Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mocavo’s Free Forever Promise No Longer

Mocavo has now moved to Findmypast.On 10 October 2013 Mocavo founder Cliff Shaw announced that his website would remain free forever.

When Mocavo brings content online, it becomes free forever. Let me be clear – I didn’t just say free for now, I said free forever.

How can I trust that content on Mocavo will be free forever?

We are committed to free genealogy unlike any other company – it’s part of our history. When I founded GenForum in 1997, I said the site would be free forever. To this day, it’s still free. Everything else I’ve done in the industry is now free (GenCircles, Family Tree Legends, BackupMyTree).1

Less than a year later, Cliff announced the Findmypast acquisition of Mocavo, reiterating the “free forever” promise:

Today is an exciting day for genealogists everywhere as we’re announcing that Mocavo has been acquired by Findmypast/DC Thomson Family History. This is a groundbreaking development for the industry and a major turning point in Mocavo’s quest to bring all the world’s historical information online for free. The wonderful folks at DC Thomson Family History share our vision of the future of family history, and we couldn’t be more excited to join them. …

In October of last year, we decided to do something audacious and bold – something never before tried in the industry. We launched our Free Forever revolution and this became the day when Mocavo’s soul was born. Everything turned around once we put a stake in the ground and stood for free genealogy (and now Mocavo is growing rapidly, putting more than 1,000 free databases online every single day and more users discovering us than ever). We have our loyal and supportive users to thank more than anyone!

One of the immediate benefits of the acquisition is that we’re putting the complete US Census index online for free (forever!), making us the first commercial provider in history to ever do this. Search the United States Federal Census Now.

The next few months are going to be incredibly exciting as we bring together two companies with enormous resources, content, and technology to bring you more of what you love. Nothing on either site will be going away – just getting better (and quickly!).2

He also wrote,

[Findmypast and Mocavo] both remain committed to delivering on Mocavo’s promise to provide free access to family history records on an individual database level forever. Toward that commitment, Findmypast is announcing today that the full indexes to the US Census from 1790 to 1940 are available for free at

For some time the two websites continued to operate separately and Mocavo continued to be free. Earlier this year the Mocavo blog announced,

We wanted you to be the first to know that in the coming months Mocavo will be coming together with its sister site, Findmypast. This will create a single experience for our US customers in a move that aims to deliver a more focused, efficient and comprehensive service to US family historians.…We are now in the process of moving all Mocavo site content to Findmypast so you’ll soon be able to enjoy everything currently available on Mocavo and more. As part of our ‘Free Forever’ promise, Mocavo subscribers will continue to enjoy free access to all of the same records that were previously published for free on Mocavo.4

It appeared the forever-free promise would apply just to those who had subscribed.

On 29 March 2016 Mocavo sent me an email announcing that the move had taken place. Visitors to the website are now automatically forwarded to I tried to see if the US census is available there for free for everyone, as it was on Mocavo. I was not able to tell for certain one way or the other, but it appears it is no longer available for free to just anyone. I’ve asked Findmypast for clarification. Unfortunately, the business hours of the Ancestry Insider run from 7:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday. So even though you will be reading this on Wednesday, I don’t expect to receive a reply until it’s too late. Next week I’ll let you know what I learn.

I share this article as a reminder to everyone. Whether free or not, always store a local copy of any online source you cite. You never know when your access to that source will go away. And never consider a naked URL to be a citation. In fact, a citation to an online source is never complete until you include enough information to find the source of the source.


     1. Cliff Shaw, “Mocavo Introduces Free Forever – Join us in the revolution!” Mocavo Genealogy Blog ( : 10 October 2013); archived at WayBack Machine ( : accessed 2 April 2016). Emphasis in the original.
     2. Cliff Shaw, “A New Chapter for Mocavo,” Mocavo Genealogy Blog ( : 23 June 2014); archived at WayBack Machine ( : accessed 2 April 2016).
     3. Cliff Shaw, “Mocavo Acquired By Findmypast: A New Chapter Begins,” Mocavo Genealogy Blog ( : 23 June 2014); archived at WayBack Machine ( : accessed 2 April 2016).
     4. “Mocavo and Findmypast are coming together,” Mocavo Genealogy Blog ( : 18 Jan 2016); archived at WayBack Machine ( : accessed 2 April 2016).


  1. This is a little technical for me. How does one store a local copy of an online source? I'm not even sure what his means.

    1. It means getting a screen shot of the document; downloading it from Mocavo to your computer and saving it; capturing the document on OneNote or EverNote with their screen snipping tool.

      Google anyone of these for further description explanation. You can also search for them in YouTube for how to tutorials.

    2. Barbara... They are making it difficult to understand. Just get "Lightshot". Take a screen shot, pick a folder on your computer, and call it done. You have it on your computer.

  2. So, you're causing "panic" before you know the answer?

    I understand wanting to keep your readers informed. But, I do think causing undue and premature anxiety before knowing the facts was unnecessary.

  3. Excellent points. Readers can use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine ( to save web pages. For sites that don't allow this, use

    I just checked Cliff Shaw's other "free forever" websites. Here's what happened to them:

    GenCircles: Bought by MyHeritage. Now users must upgrade to premium accounts for trees with more than 250 people.
    Family Tree Legends: Bought by MyHeritage. I don't know if MyHeritage included any of this software into their Family Tree Builder application, but the basic version is still free.
    BackupMyTree: Bought by MyHeritage. As far as I can tell, it's still free.

    In any case, when companies are bought by other companies, there's no guarantee that their terms of service will go with them. and their lifetime professional accounts are a perfect example. When MyHeritage bought Geni, the lifetime subscriptions were replaced with 5-year subscriptions.

    So it's definitely a good idea to save web pages, images, files, etc., to media that you control (your computer hard drive, spare hard drives, DVDs).

  4. I use Evernote and/or Greenshot to save images and data from the internet. Evernote is a fantastic way to save the whole webpage or just the "article" and you can tag it. Greenshot lets you choose what part of the onscreen image you want as a PNG file which you can edit as a photo later. It is perfect for the Ancestry "Index" data where you can capture the data, the URL, and what calls the source citation, road though it may be.

  5. Bethany Children's Home was a feature of Mocavo Community grant (one and only) contract features "forever free" but cannot link now. I contacted FMP and was told that Mocavo was to have informed us how to do so but no memory of getting such. FMP also says that not all of Mocavo's file and records have been integrated but couldn't give a specific timeline for accomplishing. THEY FURTHER STATED THAT ALL MOCAVO FILES THAT WERE IN FOREVER FREE WILL REMAIN THAT WAY. I guess only time will tell. Meanwhile I think I'll unsubscribe! Carl

  6. using historical credit card information from Mocavo to create new subscriptions.
    I was a paid subscriber to Mocavo for a while, and I cancelled my subscription Feb 11, 2016 and have a confirming email.
    When Mocavo transferred to Findmypast in March, I got an email to change my password, which I did. I did not sign any terms and conditions, I just changed my password and that was that.
    Today I saw an authorization on my credit card from, with whom I have never had a financial arrangement. I never gave them a credit card number, I never subscribed to any plan.
    It is really underhanded to use credit card information from a company you bought and a CANCELLED subscription to make new charges. How stupid do they think genealogists are? you just lost my confidence forever.


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