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

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Even more thoughts on the monetization of genealogy

Image of the Czech Republic, Censuses, 1843-1921České Budějovice,  Bílá Hůrka1869, vol. 100015

Let me pose a series of hypothetical questions. If you were subscribing to already, would you cancel your subscription because obtained a huge number of additional original source records? Would you cancel your subscription and remove your family tree because added more source records? What about If announced tomorrow that it had added millions of additional records, would you immediately end your subscription and refuse to use the service? Would you do the same with If they added more records, would you be so offended that you would stop using the program?

I suggest you check the list of source data files added within the last few days to before you make your decision. If you look at the list of the Historical Record Collections, you will see several very large collections of records added in just the past few days including the Czech Republic, Censuses, 1843-1921 consisting of 1,719,988 images. Now, you may say, I don't have any relatives or ancestors in the Czech Republic but a whole lot of people do and these types of records have never been available online before.

So before you get all huffy about the monetization of historical records, just think about having records from all over the world available from all four of those online genealogical data companies to be searched online and then remember that these records are freely searchable from any of the over 4600 authorized FamilySearch Centers around the world. In fact, the Czech Republic records because they came from FamilySearch, are free online from your own computer. You don't have to go to a Czech Republic archive to view these records, they are right there somewhere much nearer to you on your own computer and the other records on the other databases much more available at a FamilySearch Center.

Did you pay the cost of finding those records, negotiating access, microfilming or digitizing the records, transporting the copies, digitizing and formatting them for online availability, maintaining a huge data storage facility to store the images, and then in the end, make them available for free online at a FamilySearch Center or on your home computer? Did you help pay to keep the 4600 FamilySearch Centers open to the public? Are you one of the volunteers who helped index records? Do you volunteer hours and days helping the public at a FamilySearch Center?

If the answer to any of these questions is negative, then what is your problem? The cheapest ticket I could find today from my home in Phoenix, Arizona to Prague in the Czech Republic was over $1,100, not to mention the cost of car rental, food and hotels. Get real. I can subscribe to for three or more years just on the cost of that one trip. Do you think all genealogy records ought to be free? Think it over. How free are the records sitting in some archive in Czech Republic if I can't afford to go examine them?

How free are the records sitting in countless cemeteries across the world? When was the last time you got a free cemetery record? Did you use If so, who paid for the record to be taken? Who uploaded the image so you could have a photo of the gravemarker? How were these people paid? Who pays to keep these records online and pay all the expenses?

Free is a very easily used term that is totally meaningless. There is no free: lunch, online access, genealogical source records or anything else in our universe. The last time I checked First law of thermodynamics was still in effect.

I am sure I have much more to say on this subject, but that is enough for right now.


  1. When I look upon your website, I wonder if you are missing marketing dollars from various types of advertising. I know that during my daily sessions on I am going to consume several cups of coffee and several cans of Coke Zero. The coffee companies and Coke Cola company should be advertising on the genealogy sites.

    I further question if your website should contained classified advertising relating to personal searches and genealogical services.

    Monetization comes not only in the form of subscription fees but also in the form of advertising. The other question is should you be offering specialized information for a cost.

  2. I can't blame people who complain that the entire world of online genealogy seems to be monetized now on a fee basis. IIRC there were once a variety of online sources of genealogical information that were completely free. They might have run slow and been laborious to use, but they were still useful. The LDS Church used to have a free service; for all I know it may still be there but if so it's so deeply buried I couldn't find it.

    Meanwhile, my attempts to use have been disappointing. I can't find even my parents and grandparents despite an extensive paper trail of medical licenses, university degrees, and military service. I don't think the free trial really gives you anything useful so it's impossible to evaluate.

    1. It seems that you haven't read many of my posts since I talk about frequently, a completely free and extensive website. It sounds like you need to broaden your Internet horizon a little.