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

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Who owns the genealogy companies? Part Nine

I had to cut off this series at some point and decided to do so with a look at HeritageQuest. This site is probably one of the least promoted of the subscription sites I have reviewed. This Internet service is only available through libraries. If you have a library card or membership in a participating library, it is likely that your access to HeritageQuest free online. Here in the Phoenix area, a library card with the Maricopa County Library will get you free access even on your home computer. HeritageQuest has all of the U.S. Census records but indexes only to some years. The other resources include PERSI, an index to over 2.1 million genealogy and local history articles, the Feedman's Bank records and the U.S. Serial Set from the U.S. Congress.

HeritageQuest is part of huge database of mostly commercial information owned by ProQuest LLC. From the ProQuest website:
ProQuest creates specialized information resources and technologies that propel successful research, discovery, and lifelong learning. A global leader in serving libraries of all types, ProQuest offers the expertise of such respected brands as CSA™, UMI®, Chadwyck-Healey™, SIRS®, and eLibrary®. With Serials Solutions®, Ulrich's™, RefWorks®, COS™, Dialog® and now Bowker® part of the ProQuest brand family, the company supports the breadth of the information community with innovative discovery solutions that power the business of books and the best in research experience.
More than a content provider or aggregator, ProQuest is an information partner, creating indispensable research solutions that connect people and information. Through innovative, user-centered discovery technology, ProQuest offers billions of pages of global content that includes historical newspapers, dissertations, and uniquely relevant resources for researchers of any age and sophistication—including content not likely to be digitized by others. Inspired by its customers and their end users, ProQuest is working toward a future that blends information accessibility with community to further enhance learning and encourage lifelong enrichment.
 From their website, ProQuest is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and lists a large Management Team.  In looking at one of the most confusing state government websites in existence, the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, if you persist, you will find seventeen entries for the names of various businesses which inclued the word ProQuest all of which are amazingly uninformative. There seems to be no way to determine if all of these various entities are related or not. It is very unlikely that ProQuest Restoration, Inc. is related to the information company, for example. It appears that ProQuest is not a very unique tradename.

From Wikipedia, ProQuest is part of the Cambridge Information Group.

Cambridge Information Group (CIG) is a privately owned group of information services and publishing companies and educational institutions. It was founded in 1971 by Robert N. Snyder and Philip E. Hixon and is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland. As of 2007, CIG’s operating companies are ProQuest, R.R. Bowker, RefWorks, and CIG Education Group. CIG Education Group is the owner of the Sotheby's Institute of Art, and Bach to Rock music school (B2R). CIG is also the largest shareholder of Navtech, Inc.

ProQuest dates back to the 1930s and was founded by  Eugene Power in Ann Arbor. By June 1938, Power worked in two rented rooms from a downtown Ann Arbor funeral parlor, specializing in microphotography to preserve library collections. This was the foundation of University Microfilms International and Proquest.Got all that straight?

A search of the ProQuest Products and Services under the term "genealogy" give 47 different ProQuest genealogy products. The list of products for genealogy is truly impressive, but none of them are available for individual users. In fact, an individual user cannot even obtain a free trial access to the databases. It seems that ProQuest is operating entirely in the commercial arena, along with such huge databases as WestLaw and Lexis Nexis.

It appears that ProQuest had an initial public offering (IPO) of its stock back in 2002. The stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange as PQE. It appears the company had some serious legal and financial problems in the 2006 to 2007 time range.  See NYSE Euronext. I do not find where the stock is current listed.

1 comment:

  1. ProQuest does have a confusing history. PQ was a publicly-traded company with three primary divisions, and then the CFO did some very dumb and very bad things, which pretty much destroyed most of the company. One of the three divisions was sold to Snap-On Auto Parts -- this section, which did something with auto manuals, was the only division *not* based outside Detroit! Another section was sold to Cambridge Information Group (CIG). This section included all library-related products, including the genealogy ones. The last section moved to Texas, where their largest (earlier) acquisition was located, and focused on selling products to the K-12 market.

    When CIG bought the "Information & Learning" section, they also bought the "ProQuest" name, then applied it to the entire library products conglomerate. "ProQuest" is sufficiently well-known in the library market that it was worth keeping. CIG is a privately-held company, so PQ is now privately-held. The old NYSE stock is now traded on the 'pink sheets' under some other name, and is basically worthless.

    CIG is a well-run company and has brought a lot of strength back to ProQuest and the PQ name.