Ancestry.com “Thrilled” With New Genealogy Startups

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The Salt Lake Tribune published this interesting article two days ago:

Utah-based Ancestry.com, with 900,000 subscribers the reigning king of commercial Internet genealogy services, welcomes Geni.com and a spate of other online family history newcomers to its world.
“For years, we were the only ones driving growth in this category,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of Generations, which owns Ancestry.com, MyFamily.com and related sites.
“So when we see Geni or any number of new genealogy upstarts, we’re thrilled,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan maintains that once someone gets interested on online family study, “they eventually will make their way to Ancestry.com” and its 23,000 online databases of births, deaths, baptisms, military service, censuses and more.
The 9-year-old Ancestry.com family also offers a number of free services to Web visitors, among them its One World Tree.
More than 1 million user-generated pedigrees have been uploaded to Ancestry.com in the past month, and 170 million names and 500,000 photos have been added to online records over the past six months.
“People can go to Ancestry.com and build family trees, invite their family members to upload photos and precious stories and documents – and all of those experiences are free,” Sullivan added.

I share Tim’s opinion that new online family tree building sites will lift the whole genealogy industry. I’ve made the same argument as CEO of World Vital Records.

You build a tree with help from other family members and pretty soon you’ve entered all the names you can from memory and now you need to start doing more in-depth research. That’s where genealogy research sites like Ancestry.com and WorldVitalRecords.com are needed.

But I wonder how thrilled anyone at Ancestry.com really is that Geni.com has done a better job of making it easy to build a family tree and invite everyone to collaborate on it.

Back in 1999 we launched our OFT (online family tree) tool at Ancestry.com and MyFamily.com and started getting tons of usage. Billions of records were uploaded or added over the next few years. But when MyFamily.com bought the #1 genealogy software product, Family Tree Maker in 2003 (a year after I left the company), it stopped pushing its free download software, Ancestry Family Tree, and stopped promoting its free online family tree building tools as much as it had before. Because now, instead of cannabilizing its competitors software revenue, it was now cannabilizing its own revenue.

With Geni’s launch, and with several other online family tree tools/social networks available now or launching soon (such as SharedTree.com, Amiglia, Famster, FamilyTreeGuide.com, Cozi, FamilyLearn.com and OurStory.com) The Generations Network (parent of Ancestry.com and MyFamily.com) has a ton of new competitors. By not pushing its free online tree tools for the last 4 years, it has really created this vacuum and invited all this new competition.

If anyone is thrilled with what is going on in the family history world, I think it should be consumers, who are going to find that competition leads to better and more affordable tools.

And of course, I am thrilled to be involved with World Vital Records, one of the “spate of other online family history newcomers” that Ancestry.com is welcoming to “its world.”

We’re weeks away from launching our new flagship website and hopefully getting a specific mention by name in the next “Ancestry.com welcomes….” press release.

This is going to be a very fun year.

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5 Responses

  1. It’s great to see all these new sites opening up – although I recently used Geni to input a quite complicated tree to back up a genealogical mystery story I’m writing via a blog. I’m afraid it just wasn’t up to connecting two or three people on a tree that were outside of traditional relationships.

    The future? Well, with so much genealogical information on the web, why couldn’t they be linked to really powerful servers that reconstruct entire communities in certain time-frames. How about being able to ‘walk’ down a street in 1851 Durham City, for example, and knowck on the door and ‘see’ the people who lived there? Even ask them about their relatives? I’m sure it won’t be too many years before it’s possible!

    Best regards


  2. its funny to see you write about your ideas that management didn’t accept. I had similar experiences years ago trying to connect a retail division with a pretty popular website owner. That retail division is still chugging along just fine (I’m guessing) while the “website owner” is now a celebrity in her area. It would have been a incredible connection but management just didn’t care at the time.

    Cool stuff you guys are doing – looking forward to seeing more.

  3. Ryan Byrd’s Ramblings » Genealogy: do it better

    […] This project has even caught the attention of Provo big-wig Paul Allen. Paul’s most recent blog mentions SharedTree as one of a growing number of progressive genealogy websites. I’m confident that you’ll find that SharedTree holds its own against the other newcomers. […]

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