Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ancestry.com Did Not Buy HeritageQuest

HeritageQuest is now powered by Ancestry.comHeritageQuest is a genealogical website available through many local libraries which usually let you access it from home. In the state of Utah, you can access it through the Utah Pioneer Library. Connect at http://pioneer.utah.gov/research/databases/heritagequest.html using your library card number.

Yesterday I mentioned that I first heard from a reader that something was afoot with HeritageQuest and Ancestry.com. Sure enough, the footer on the HeritageQuest website now sports an Ancestry copyright.

I posed several questions about the situation to Ancestry.com’s and received the following replies from Kim Harrison, senior account executive for the Ancestry Library Team.

What happened between Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest?

Last Jun. 2014 at the American Library Association ProQuest and Ancestry announced the renewal of our contract to have ProQuest remain our license vendor in the non-consumer market.  This would be selling Ancestry Library Edition to public libraries, academic, corporate and non-profits.  With this contract renewal ProQuest will also be able to offer Fold3 (in May 2015) and Newspapers.com (coming 2015) to these markets as well.  The upside for ProQuest is that Ancestry will help to expand and update the Heritage Quest Online (now co-branded but not sold to Ancestry). 

Did ProQuest sell something to Ancestry.com?

There was no sale of anything.

Will the databases available on the old HeritageQuest website continue to be available on the new website?

The Heritage Quest Online database does have all the same components but expanded.  The census now includes every year index, plus added the non-pop and the Indian Census.  The Freedman Bank Records and the American Revolutionary Collections are now the full set, not a sub-set.  The Local History & Genealogy books now have a more robust search interface.  PERSI and the Serial Set is there on Heritage Quest Online in their current format.  So, yes all the content from the Heritage Quest Online is on the new interface, but expanded.

Some people have expressed concerns about a change in the underlying search technology. Does the new website utilize the old HeritageQuest search technology or the Ancestry.com search technology? Will HeritageQuest searches return the same results as before or can users expect changes?

The new interface is based on the Ancestry search form platform/technology.

Because the HeritageQuest census images were different scans than the Ancestry.com images, there were times when one company's scans showed more information than the other's. Is there a way to access the old HeritageQuest census images?

Because of the new Ancestry technology there is not a way to host the old census images or to access them.

Dollarhide's The Census Book, was available on the old website. Is it still available?

[Yes.] The new interface also makes the wonderful Dollarhide Census Maps easier to find. [Comment frome me: Dollarhide’s census book with its maps is an indispensible resource that sits on many serious genealogists’ bookcases. Now, to have it basically free, online, is a tremendous value. To find it, click Maps on the reddish header. The chapters can be found underneath the U.S. map.]

Harrison also proffered some links to further information.

She welcomes further questions and asks that I let you know that your public library librarians are more than happy to help you understand these changes.

However, not all librarians are welcoming the change. Tomorrow I’ll share some of their concerns.


  1. I absolutely do NOT like how Ancestry has changed HeritageQuest's wonderful column ordering. I used HeritageQuest often as it was easier to search a surname in a county for a particular census and you didn't get a bunch of garbage (other names than what you requested). I wrote HeritageQuest to ask them to have the ordering of the columns put back. It may be nice to have all the census connected with HeritageQuest now, but if they aren't any easier than the searching we must do on Ancestry, I see little advantage as many libraries also have Ancestry. I know from past experiences that Ancestry VERY SELDOM makes changes/REAL improvements, but I urge everyone to write both HeritageQuest and Ancestry repeatedly about losing this great tool. If it is not broke; don't mess with it!

    1. Yes if not broken DON't fix it.

    2. I, too, appreciated the fact that the old Heritage Quest provided different images and a different search engine than Ancestry had. Still, I rarely ever needed to use Heritage Quest, preferring to use Ancestry.com to search all US census records and not just the subset available on Heritage Quest.

