Who Owns What in the Genealogy World?

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The genealogy-world has seen an enormous number of company buy outs and partnerships over the past few years. So who really owns what anymore?

I did some checking and here’s what I found.

Before I get to the list, let me start with a little disclaimer: I don’t guarantee that this is absolutely 100%, but I do believe it is certainly around the mark. But if anyone has more up-to-date information please feel free to leave a comment advising of the change. I’d really appreciate it.

Now on to who owns what …

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ANCESTRY.COM – founded 1983
Ancestry.com is the largest commercial genealogy company in the world. There are very few people who haven’t heard of it.

Having started small, the company has grown exponentially since 1997 and became a publicly traded company in November 2009. In October 2012 Ancestry.com was acquired by Permira Advisers LLP, a private equity group..

Current list of the websites and products owned by Ancestry.com:
AncestryDNA – launched may 2012
Ancestry app (formerly Ancestry Trees To Go app) – launched January 2010
Ancestry.ca – launched in 2006
Ancestry.co.uk – launched in 2002
Ancestry.com – launched in 1996
Ancestry.com.au – launched in 2006
Ancestry.de – launched in 2006
Ancestry.fr – launched in 2007
Ancestry.it – launched in 2006
Ancestry.se – launched in 2007
AncestryEurope.lu – cannot find a date
Ancestry Corporate – cannot find a date
Archives.com – acquired August 2012
FamilyTreeMaker.com – acquired 2006
FindAGrave.com – acquired September 2013
FindAGrave app – launched March 2014
Fold3 (formerly Footnote.com) – acquired late 2010
Genline.com – acquired June 2010
Newspapers.com – launched November 2012
ProGenealogists – launched 1998
ProQuest – partnership 2004
RootsWeb – acquired June 2000
Shoebox app (1000Memories renamed) – launched July 2013

Former sites and products:
1000Memories – acquired late 2012, relaunched as Shoebox (see above)
Ancestry24 – acquired October 2013
Ancestry Magazine – discontinued 2010
Ancestry Publishing – discontinued 2010
Archive CD Books England – acquired 2008
Genealogy.com – acquired 2003, discontinued September 2014
The Generations Network – changed name to Ancestry.com in 2009
LongLostPeople.com – launched 2008, no longer online
Mundia.com – discontinued 2014
MyCanvas.com – discontinued September 2014
MyFamily.com – discontinued September 2014
Y-DNA and mDNA tests on AncestryDNA – discontinued September 2014

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DC THOMSON FAMILY HISTORY – first online in 2003
DC Thomson Family History which was formerly known as Scotland Online and later brightsolid, is a British-owned world leader in online genealogy, with an unrivalled record of online innovation in the field of family history and almost 20 million registered users across its family of online brands, which includes findmypast and Genes Reunited.

DC Thomson Family History currently owns or runs the following sites:
1901 Census – launched May 2008
1911 Census – partnership from 2008
1939 Register – partnership from March 2014
The British Newspaper Archive – partnership from May 2010
CensusRecords.com – launched February 2012
Findmypast.com – launched July 2012
Findmypast.com.au – launched May 2010
Findmypast.co.uk – acquired February 2008
Findmypast.ie – launched May 2011
Friends Reunited – acquired August 2009
Genes Reunited – acquired August 2009
IWM: Lives of the First World War – partnership from May 2014
Mocavo – acquired June 2014
Origins.net – acquired June 2014
ScotlandsPeople – partnership from September 2002
Who Do You Think You Are? Story – launched July 2014

Former sites, now incorporated into Findmypast:
1837online (renamed to Findmypast.co.uk)
AncestorsOnboard.com

   ————————————————

MYHERITAGE – founded  2003
MyHeritage.com is a privately owned company based in Israel. Here is a quote about the company from their website: “… 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.”

Below is a list of the MyHeritage.com acquisitions. Some of these companies still are online, others have been absorbed into MyHeritage. Currently available in 40 different languages, MyHeritage has employees around the world.

