems I have with the mormons.

      sheesh!

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  5. That sounds like a yes. Sheesh is right! So, people think they're getting service from ancestry.com, but they're actually volunteering a personal family information to a Mormon organization that will in turn force their beliefs on them, like a used car salesman. Mormons motivation to sell others is because they think they will earn themselves a greater reward in the afterlife, which pretty much means becoming their own god of a planet. This is highly reminiscent of Satan in Genesis saying you 'will be like God' if you do this. Well, history repeats itself, people continue in sin by following greed and power and trying to be like God. But they are deceived and aren't aware of it. It's false teaching and those who were born and raised in it are too blinded to see how deceived by Satan the Mormon organization is. So, no, I will not volunteer my personal information to ancestry.com to further a Mormon agenda, because it's false teaching and they claim to be Christians, but they aren't. Most people I've met are good people who mean well and are dedicated to their families, but they are just stuck and blinded by the deception around them. Seek God and he will show you the way.

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    1. Adam its people like you that spread untruths about the LDS church. Maybe you need to listen to the gospel they teach and maybe you can get your info right.

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    2. Adam you won't volunteer your info to these organizations but you will use their info to complete your history. Correct?

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  6. I use both Ancestry and Family search,I am not Mormon. Many of my friends are of that faith. No Mormon ,folk arrive at my door and I advised my son to invite their people in for assistance if they came by.
    These people are our neighbors and friends they cause less trouble than the Bible thumpers among us.
    Genealogical researchers should be thankful they have taken the time and money to preserve records that could be lost by flood, fire and war.

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  7. I think World Traveller is on to something. Deep down the LDS church uses the geneolgy information they gather to posthumously baptize people who were not LDS during their life time. They do this to artificially increase their membership numbers (they say they don't but they do) and can steal that information from ancestry.com and other sites they are associated with. It raises deep ethical problems. Another big problem is having to spend your own money on membership to update and complete their database with zero compensation. So they get free research labor. Another ethical problem.

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    1. Your take is definitely my understanding of it.

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    2. Individual members of the LDS Church do seal their family to Ancestors. As a church group they do not use the information at Ancestry or Family search for this purpose. You are attributing the actions of individuals who do searches in the data bases created with the actions of the church. Each of us, at some point,in our research , "steal" from these sites and add information to our files.

      Thus it is not a mass gathering of information for sealing by the church but individual members attempting to honor their dead. Membership numbers are of the living.

      If you use their information and are opposed to having the LDS church gather it you are probably going against your beliefs as you do your research. Stop the error of your ways and go to each location or hire some one for that purpose and do your own research.

      Personally, I thank the LDS church and their world wide members for the time and money they devote to these online resources.

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    3. I was a Mormon for 42 years and I can tell you, without. Doubt, they do not limit baptism for the dead to their own family members!!

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  8. I wouldn't worry about the missionaries to much, dead-dunking your relatives could become a problem. You probably won't hear about it unless somebody with access to church records leaks it, like with the Jewish holocaust victims.

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  9. What about mitt Romney? Are these genealogy companies contributing to his campaign funds?

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  10. I don't know but doubt it. Even so, as a practicing Catholic with a Mormon spouse of 50+ years, taking stock of the current situation in our country, I find thatit is ethics,trustworthness, honor and love of country that are most pressing. I think our country could use the knowlege, business savy and business negotiation expertise in the leadership right now. A perfect candidate will never be available. A qualified candidate is the best possible oppprtunity to get the great national recovery.
    Let's leave the candidates faith out of our election. We have too much to loose at this point.

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  11. George Bush graduated from Yale in 1968 and then again from Harvard business school in 1975...what did that get us. Business savvy is concern more about profits and less about people. That is probably why major corporation are making more profits today since we began recording business profits many decades ago, and the middle class is disappearing...but that's business, right!

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  12. So is there a site that the mormons wouldn't have their hands in? I want to trace my family but i do not want them being baptised by mormons after the fact. I am a former mormon and i truly don't want them having any part of my family, dead or alive.

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  13. I really don't see why the Mormon agenda, as alleged, should worry anyone unless they have a pretty fundamentalist view of baptising a dead person's soul (or an alive person's soul, come to that) when the person him/herself is totally unaware of it. Any preacher anywhere in the world can do the same, not just the hierarchy of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, after all. Someone could be baptising my soul or my great-great-aunt's right now in Peru, Mongolia or a house down the street. If it makes them happy ...

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  14. the Social Security Death Index used to be a public record and was available online FOR FREE. what better place to find lots of dead people than the SSDI? mormon volunteers used to transcribe the SSDI by hand "for their geneaology libraries." no problem, if that's how you want to spend your time, more power to you

    who currently owns the SSDI? ancestry dot com. now they don't need to transcribe by hand because they own both the older records and the newer records which are periodically updated. SS is an entity of the federal government. the SSDI is a record of deaths reported to the federal government so that SS benefits will end with a person's death. so, government records are for sale to a private company which then monopolizes them? how/why was this allowed to happen and who is behind it?

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    1. The SSDI still is a public record as of the date of this comment. It is not owned or controlled by Ancestry.com. It also available for free on FamilySearch.org and was last updated on 17 May 2013 and will continue to be updated regularly in the future baring a change in the law.

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  15. My question is why does the Government let these Genealogy websites charge the public for public information that is stored in the National Archives. The Archives are freely searchable by the public and can freely download information they find. The information on Ancestry.com and other sites were they charged for the download of information from the Archives?

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  16. Not being a Mormon I need to reply to some of these comments..

    You people who think the Mormons are going to come knocking on your door if you use Family Search are truly wrong. I have used FHC's and the web since 1999 and have yet to have anyone try to influence my way of thinking.

    What the church is trying to do is eventually get to a point that they can point out that we all came from the same person or people

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  17. my only complaint is I AM LOW INCOME, I paid for ancestry.com and when I go on their other sites,I have to pay again why?

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