Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Mailbox: Free Remains Free

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

I am very upset about the changes in! Now I will not have access to the same level of free information I had in the past. I am on a disability pension and cannot afford to pay

dale *

Dear dale,

You will have the same free access to the same level of free information that you did before. In response to the FindMyPast announcement, Paul Nauta, FamilySearch spokesperson said, “In general, all of the new records from FamilySearch that will be accessible from within will continue to be available online at…Records that are indexed by FamilySearch volunteers will continue to be available for free to all visitors of” (Okay, I worry a tiny bit about the “in general” phrase.)

In response to the MyHeritage announcement, he said, “All of the new records from FamilySearch that will be accessible from within MyHeritage products will continue to be available online at”

Contrary to having records removed from, I seem to recall a couple of the press releases said that the companies would engage in joint projects to acquire, digitize, and publish additional records. Hopefully none of these new acquisitions will include those obnoxious arrangements where you get the index for free on but have to go to a partner site and pay to see the images. I suppose I shouldn’t complain about that; even a new, free, index is cheaper than a plane ticket to the archive. Still, I hope that doesn’t happen.

I’m aware of records that have been removed from for other reasons, such as the recent removal of images of Cook County vitals. (See this article in the FamilySearch wiki for more information.) That happens because of changing laws, rules, policies, and agreements with archives.

We don’t lose anything already free in these agreements and we get additional free stuff. That’s sweet.

The Ancestry Insider


  1. Tell us what advantage this merger brings to the typical family researcher!

  2. "Tell us what advantage this merger brings to the typical family researcher!"
    1. What merger would that be? "Merger" means there will only be one company or one site for both companies. I can find no source to indicate that is happening.

    2. As a "typical family researcher" into the English county of Cheshire, I can tell you what advantage an earlier arrangement (possibly indirectly) between FS and FMP brings. The Cheshire Parish Registers were indexed by FS volunteers (as far as I understand it) and the indexes are on FS ("England, Cheshire Parish Registers, 1538-2000"). The images are only a/v on FMP (they may or may not be a/v in FH Centers - I have no means of knowing that). However, the FS software for interrogating its indexes is hugely better than FMP's (e.g. baptisms on FMP can't be selected by parents!), so the FMP researcher benefits by having better indexes on FS. The FS researcher benefits by having access to those indexes. Forget any idea that FS could have had the images for themselves, for free. As a Cheshire tax-payer, I want my local government to make the best use possible of its assets.

    3. I am speculating on this but - how long do you honestly think FS is going to be able keep digitising records at its current rate? Not very long, I suggest, unless something happens. Obviously the indexes come from volunteers. But what about the hardware? The air-conditioning? The power? The comms networks? Last time I looked, America tended to charge for those things. My suspicion is that cash or equivalents will be changing hands behind the scenes (wasn't improved search software an advantage of an earlier agreement?) That's how Google makes its money - Google is free to you but advertisers pay Google. And in their case, Google drops products if they can't create enough money behind the scenes. The danger is, unless FS creates an income stream (that could be cash or other resources) then we *will* see the less popular collections going off-air.

    Cathleen, I'm afraid that no commercial company is going to let FS show images for free online if that company is currently selling access to those images! But I can easily see the index appearing on FS, (but directing you to the pay-site). That way you can make one enquiry (in FS) and get back information about the existence of a record that you might not otherwise have known about. The commercial company benefits because it will get more paying custom.


  3. All we would need is enough information to know whether our John Smith is the same John Smith they are returning in search results. I have NO confidence in that. I've been fooled too many times. My ancestors didn't make the news after the Mayflower's first year.


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