Current sites and products:
23andMe – partnership from October 2014
BackupMyTree – acquired September 2011
BillionGraves – partnership from February 2014
EBSCO Information Services – partnership from October 2014
FamilyLink.com – acquired November 2011
Family Tree Builder – launched around 2010
Geni.com – acquired November 2012
MyHeritage.com – started 2003
WorldVitalRecords.com – acquired November 2011

Former sites and products:
Bliscy (Polish) – acquired June 2011
Family Tree Legends – acquired 2006
GenCircles – acquired 2006
Kindo – acquired 2008
The OSN Group (Verwandt/DynasTree) (German) – acquired 2010
Pearl Street Software – acquired 2006
Zooof (Dutch) – acquired 2010

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FAMILYSEARCH – founded 1894
FamilySearch is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is the largest non-commercial genealogy organisation in the world, and it is totally free.

FamilySearch can trace its own roots back to 1894 when it was founded as the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) and their members have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 120 years.

Renamed to FamilySearch, the organisation launched their first website in 1999, which has now grown to include over a billion records from hundreds of countries around the world.

While FamilySearch themselves haven’t bought out other companies (well, not that I known of), being the world’s biggest genealogy website I felt they deserve a mention here.

Also in the last few year’s they have partnered with other genealogy organisations to make even more records available. So it is these I’ll list below.

Partnerships with FamilySearch:
Ancestry.com – partnership from September 2013
Findmypast – partnership from October 2013
Fold3 (previously named Footnote.com) – partnership from May 2007
MyHeritage – partnership from October 2013
OCLC & WorldCat – partnership from January 2013

FamilySearch related sites and products:
FamilySearch Indexing – launched
FamilySearch Labs – launched October 2006
FamilySearch Wiki – launched 2008
FamilySearch Memories app – launched June 2014
FamilySearch Tree app – launched
RootsTech – FamilySearch are organisers of the world’s biggest genealogy conference

Former websites and products:
FamilySearch Indexing app
Forums.FamilySearch.org
New.FamilySearch.org
Personal Ancestral File (PAF)

 

60 thoughts on “Who Owns What in the Genealogy World?

  1. Thank you for this. It’s very helpful. I have to spend a little more time with the article. I suspect I’m paying double in some cases.

  2. Just as MyHeritage partners with EBSCO to make its services available to libraries, Ancestry does the same in partnership with ProQuest.

  3. Good research! Thanks for sharing it.

  4. This is great! It’s nice to see what the connections are so I can put them in their proper places. It’s like the genealogy of genealogy sites.

  5. Winifred McNabb says:

    And for my dollar, you should just pick only one. That along with FamilySearch should get you what you need. The for-pay sites are basically just recyling the same info, albeit in a somewhat different format to make you think you’re getting something better. We have to remember that mostly we are being subjected to smart marketing, not new data. Do not fall for it.

  6. Evelyn Lewandoski says:

    So, if I belong to Ancestry and to My Heritage, I probably have just doubled up. I do not need both. I fell for some of that smart marketing I guess.

  7. I take the idea of using Ancestry for 6 months and then 6 months off, fill in with Family Search or subscribe to My Heritage in between. Also with all the other sites out there and Google, I can spend 6 months just catching up with what I have found.

