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Ancestry's response to this week's PR nightmare - You're Not Going to Believe This - Love 'em or hate 'em?

After what tried to pull this week, you probably don't "love 'em." But then, just yesterday, I located a document for an ancestor on their site after which I thought to myself, "I sure am glad I have an Ancestry subscription - I probably wouldn't have found that anywhere else."

Ancestry does provide a wonderful service. Although a bit pricey for many, I'm sure they put millions and millions of dollars into their efforts. We should not expect something for nothing.

This week, however, Ancestry went too far. The genealogy community, represented by a variety of bloggers, fought back. Ancestry "listened" and removed (for now) their new Internet Biographical Collection database.

Basically, Ancestry cached the pages from other's websites and called the pages their own by requiring a subscription to access them. Imagine Becky Wiseman's surprise when she received an email from someone asking for more information they found on Becky's website at Becky does not have a website at, and she knew that what they were talking about was not her free pages at Rootsweb. Becky researched the issue and learned that Ancestry had copied her personal website and made it available, for a fee, at Ancestry.

This didn't happen to just a few websites.

Ancestry started listening, and soon made their new Internet Biographical Collection database free, after giving them a valid email address.

Yesterday Ancestry issued a statement suggesting that they were trying to help the genealogy community by archiving websites. They have now pulled the database.

I'm now more motivated to increase my efforts with the FamilySearchIndexing project.

Here's what others are saying:

The Generations Network Continues to Tarnish Their Image (GenealogyBlog)

Is This Fair Use? (Kinexxions)

Cache 22 - Has Gone Too Far? ('s Genealogy)

Internet Biographical Collection is Free at Ancestry (Ancestry 24-7)

Numbers, Ranking & (DearMYRTLE) is Caching some web site data (Genea-Musings)

Internet Biographical Collection is Free at (Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter)

More Naughty Than Nice (Family Matters)

Greedy Stabs Friends in the Back (Creative Gene) scrapes websites; places harvested content behind membership wall (Family Oral History) Nothing but Theifs (sic) (Untangled Family Roots) Thieves, Hypocrites, Blunderers, or Fair Users? (GeneaBlogie) Copyright Violations? (AnceStories)

Any thoughts? Leave a comment below.


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I agree that should not be trying to sell what is otherwise freely given, but if they index all genealogy websites doesn't that just provide people one more way to find what they're looking for?

First off, I want applaud you for having something, anything, to say on this subject. The big (commerical) names in the genealogy world have been noticably quiet on this issue. Kudos to you for not being afraid to have a voice!

Secondly, I want to thank you for not only mentioning the "hobby" genealogy bloggers who bravely stood up for what they believed in but also for providing links to their articles on this subject. Our little band of merry genea-bloggers rarely get any recognition from the commercially sponsored blogs. In the the blogosphere, links are like gifts. Believe me your links are appreciated by us hobby bloggers.

I cetainly think Ancestry was out of line with their actions. We shall see what happens next. I'd like to believe that they've seen the light and won't try this again but "for the time being" I'll remain a bit skeptical.

JL, if that's all they were doing, yes this would be a nice service. But they are not just indexing the sites. They are "taking" the sites and storing them on their servers, calling other people's websites their own. They had the Generations Network copyright at the bottom - of other people's websites. This is obviously not right.

Like Jasia, I applaud you for speaking out on this issue. Only a few of the "professional" genealogists have said anything about it. I wonder if they really think it was okay for Ancestry to do what they did? Indeed, I was very surprised on Tuesday morning to learn that I had a website on Ancestry! Like everyone else, I'll have to wait and see what happens next. Thank you for speaking up! And, by the way, I've been a Legacy user since version 3.0 ;-)

Thanks, Geoff. I think I understand it better now having read more of other peoples' comments. In this case it's obvious they're up to no good. I cannot even fathom the gall of it. But isn't the issue of copyright a little tricky? For instance, I post obits on my website and wonder if some-one's going to show up claiming ownership of the newspapers they came from.

Perhaps you will grace us with your knowledge and wisdom on this topic someday?

I hate Ancestry's annual fee as much as anyone, but feel it is a bargan compared to the alternatives. I was fortunate to use Ancestry's Internet Biographical Collection database before they pulled it. During the ten minute exposure, I actually found unknown information on my ggg grandfather, and was quite excited that they might acutally include my database in the Collection. The more exposure my database gets, the more people that my efforts help and the more feedback I get. Ancestry, I liked the Collection.

