Genealogy is big business

By Daniel Cossins, 7 August 2009 - 3:47pm

A few recent news items have shown that family history has become a very competitive business in the last few years. Apparently genealogy is now an industry that is taken notice of in the financial papers – and it seems to me the big players are getting ready to square up to each other.

Of perhaps greatest interest to British family historians is the news that D C M Thomson the publishing giant behind Brightsolid/Findmypast.com, a popular family history website, has purchased the Friends Reunited Group with the express purpose of acquiring one of its components Genes Reunited.

The acquisition creates what Brightsolid suggests will be Britain’s leading genealogy business by bringing together Genes Reunited and Findmypast (these companies operate the official 1901 and 1911 Census websites respectively in association with The National Archives) and ScotlandsPeople in partnership with General Register Office for Scotland, the National Archives of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon.

The Society of Genealogists has been told that “there are no immediate plans to merge findmypast and Genes and the company believes they offer complementary services, but [Brightsolid] will be reviewing the strengths of the brands and the best way to maximise the benefits of the group synergies”.

This does seem to mean that, for the short term at least, we will still have the benefit of using competing versions of census indexes and if you can’t find who you want on one version of the 1901 census it will still be worthwhile looking at others; even if two of them are ultimately owned by the same company.

I wonder how long this will continue? Read the official press release from Bright Solid here.

At roughly the same time, the financial press on the other side of the pond are reporting the news that Ancestry.com has filed a preliminary registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in preparation for going public on the USA Stock Market. Ancestry hopes to raise $75million on the US Stock Market to add to its considerable war chest. The company spends millions of dollars on marketing and clearly wants to do more. 

I guess this means that Ancestry will be the position to pay for the licensed images of the 1911 census when they become available and its own index. Possibly we will have more indexes to 1911 than at present. An analysis of Ancestry’s registration statement and some of the information it reveals about this genealogy behemoth can be found on the Society of Genealogists website.

Both findmypast and Ancestry are available free in the Society’s library so users can judge for themselves which is more helpful for them and which is worth subscribing to. One thing I have noticed is that few of my students can afford to subscribe to both and it will be interesting to see how this battle of the giants pans out in credit crunch times and how much it will cost the family historian.

Else Churchill, Society of Genealogists

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