Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ancestry.com Buys Find a Grave

Find a Grave purchased by Ancestry.comYesterday Ancestry.com announced its purchase of the FindAGrave.com website. During the last 18 years users have contributed 75 million photographs of gravestones to the free website. Find A Grave will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ancestry.com, and will continue to be managed by its founder, Jim Tipton. Terms of the transaction were not released.

“We will maintain Find A Grave as a free website, will retain its existing policies and mode of operation,” said Ancestry.com CEO, Tim Sullivan. Ancestry.com plans to enhance Find A Grave by creating a new mobile app, improving customer support, and adding foreign-language support.

Find A Grave indexes have shown up recently on World Vital Records, Ancestry.com, and FamilySearch.org. I wonder if the following provision was added to the terms of service in response:

Republication or resale of any of the Content or other protected data is prohibited. Bots, crawlers, spiders, data miners, scraping and any other automatic access tool are expressly prohibited.

Feelings about Find A Grave run deep. I wrote an article once about Ancestry.com cooperating with Find A Grave volunteers, removing illegally posted photographs. The article generated more responses than almost any other article I’ve written. Most supported free sharing of photographs. Some did not want to see their photographs posted to Ancestry.com. (See “Monday Mailbox: Ancestry Removing Find A Grave Photos?”)

I recently came across a photo request on Find A Grave that had been marked with a warning: “Photo volunteers-please be aware the requester adds photos from Find a Grave to Ancestry.com.”

Almost all user reaction on Ancestry.com’s blog has said the same thing: This could be a good thing so long as Ancestry.com keeps it free.

The complete Ancestry.com press release can be read on their corporate website.


  1. There is a statement by Jim Tipton on the new Findagrave/Ancestry FAQs - http://www.findagrave.com/ancestryFAQs.html.


  2. The true owners of Find A Grave are the persons who have created the memorials on the site. They are quasi-shareholders of the site. While Tipton may have created the infrastructure and administered the site, the site would not have a lot of value without the contributions of all those volunteers, including myself. In effect, by selling Find A Grave to Ancestry Tipton has profited from the efforts of those volunteers. It seems that some significant part of the payment from Ancestry should be distributed to those volunteers, pro-rata, based on their pro-rata contributions to the site.

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  4. Many don't expect it to stay free too long. Several long-time forum people summed it up best. At best, they offer free access to parts of it, but stick the rest behind a subscription. A friend made the point Ancestry spent a lot of money to buy the site; they are making vague promises of adding stuff that will cost lots of money; and the change from a third party ad vendor to Ancestry ads will cost them a very large amount of money. One website that estimates revenues had findagrave at generating $5 to 10 million yearly in ad revenues. There's no way Ancestry's ads will generate that kind of replacement revenue. I do not see the investors willing to eat these substantial costs without some way to make money back.

    This does not include lawsuits from various large media outlets for all of the copyrighted photos people and admins have added to the site. Findagrave was small enough it was not worth it for copyright attorneys. Ancestry is large enough.

    Jerry, many people assumed it was a nonprofit. Think it was because it used volunteers.

    Anyone who read the new Terms of Service added by findagrave was not surprised by the purchase. Parts of the terms were copies of Ancestry's Terms and Conditions. The updated privacy statement included a comment about if the site was purchased or acquired by another company. There were several other clues for people who follow family search.

  5. I am so disappointed to see Ancestry.com has once again invaded free use sites. I have been interested in genealogy since the early nineties and was a member of Ancestry at one time. Got way too expensive for a part-time hobby. As an individual who has contributed not only my ancestors headstone pictures but some historical old headstones in the town I am from, I am sorely afraid that eventually I will not have access to this information. My stomach has just turned.


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