  8. I started off with GRU and used their (and still do) tree where I can update as I go then ged com it back to my own set up, it was fine while it was working ok with xxx sending contact messages and asking xxxx if they could do a better search for you which most did without hesitation but some were downright rude to say the least and when that happened I just turned the light off and tired another.
    From there I ventured to WVR Australia (being an Aussie made sense) it was magic, Aust records obtained and found at a great rate,Then it was reconstructed most of it went to WVR (which is run by MH) where I now subscribe to as it has all the census records at your disposal, I haggle every year when the subs are due and get a very good rate. But then it (WVR Aust) literally changed hands to FMP Aust then merged with FMP to become a part of the big 3.With it went all the records that you could once log into for free which is now part and parcel with all of them as they march on merging site after site that once had free access.The same happened with Gen Circles. BUT LDS will not go there as they have too bigger stake in genealogy and cannot keep up with the technology so this why they have outsourced a lot of their records to be digitized along with the big 3 and when those records cooling of period has lapsed then they will be available on the LDS site for all to see for free no matter who you are and live.
    Today one cannot keep up with the releases of new records and digitization, I have set up 3 emails for just that by creating alerts with new releases of eBooks and NewsPapers and one setup just purely for translation of foreign web sites search forums. You may say gee he has his hands full and my answer is yep a fair amount of the time but I do take big breaks, other wise you would go crazy and go around in circles and get nowhere, or wake up with head on keyboard (nearly once that happened) I have co worked with family and produced a family book that dates back to 1585 and still finding unfound records. Doing this has given me great knowledge of history of how life was back in year dot, I have learnt how to read old hand writing and the digitizing mess when it pick up the smallest of dots through transcribing and indexing. Just think if they taught this in 1 lesson at schools, the children’s knowledge in history would be greater than it is now and they would gladly take over and keep searching their family history when one has long gone.

  9. thank you for the information – i think i will go back to where i started and that is through Family Search – the Latter Day Saints – in the earlier days I always used their research facilities in Victoria. My subs to Ancestry keep on going up and so much of it is American based info anyway. I am a member of the Genealogical Society of Victoria and they have the real thing – older style filing systems but they definitely know where to find the information and their dedicated people know their stuff.

  10. Beryl E. Nulph says:

    What a report!! Kudos to you! I discovered a few years ago that some of my subscription sites had the very same things, so I never renewed many of them, use just two, and even though they own other sites, I use them for “clues” only, then I finish my research the old fashioned way, letters, phone calls, libraries, Town Halls, City Halls, Courthouses, Social Security Lists, Cemeteries, Old book stores, Churches, Bibles, talking to older family members their scrapbooks, schools and other ways I can think of.

    Many of these ways can be done on line, and others are the hard work, but, in the end, My “proof” of my findings are what I am searching for, and feel confident of the work I did!

    Each case is different, so sometimes checking the various name changes work, even though it takes more time. I would rather have “true, correctly proven” trees, than many trees that have many mistakes, and will make it harder for future generations seeking their own “truths.”

  11. So who owns my FAVORITE, RootsMagic? Did I miss it? I didn’t see it on the list.

  12. That’s easy: Bruce Buzbee owns RootsMagic. It’s his company. Completely independent.

  13. Great compilation! You missed Rootsweb (which used to be an independent free site) in the list of acquisitions by Ancestry.com, however.

  14. André WAGNIERE says:

    Dear Alona,

    Very interesting research which gives a pretty good idea of who’s who in the…. US. As a Swiss genealogist, I often use “foreign” sites, mostly GeneaNet which I understand is the world’s 5th most important genealogical site and # 1 in Europe (ex-UK). GeneaNet was created in Paris in 1996 and is owned by its founders and a few outside investors.

    You can check them out on Wikipedia. In addition, GeneaNet created GeneaWiki in 2005 (60’000 notices) and GeneaStar in 2002.

    Kindly also note that Geneanet offers its information and members’ trees in 10 languages.

    Regards

    André

  15. Great list, but did I miss something? Where does the Genealogist website fit in?
    http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk

  16. Janice, RootsWeb is there listed under Ancestry 😉

  17. Evelyn, while they do have SOME of the same records, most of it is different. But it would depend of what your focus is.

  18. Thanks Drew. I’ve added ProQuest in now. 😉

  19. ourtnfamilytree says:

    I really hated it when Ancestry ditched some of the best sites, myfamily.com and genealogy.com. including Genforum.

  20. There is a smaller project called The Poznan Project which covers Posen/ Poznan marriages from 1800-1900, I think. If anyone is interested, they are always needing help, much like the data indexing for the Family Search. Also I have used a site in the past called ‘Genuki’. I don’t know if that still exists.