I am an active member of and I agree the fees they charge are a bit high but they also do alot with those fees in providing a great service. With that said, did you people really think that was not going to steal your research? If you remember back this is just what the simple genealogist folks explained to us two years ago was going to happen. was going for the dollar figure again, but this time they are going to claim "your site" as their own since you uploaded to their server anyways. We cannot let this happen because we are allowing and any other genealogy provider site to claim your hard earn research for their own. Did you really think they weren't going to do this after they had enough sites to slip it by? Shame on us, not them!

sjm1010 - I think you have misunderstood part of the issue here when you say "...but this time they are going to claim "your site" as their own since you uploaded to their server anyways."

My website, as well as most of the others, was NOT uploaded to the Ancestry servers. My site is on a server that is paid for by me and is in no way connected with Ancestry. Hopefully, with the announcement released earlier this evening by Kendall Hulet, this issue can be put to rest, at least for a while. Mr. Hulet sounded sincere, almost apologetic even, and I have to believe that they will do the right thing in the future by providing a useful search engine rather than a database.

Hmm. If you have sites posted to Rootsweb, they have been altered. TGN has gone in and altered your HTML to include headers and footers on each page that state the page is Ancestry's (hosted by, but the important part is that they altered your codes.) The AUP at Rootsweb (owned by them) says they may display your site (this is normal) but ANYWHERE within their system, which includes behind the pay-wall. Then they clearly say if you don't like it, leave.

NOT to friendly, but it is legal, after all you don't have to use their servers. BUT the content they have scraped from the internet in general is a different story. is getting so big and so powerful that they think they can do anything they want -- even violate copyright laws. Personally they disgust me. I honestly try to use other Web sites to get the information I need. It's time to cut bloated, arrogant, over-priced down to size.

I noticed this recently. They have all kinds of links to their services. Many are search engines for everything you can imagine. They all lead too you must pay to see more. Well why would I want to pay to access my own website at Rootsweb when I can access it for free. That is what I ran into. We were warned several years ago that they would sell our files that were uploaded. I deleted all my files when I heard that. Then Gencircles could not process my upload any longer and I uploaded my file again to Rootsweb about 6 months ago. I thought I was safe since they only warned that it was the files already uploaded and little did I know that they meant every file uploaded there after. I believe since the file was uploaded freely that people should not be lead to believe that they have to pay to access the information when they really do not. The link should be free access. WE NEED TO FIGHT THIS!

I have found numerous websties that you can access for free but says that you have to pay to have access when you do a search on their engine. This is plain fraud.

Try doing a search for Sutoris or Zlatos on and see what you get.


Apparently someone screwed up at and did not speak to their attorney/legal department.

This is flat out data theft and copyright infringment since they did not provide direct links and wrapped others data into their own web pages and sourced it coming from their site.

I chuckled when I read the very short PR release and the spin of how they heard the complaints of the community loud and clear. Reading between the lines they were hoping no one noticed and are now worried about another lawsuit.

Now Ancestry is claiming to mine the data and provide a free genalogy search engine. These are already available and we do not need anymore search enginges. Yeah right, like this was Ancestry's intention. could care less about "the community" as it is a corporation. The bottom line is maximizing profits and minimizing expenditures. Right now they can overstep their boundaries on many things because they are at this point in time somewhat of a monopoly in the field until other companies get on their feet.

I've seen a lot of good people come and go at Ancestry and have seen it change faces many times. They need to hire a better PR department and the company communicate better internally if it wants to stay on top. Right now the dog is chasing it's own tail :)

- Joe

I am furious with I have tried every single link that I can find to access websites that have public information. I am not even looking for unfound ancestors, I just want information that is available to any public sector. I agree with past posters, that Ancestry has gotten WAY too big for its britches. And the only way we can change it is to NOT pay for them, even at the expense of our own searches. I REFUSE to pay their fee whether it's too much or reasonable. I will just LIVE without the informationt that I had hoped to find on public venue's. If I LIVED in my state of origin I would GO to the city that has the info. Unfortunately I live 1000 miles from my birth state. Thanks for letting me vent.....

Good morning,
I have a copyright issue with Rootsweb. I host various GenWeb sites and a person has right-clicked and copied NUMEROUS pages of my site -- then had the audacity to put HER copyright on the pages. Rootsweb has not been of much help -- what are my options? Has anyone pursued Rootsweb for this type of action?

The Internet is a very public place. Anything that is posted on the Internet might be picked up & re-posted elsewhere. That said, I don't think it's very nice to plagerize (even on the Internet) & it's way uncool to misrepresent one's self or site:
but it is what's happening (unfortunately) in many instances. I'm glad there are people on the net who are speaking up about this practice. Whether by ignorance or design it is an unpleasant for anyone to "steal" someone else's personal information, & use it for their own benefit.

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