Yes, Ancestry.com did sign an agreement to purchase the large French genealogy website Geneanet.org. This happens just a short time after MyHeritage.com signed an agreement to buy the other large French genealogy website Filae.com.https://www.filae.com/
This doesn't have much to do with genealogists in the United States as much as it is an indication of the competition for genealogy websites in Europe. It really doesn't matter which of the large companies made the first move, what is certain is that there are now essentially two very large genealogy database websites that have just grown larger. But I do need to acknowledge that both Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com have indicated that both French websites will continue to operate independently. You might view these two purchases as a smaller companies associating with a larger company to improve their visibility and customer bases.
Is large good or bad? In genealogy records database websites, as in many other areas of the commercial world, big is better for researchers. Of course, this assumes that the researcher knows about the websites and actually uses them. By the way, all four of these websites are currently FamilySearch.org partner websites, so FamilySearch is certainly not being left out of this expansion by two of the "big players" in the world of online genealogical data. Of course, there is also Findmypast.com, the British entry.
Europe is a big market (understatement) for genealogy and probably a lot bigger than anything going on in the United States. Before going much further with this post, I need to point out that percentage wise, very few FamilySearch.org users take advantage of signing up for all five of the Partner websites. Also, I need to make it absolutely clear that every one of these websites has its own unique advantages and value to the genealogical researcher and yes, there are some records that are duplicated on some of these websites with the other websites but they are not all chasing the same records. If you are trying to do research in some countries of Europe and other places in the world, you will soon realize that there are still an enormous number of paper records out there waiting to be digitized and made available online. Only the very large genealogy companies have the resources to digitize and index huge numbers of records. Local digital projects by libraries and archives are valuable, but sometimes hard to find and otherwise have restrictions on viewing. For example, the HatthiTrust.org has a huge collection of over 8 million digital books but only 39% of this huge collection is available to the public and the rest is only available to students and faculty of large U.S. universities.
What about the paywall issue? The new acquisitions will, for the time being, continue to operate in the same way they have in the past. Some genealogists seem to think that digital copies of documents magically appear online and that all the copies should be free. But this is idea that everything should be free on the internet ignore the reality of the cost of hosting and maintaining large collections of images. Right now, in the genealogical world, the sale of DNA kits and information is partially funding the digitization efforts of the larger corporations. But if we are going to continue to increase the amount of genealogical data online, we need more than just DNA sales and online subscription promotions to do the job. Meanwhile, FamilySearch.org continues to digitize records and make them available online for free which, of course, would seem to undermine the other companies. However, the FamilySearch Partner Program, is advantageous to both the partner companies and to users of the FamilySearch.org website. Let's just say for now that it is complicated but it works to the advantage of both sides of the agreements.
So here is the present line up:
- MyHeritage.com acquired Filae.com
- Ancestry.com has acquired Geneanet.org