  21. What a wonderful article!
    I do have one correction to make.
    BillionGraves is a privately owned, by Otter Creek Holdings, and has numerous partnerships throughout the genealogy world. BillionGraves’ partnerships are created to make the information found on BillionGraves more available on other partner family trees.
    You are correct, they have partnered with MyHeritage in a collaborative effort to create more records world-wide since Feb of 2014. In addition, we have been partners with FamilySearch since 2011, Genealogy Bank since 2012, Previously partnered with Ancestry, and have partnerships with many more organizations throughout the industry. All in efforts to make the information on BillionGraves more accessible and to expedite the creation of additional records!

  22. Thank you for this list! As a leading genealogy research firm that subscribes to many of these databases, we appreciate keeping tabs on who’s who.

  23. Personally, I avoid Ancestry – in all its many forms – as much as humanly possible. My experiences with them have been consistently bad, along the lines of money-sucking vultures grabbing at every cent they can fool you into spending.

    They have steadily bought up the competition and expanded their market, and – until I quit using them altogether – all of their “trial periods” required you to opt out in writing, otherwise your credit card started on an automatic deduction plan that never ended.

    But this has been an excellent source of information – thank you kindly for providing it to the rest of us. Much appreciated.

  24. Thank you very much to all of you ! At last, we have a good view of the genealogy world ! But effectively, some sharks out there are waiting for us and we can easily pay for what we can have for free. I’m from Québec, Canada and use MyHeritage and Généalogie Québec with effective results.

  25. WOW! Thank you so much! You just saved me a bundle! I must admit however that I have subbed with Ancestry.ca for a few years now and have had wonderful service! They cover considerable of my needs for research in Canada. Thanks again and best wishes to all for the best 2015 that you can possibly expect!!!

  26. It would be nice if we only had to subscribe to one site but that is not realistic. We need good data and no site has it all. I know that I am paying double on some things. I want to contain costs but convenience is also important.

  27. Bill Hawkins says:

    How about GenealogyBank and NewspaperARCHIVE? Are they still independent? What other major sites are still independent?

  28. Heather Kilner says:

    I signed up for My Heritage free trial a few years ago and somehow it installed itself as my main search engine which annoyed me immensely. It took forever to figure out how ti uninstall it (and I am fairly tech savvy) so for that reason I will never touch them again. Silly way to lose customers!

  29. Thank you, this is a very helpful list. I had the feeling I was going round and round in circles with all the different sites interlinking, but this has put it all on a very useful framework 🙂

  30. Thanks for this information. In the end the information they are “selling” really belongs to us the decendants. Another money making machine. I refuse to pay. I get by with “a help from my friends”.

  31. “It would be nice if we only had to subscribe to one site but that is not realistic. ”

    Give it 2 more years and your wish will likely come true.

  32. Good information! Thank you for compiling this. One thing you might want to add to the discontinued list under familysearch is the PAF (Personal Ancestral File) app which was discontinued mid-2013.

  33. There’s a typo in “New.FamilySerch.org”. This is important because there’s some other genealogical site at that address which I know nothing about, and which may be a scam.

  34. Thankyou Tony for picking up my typo. Apologies. And all fixed now.

  35. I understand that HeritageQuest has been owned by ProQuest for a while now. They’ve been just about moribund for some time – barely added anything but the 1940 census! What other services does ProQuest have? I believe University Microfilms is theirs.

    Will an Ancestry subscription get any access to their other sites?

    How does “partnership” work? Is this some type of agreement to share resources and databases, or does this mean one company owns some percentage of stock in the other? And what does it mean for subscribers privacy and personal and credit card info?

  36. Donde Smith says:

    Thank you, Anita. Your article is very clear and helpful.

  37. Norm Talbot says:

    I have subscribed to the major players and my main caveat would be to be more aware of takeovers and pre – authorized automatic renewals. They should be required by law to give you first a 30 day notice and then an additional 10 day notice that they will be withdrawing funds from your account on the anniversary of the subscription. Funny how they contact you by email for ongoing offers but not notice of payment pending.

