- You're Not Going to Believe This
Legacy Family Tree Now Available in 5 Languages

Ancestry's response to this week's PR nightmare

The following statement was issued today by Kendall Hulet, a product manager at, in response to the controversial Internet Biographical Collection Ancestry published this week:

Hi, my name is Kendall Hulet, and I’m a product manager at  I’ve probably met a lot of you at FGS, NGS, and other conferences. If not, I look forward to meeting you in the future.

I wanted to write you a note because I’m extremely concerned about the frustrations that the recently-removed Internet Biographical Collection has caused.  We had hoped to provide a way for you to be able to search the entire web easily for genealogically-relevant pages and provide for preservation of sources for future generations. In looking back, we understand why members of the community are upset. We’ve heard you loud and clear, and we’ve removed this product with no intention of re-releasing it.  Instead, it is my hope that someday we’ll be able to provide a free web search engine that links directly back to the live web pages, and can become a useful tool to the genealogical community. If we do move forward with this type of initiative, we will seek your input and talk more with community leaders to make sure we get it right. (Originally published at Ancestry's 24-7 Family History Circle blog.)

Read our original blog entry about it here.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Call me cynical, but here is my paraphrase of what the PR rep is likely to have meant:

""We hated losing that database, but we did it all for you. We realize we were caught with our hand in the cookie jar, and your yelling about the database made us decide to pull it. Someday, when the world is one, we want to have that database again. Of course, we'll do it differently. We promise to do better.""

Nice speech Kendall ... meaningless, but nice. A question ... are you ( Ancestry ) still in posession of all the ( "borrowed" ) private website addresses?

The International Biographical Collection is only one of the recent boo-boos pulled by Ancestry. In their recent release of Family Tree Maker 2008 they removed the ability to compile a family history containing "verbatim" stories and anecdotes of family members. Now, all they have is a "canned" history composed of charts, records, etc. This is documentation, not so much "verbatim" incidents, an integral part of a history, but ONLY A PORTION, albeit a part of a history, but only a part.

1st - I understand that most of the complaints were about your caching the webpages, then only connecting to cached copy, meaning YOU control what's there. I don't understand why, if you wanted to do this, you didn't use the Newspaper engine, where you link directly to the newspaper site in a frame which cannot be removed.

2nd - I have been a member since 2003. I have seen databases added that were formerly free (and since I'm a member, am not sure if they still are - maybe a flag to show that certain databases are free, so we can pass them to our non-ancestry-subscriber friends and clients.) While I would LOVE to have a major DB that ancestry would want to buy (I don't), if I was offering it free, I would expect ancestry to do the same.

3rd - I hope that other info and pages owned by MyFamily/Generations that are free (MyFamily groups, Rootsweb, etc.) do NOT have their info plundered so they can appear on Ancestry pages as if ancestry did it all themselves. Genealogy is partly about recognizing and attributing the compiler/developer/writer. When Ancestry sources say " [online database]" first, it appears that Ancestry did the work to pull that info together, when all they did was find the way to put it into a database form for easy search. The source should give original source information and THEN something like "[online database developed by - Available (as part of xxx subscription/for free - one or the other) at]"

All that as it may, I can understand caching of genealogical information. Websites come and go, and when data appears, putting a link to it doesn't always work, since the website might disappear soon. By the same token, Ancestry does not own any information or pictures I put on my website, and if they ONLY offer their cached versions for a fee, they are stealing potential money (or making money) from MY work. Even if they strip the presentation HTML/CSS, it's still MY words and MY copyright. Attribution and copyright notice should be made, just like we do for our sources.

And THAT being said, Ancestry is one of the best subscription services around (And I'm NOT saying that to kiss their butts for what I said, above.) I trust at least 90% of the info (especially those that provide images of original sources), and am almost always interested in new dbs for my areas of research. I'm sure they could work out a search engine model, somewhat like Google's, specifically for genealogical data. But, it should be offered for free.


The bottom line is stole individual's data then tried to sell it as their own with no link to the original website.

To Ernest:

Unless Ancestry is paying for their newspaper service, which I doubt since it is wrapped/cached web pages, this will also most likely get shut down when the various newspapers get smart and figure out Ancestry is making money off their news articles. Copyright infringment.

The beauty of copyright is that it is up to the individual/corporation to police his work to make sure no one is infringing on their rights and making money off his/her works. Ancestry is pushing that boundry and only stop when they are caught/threatened. That's pretty much how it works, like it or not.

Actually this is a brilliant business model in terms of maximizing profits (more subscriptions sold) vs. small losses (individual lawsuits). Lawsuits would not hurt Ancestry as much as losing subscribers would.

- Joe

The comments to this entry are closed.