      I can do a search using the Ancestry or the new Heritage Quest/Ancestry search engine and obtain results for just the name I requested. I don't get a bunch of garbage (other names than what I requested). If anyone is having problems doing this, please let me know. I'd be happy to walk you through the process.

      I think one of the biggest advantages to the new Heritage Quest/Ancestry collaboration is that now all the US census images are available to me for free, from home, through my local library. I don't need my own Ancestry.com subscription and I don't need to go to the library itself to access them (in my local library, free access to Ancestry.com is available only on-site at the library).

      What's more, after access to Newspapers.com and Fold3.com is made available through Heritage Quest later this year, I won't need my own subscription to those databases. I will be able to access them from home, for free, through the Heritage Quest database, thanks to my local library.

      For those who cannot afford paid subscriptions to genealogical databases, the new Heritage Quest/Ancestry collaboration provides access to a huge amount of information they never had before, and it provides it to them from the comfort of their homes.

    3. Steve how do I get on the free site you mention? I loved that Heritage Quest was accessible at home using my drivers license # , I haven't found free access to Ancestry except a trial thing. I love the library, but can't drive that far every time I want to check the census.

  2. Barely 6 months ago I predicted that within 3 years ancestry would own everything. I am going to rethink that. Make it 2 years.

    I live in a very rural area. I searched for a library that had proquest and found one just under 100 miles away. I have to go there to get a library card. I doubt I will. It would be very helpful to have access but at too great a cost for me. A library 28 miles from me has the library edition of ancestry. Again, not convenient to spend the day there and less convenient to make several trips on different days.

    1. To T: if the library/patron relationship remains the same (BIG if) once you get your card, Heritage quest should be available to you at home. You need the card for access, but HeritageQuest currently shows up on you personal computer. I HOPE that this will continue. Even living in the same city, being able to access HeritageQuest at home has been one of the great advantages to HeritageQuest.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. HQ was so good for finding census records that you could not find in Ancestry and now they screwed up a good thing

  4. Though the source information description was changed, everyone should take note that HeritageQuest's digitized images of the U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, ARE NOT of THE COMPLETE FILE Microfilming.

    It is STILL digitized images of the SELECTED File microfilming -- meaning only selected pages of each file were microfilmed. You can tell this because the first page after the file cover (looks like an index card) is an inserted page with Selected printed on it. Maybe they put the wagon before the horse but nothing was changed with this collection because the online search index is still only of the soldier/pensioners who have a file and not an every name index.

    For the digitized images of the complete file filming and an every name index, continue to use the collection at Fold3. Many libraries have a Fold3 subscription but usually you have to be in the library to use it.

    Gone Researching

  5. Thanks for posting this information. I just ran across a terrible census image on Ancestry and headed over to HQ to see if their image was better. First, I was surprised at the new design, but thought, okay, certainly more modern, I can live with that. But then while doing the search for the specific census image, I could see something was up, looking eerily like Ancestry...lo and behold, I go to the image and Ancestry's branding is all over it and it is the exact same image in Ancestry's viewer. I immediately did a Google search to see what was up, so again, thanks for posting. HQ was my go-to for better images...disappointed that I no longer have a backup, aside from film, that is.

    1. Totally agree with Genealem & Julie Tarr! I went to HQ for a different view of census pages, transcriber differences and the column ordering by counties within a state (for surname searches). Bring back the old version.

    2. Ancestry takes freely given information and then charge others (and yourself if you don't resubscribe) to see it. When they say free search, that is all you get a search no actually seeing it. Put in a name and city/county/state and you get garbage from every state and half the time not the right name. And for this junk you pay through the nose.

  6. I too am not happy about Ancestry's supposedly helpful changes to Heritage Quest. I managed to find all the census images at HQ that could not be found at Ancestry because of their different search engine and because they made it so easy to just
    browse through the images and misspelled last names could be identified easily. And yes, it was helpful on a couple of occasions that their census images were
    clearer than the Ancestry one. And the search engine is now too broad, my complaint about Ancestry's search engine.