  38. The idea that descendants of an ancestor somehow “own” historical data about them is interesting. Would that mean that I own 1/256th of the birth annotation of my 4th Great Grandfather. Or that I alone own it because I found it first in Voluntown Vital Records back in 1994? The ‘record’ is “owned” by the custodian and the Information is usually in the public domain. I think we family historians need to think carefully before we claim to “own” anything. Besides the services in this discussion are selling us just that, a service of finding information we need to assuage our obsession. Facts can’t be copyrighted which is how information ownership is protected by law.

  39. I don’t find:

    Roots III
    Roots IV
    Family Gathering
    Ultimate Family Tree.(UFT to most, actively in use after all these years)

    You might find http://sonic.net/~commsoft/rstory.html of use.

  40. Brenda Kellow says:

    Many years ago I stated in my classes that we needed to keep a famy tree of genealogy companies. That is close yo what you have done in this report.

    Thank you for this for it is very helpful.

  41. Patricia Welch says:

    Thank you so much for all this good information. A 20 year mystery regarding my gt.gt.gt. Grandmother was solved when I searched the family search indexing site. I had been a member of Ancestry for 5 years without success so I must admit I am absolutely over the moon to have got to the bottom of it all. I must have spent many many hours on this over many years.

  42. Phyllis McConnachie says:

    I “belong” to both Ancestry.com and FindmyPast World Edition and use them both extensively. Sometimes I find info on one site and not the other. True though, they have overlapping information.
    Thanks for making a wonderful compliation and comparison of the major players.

  43. Like others I avoid Ancestry.com because of their blatant nickel and dime approach. (Sorry – I live in the USA) However if one must use them many libraries carry a free, but incomplete, copy – the library edition. You may find what you want without being forced to pay. I’d also like to mention a very useful piece of software for those who have their own extensive database of genealogical records. It’s called Genviewer from MudCreek Software. This will analyze your database and find any separate ‘trees’ where records have not been linked. Very useful.

  44. Mary Sheridan Swatta says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I AM FAIRLY NEW AT GENEALOGY AND HAVE NOT JOINED ANY SITE THAT YOU MUST PAY FOR. I WILL BE VERY CAREFUL IF I DECIDE TO JOIN. Mary Sheridan Swatta

  45. Thank you so much for this list. Well Done. What I find really offensive is that ANCESTRY and the like are basically stealing people efforts and information each time they make a family tree and then charging others to access it. I would willingly give my whole family tree to someone without asking for a cent. Each time you make a family tree on ancestry or other charging sites…you are giving them information that they then CHARGE for. Just not cricket!

  46. I have learned so much from other folks trees on Ancestry, and other sites, and have been able to verify it. Those who would willingly give away their family information are correct to do that, as I also would do, but how would we disseminate it?

    Those sites that charge for the information that they MAKE AVAILABLE are there to make a profit, or are covering their costs. I see nothing wrong with that.

    If what they charge is worth what you receive, it’s a bargain, if NOT, don’t participate. If you don’t want to pay, DON’T!

  47. Jennifer Metcalfe says:

    As a researcher and family history tutor based in the UK I find it useful, if not essential, to have subscriptions to several online sites, particularly when using parish records which date back to the 1500s. The 3 main websites used here – Findmypast, Thegenealogist and Ancestry – have different sets of parish records available, both transcriptions and images. These subscriptions have saved me the time and cost of travelling to Local Record Centres around the country.

