RootsTech 2015

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Who owns what in online genealogy? Shuffling the Deck

I find about as much false information and fables are rampant in the genealogical community about the ownership of the larger genealogy companies as any other genealogy topic. I haven't addressed this issue for some considerable time, but I still get really strange comments on blog posts over two or three years old. The amount of misinformation in this area seems monumental. One of the most common specific issues, is the ownership of Ancestry.com. This is particularly true with respect to its relationship to FamilySearch, International. Many of the comments about FamilySearch, International. Many of these comments display a decided anti-Mormon bias. It is interesting that genealogy, one of the most inclusive persuasions,  is not immune from bigotry and prejudice. 

First of all there are four very large genealogy-based companies. None of them share any ownership interest whatsoever. FamilySearch, International has no ownership interest in Ancestry.com. All of this ownership information is freely available online. There is no mystery here. There are no hidden agendas. There is no conspiracy. In every case, I am acquainted with the each of the CEOs of all four companies. I have had interviews and meetings with all of them. I find them all dedicated to genealogy, capable and very intense people.

In summarizing the ownership interests of the larger genealogy companies, I am including, to the extent possible, a list of the associated websites they each manage and own. This is list is subject to change at any time as evidenced by the recent acquisition of Mocavo.com by D.C. Thomson, Family History (findmypast.com). To answer one question, yes, findmypast.com is written all in lower case letters.

Which of these entities is the "largest." First of all, this question is impossible to answer. Each of the companies has a completely individual way of measuring its online collections of data. In addition, the question is meaningless. If the database has what you are looking for, the collections are useful. If they do not have what you are looking for, they are of no use to you. It's that simple. Here I go with the analysis.

Ancestry.com, Inc

Ancestry.com is presently owned by Permira, a private equity firm founded in 1985. See this link for the company history. Here is a quote from the Permira website about Ancestry.com:
Ancestry is the undisputed global market leader in online family history, with two million subscribers and 6x the traffic of the nearest competitor. It was acquired by a company owned by the Permira funds and co-investors in December 2012. 
Ancestry is the global leader in online genealogy offering the world’s largest online family history resource, with over 11 billion records and 34 million family trees containing 4 billion profiles. 
Ancestry’s network of websites enables users to discover, preserve and share family history, using an unrivalled data set of digitised historic records from 15 countries. Records include: census; ship passenger lists; military documents; birth, marriage and death certificates; immigration documents; casualty lists and newspaper clippings. This enables subscribers to discover their past, search for ancestors and records, along with sharing what they have found by uploading their own content. 
The offering is delivered via multiple platforms including desktop web, mobile and social media. Ancestry pioneered online family history by converting a time intensive, expensive offline pursuit into an affordable, accessible one online.
As far as I can determine here is the current list of the websites owned by Ancestry.com:


The following Ancestry.com websites are being shut down as of 5 September 2014:


FamilySearch, International

Quoting from the FamilySearch.org website:
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
FamilySearch.org maintains the following websites:


For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of the functions of FamilySearch.org are supplemented by LDS.org.

MyHeritage.com

MyHeritage.com is a privately owned company based in Israel. Here is a quote about the company from their website:
MyHeritage was founded by a team of people with a passion for genealogy and a strong grasp of Internet technology. Our vision has been to make it easier for people around the world to use the power of the Internet to discover their heritage and strengthen their bonds with family and friends. 
As of 2005, we were based in the beautiful village of Bnei Atarot, near Tel Aviv, Israel, founded by German Templers in 1902 under the name of Wilhelma. 
Inspired by the surrounding fields and orchards and Templer estates, one of which served as our headquarters, we used the tools of tomorrow for researching the family history of yesterday. In February 2012 following our constant growth, we moved into lovely new offices in Or Yehuda, Israel. We also have offices in the USA in Lehi, Utah and LA, California, and employees and representatives in many countries around the world. 
As a dynamic family history network, our innovations for family tree building and historical content search are constantly evolving to provide families with the most engaging and rewarding experience. Our recent acquisitions of World Vital Records and Geni.com for example, have enabled us to offer billions of historical records and exciting tools for collaboration to a wider and more international audience than ever before.
Hers is a list of the MyHeritage.com acquisitions. Some of these companies still are online, others have been absorbed into MyHeritage.com. MyHeritage.com is available in 40 different languages.

Here is the description of D.C. Thomson family history from their website:
DC Thomson Family History is a British-owned world leader in online genealogy, with an unrivalled record of online innovation in the field of family history and 18 million registered users across its family of online brands. It hosts over 1.8 billion genealogical records across these brands, which includes household names like findmypast and Genes Reunited. 
DC Thomson Family History helps partners to digitise their precious collections, providing them with an archive-quality digital surrogate of their records, or publishing existing indexes and transcriptions.
D.C. Thomson family history's most recent acquisition was Mocavo.com. Here is the current list of websites:
As I mentioned above, these lists could change at any time. One thing is certain, there will likely be additional acquisitions in the future. If any of the other large online companies have ownership interests they may be difficult to ferret out. 



7 comments:

  1. In 2010, friendsreunited.co.uk was also acquired by brightsolid Online Innovation (http://www.friendsreunited.co.uk/About). This is still linked as a "sister site" of genesreunited.co.uk, and still declared as a subsidiary of brightsolid (part of D.C. Thompson) but those declarations haven't been updated. Whether this is viewed as a genealogy site or a social networking site is probably irrelevant. I can say that in 2004-2005, this site was instrumental in helping me find existing relatives and solve a decades-old mystery.

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  2. James, do you know who owns Mytrees.com? And geneanet.com? geneanet is pretty cagey on their website about who runs their site.

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  3. Do you know I could contact regarding mycanvas.com

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    1. The website is owned by Ancestry.com and they have announced that it will be discontinued. See http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2014/06/04/ancestry-com-focuses-on-core-offerings/

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