Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ancestry.com Releases “Expert Connect”

Ancestry.com adds Expert Connect service I must admit to being so busy keeping up with the news of FamilySearch’s New FamilySearch, that I’ve neglected taking time out to learn about a new service from Ancestry.com. However, Expert Connect is too important a development to let the announcement go by without mentioning it. I realize some of you subscribe mainly for Ancestry.com news while others mainly for FamilySearch news. I think it’s important that you also learn something about the other vendor.

In stark contrast to FamilySearch’s free genealogy and culture of volunteerism stands Ancestry.com, whom Family Tree Magazine places in a class all by itself. From all indications, Ancestry.com emerged from the dark days of the dot-com drop to become hugely successful. Early Ancestry.com investors were always caught between fearing that Google would discover how much money there was to be made and hoping that Google would discover what a desirable acquisition they could be. Ancestry.com’s huge material success has made them the company to hate and they have become the lightning rod for those that despise commercializing genealogical information.

But besides Ancestry.com there are many, many people and organizations that are making money from genealogy. Or at least trying to make money. Some are just trying to pay for their genealogical “habit”… er… “hobby.” I meant to say, “hobby.” Some have found a nice income stream doing heir research for law firms. But by and at large, professional genealogists are a hard-working group that sometimes requires supplemental income because genealogy can be a tough way to make a living.

And so, professional genealogists have had various reactions to news that Ancestry.com was adding a service designed to connect potential clients to professional genealogists—for a cut. It’s like eBay and auctions. On one hand, eBay has increased the amount of money being made in the auction market. On the other hand, prices of some items (such as semi-rare books) have been driven to record lows.

Think of dividing up a pie among professional genealogists. The size of the pie will get much larger. But the number of vendors dividing up the pie gets larger. It’s not clear whether the end result will be bigger or smaller pieces for each professional. For more reactions from professionals, see Randy Seaver’s, “Expert Connect Service from Ancestry.com.”

For consumers, the same issues faced on eBay are present here as well. Is the provider honest? Competent? Dependable?

Expert Connect is organized around five services (quoting the Ancestry.com website):

  • Record Pickup: Save yourself a cross-country trip. Hire a researcher in another state to visit a specific archive, collect the record you need and mail it to you. Learn more at Ancestry.com.
  • Local Photo: Get a picture of your grandmother's headstone without leaving your living room. Pay a researcher who lives near her old hometown to snap the photo for you. Learn more at Ancestry.com.
  • Ask an Expert: Pose a research question to a panel of experts, but only pay for the most useful answer. Then proceed with your research on your own. Learn more at Ancestry.com.
  • Record Lookup: Hire a professional to verify a hunch you have about an ancestor. Rely on an expert to identify the document you need and track it down for you. Learn more at Ancestry.com.
  • Custom Research: Outsource an entire section of your family tree, or recruit a seasoned genealogist for a project that's beyond your experience or time availability. Learn more at Ancestry.com.

I checked to see how many people have already signed up to provide record lookups at the Family History Library and found 15. I imagine that number will be ten-times that amount in a year.

Competition

Expert Connect is not the only attempt to create a marketplace to bring professional genealogists and clients together, although none of the existing services have the megatraffic muscle to offer professionals that Ancestry.com can. Other competitors are

And finally, FamilySearch is exploring use of the FamilySearch Wiki as a means allowing professional genealogists to advertise their services for free. I doubt this is a competitive move in answer to Ancestry.com’s offering. Instead, I think it is the result of one of two causes.

1. There may have been inappropriate attempts to advertise services on the wiki. FamilySearch warns,

Don't add an entry to a page like Ohio Vital Records that says "Joe Genius is a professional genealogist who does fee-based vital records lookups in Ohio vital records. Click here to go to his user page and see his services and fee schedule."

The professional genealogists project on FamilySearch Wiki may be a response to such actions.

2. Alternately, FamilySearch may see professionals as potential wiki contributors with a vested interest. When someone contributes to the Wiki, there contribution is logged on the history page. The contribution is tagged with the contributor’s username and a link to the contributor’s user page. That’s right, each contributor is allocated their own page on the wiki which can be edited like any other page. FamilySearch invites professions to

  • “Post your education, credentials, experience, and professional associations on your user page.
  • “Attach sub-pages to your user page which include featured services, examples of client reports, and customer testimonials.”

When users find Wiki articles containing know-how that they’d like to tap into, they can see who contributed the information and can check to see if they offer professional services.

FamilySearch wins. FamilySearch Wiki users win. And the professional wins.

For additional information about Ancestry.com Expert Connect, see

3 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for the acknowledgement of our service Genealogy Freelancers. You’re right that we aren’t a mega-corporation. We’re just a small team of professional genealogists who came up with the concept, because we thought it was a great alternative for the genealogy specialist to choose projects of interest and for the seeker to have choice between specialists that they feel are best suited to their case. Our motives are based on the respect of our profession and we have taken great care to listen intently to our members since they are the ones whose needs should be and are addressed. They have been extremely helpful in shaping our system since we launched last year. We couldn’t appreciate them more. Our rates are much more in keeping with fairness to both the client and the specialist. The specialist can’t always absorb an exorbitant fee and therefore; it might be passed to the client. Our fees are much lower and so there’s no need to pass it off. To advertise on your own for work you may or may not get far exceeds the commission we apply for a project that the specialist is definitely chosen for. For the client to spend time researching for the researcher is frustrating and our pool of international specialists is one solution to this problem. Our specialists are from all walks of this planet. To choose a specialist from Romania, Poland, France, New Jersey, etc. for your family history that leads to these places is achieved quite easily with our service and it helps to keep costs down when no travel is involved. Whether the locations have been filmed by the LDS or not also plays a big part in who will make offers on the projects posted. Since our bids are kept private there’s no possibility of out-bidding your peers and we have seen that the client is much more interested in the details of the offer rather than the cost. They ask very informed questions and want very much to have a relationship to the chosen specialist. We have found that the seeker is an intelligent, mindful individual who takes all aspects into consideration when choosing their partner in this important venture.

    No, we aren’t big dollar muscle, but we believe in our idea and we ask that others do as you have done and give to us the courtesy of consideration for our concept and for how we have tried and will continue to try with the help of our supporters to bring quality and respect to our service. Again thank you for the mention. We sincerely appreciate the kindness.

    Deborah Irwin
    Genealogyfreelancers.com
    info@genealogyfreelancers.com

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  2. Expert Connect tab link was removed from Ancestry.com pages yesterday. That was fast.

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  3. With Ancestry shutting down the Expert Connect Service, we experts are having to go else where. I just wanted to let you know other alternatives. You can view the Association of Professional Genealogist Directory to find someone outside a 3rd party entity or you can go through a company that supplies a similar service as this one. Genealogy Freelancers.

    Association of Professional Genealogist Directory
    http://www.apgen.org/directory/search_detail.html?mbr_id=4562


    Genealogy Freelancers
    http://www.genealogyfreelancers.com/index.php?aff_id=1889

    ReplyDelete