  48. Ancestry/Proquest has just announced it will be making changes to Heritage Quest on March 5.

  49. WillsNan1950 NSW AUSTRALIA says:

    Hi I have been researching mostly by records such as BDM ETC at state archives and local Libraries.. and all recs have been verified and documented and have filled in the spaces within my Family ancestral lines I did join My Heritage about 9 months ago..(don’t ask me why)I have put some of my info out there but have also noticed that I keep getting same name information sent to me that are absolutely NO Connection to my same name lines, Most dates are wrong.do not tally up. quiet often by anything up to 5 to 10 years variance and year values are wrong but these other people insist that their information is also part of my tree. some I did add by mistake as I didn’t check before I accepted them and now find that these other lines are stuck within my family trees and I cannot get rid of them I also find it hard to believe that some people have 60 to maybe 70 thousand tree roots within their family tree, again I think that lots just find a name and jump on the bandwagon just to say that they have all these persons of interest within their namesakes.. really annoying and am thinking of cancelling my heritage to be honest I have not found to much out there that is applicable to my site, Maybe because I have always verified from church recs etc shipping land holders census and the good old BDMs yes I do know that recs are only as good as the person who gave it but they are usually not far out with dates etc. maybe only a couple of years especially by births etc and I have been lucky that our family has always had good records set in place with diaries bibles I have enjoyed the thrill of researching and still have one line to pursue on my mothers side have hone both my fathers side and thanks to a small band of Family members have got through the others

  50. These genealogy companies have become their own beasts. They take the work of unsuspecting people who have spent lifetimes gathering information on their families and posting it on the Internet solely with the intention of helping others connect the proverbial dots and sell the information to other people. I see everything wrong with that.

    There are too many people who have volunteered their time to various genealogical endeavors – taking pictures of gravestones, transcribing death notices and other records – just to have their work sucked up by the likes of Ancestry.com (the singular biggest vulture out there) where *they* profit from other peoples’ hard work.

    Not every record has been digitized and I have noticed a myriad of transcription mistakes on various records. In the end, I’m an advocate for good ol’ fashioned research. I believe in using all kinds of repositories in person because you’ll never know what you’ll find there. I don’t believe in a handful of companies having a stranglehold on information. That’s a dangerous thing.

  51. I I stood that ancestry went to auction last November. Do you know if it was sold agin

  52. Has Ancestry been sold by Permira, I understood they were put it up for auction in November 2015

  53. Nancye, yes you are correct in saying that Permira did put the offer out there last year, but at present they are still the owners of Ancestry.

  54. I had a subscription to Find My Past and looked for my great grandfather’s military record, which I might add I had already gotten from filmed records. Amazingly when his record came up, it belonged to someone else.
    Yep, right info given – wrong person attached. It was the 40th Regiment of Foot and when I started checking the records they were all incorrect….so I contacted Find My Past and told them of the error…received a reply saying it would be looked into. After several months there was no change so I cancelled the subscription.
    Went in again after several years to see if it had been corrected – still wrong!
    They won’t be getting my money again!

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  58. Bonita Clifton says:

    Thank you so much this is so helpful as more and more people seek out their past.
    I have been considering working through Legacy rather than Ancestry. I have used ancestry for some years and have about 14,000 people in my tree but ancestry has separated a number of services out to individual companies (still owned by them) and charging separate fees for use of each one never mind selling Family Tree Maker off which I purchased. It is becoming very expensive to use Ancestry. I don’t see Legacy listed above and I guess I am still trying to figure out what it is. Any thoughts you can help me with would be appreciated.

  59. John McCredaie says:

    There was a time when all you needed to do was type a name and ask it’s origin and you would be told. Not any more, today you are directed here and there and everywhere,it’s a minefield and it’s all pay me pay me pay me. Mind you I put much of the fault at the feet of many of the government’s who have allowed these different agencies to highjack their records. Despite the magnanimous way in which they try to present themselves, it’s like so much in the world, GREED!. I realise that you can travel to such places as Somerset House London and search but if you live as I do in Australia and want information on Scotland you are stymied. My mother was admitted to one of the Industrial Schools for Girls in Glasgow in 1907 and try as I might I can never find any record of her, It’s as if she never existed and it’s heartbreaking. Yes I’m 86 years of age.

  60. Why don’t you find your local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who will most likely have Free classes and Free access to ALL genealogical search engines and an enormous amount of help available for you. It doesn’t matter who or what country you live in

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