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.
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