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Your Opinion on the Ancestry – Footnote Merger?

opinion Ancestry Footnote merger

So the news of Inc.’s proposed acquisition of iArchives, Inc., parent of, is about 10 hours old.  What are your thoughts on the merger and what it means not just for the genealogy industry but for you as a genealogist – whether you are a hobbyist or professional?

  • Does this reduce the competition in the area of digitized content available for genealogy and family history research?
  • Is Ancestry acquiring Footnote mostly for the already digitized content? Its subscribers? Its technology used to digitize content?
  • What Footnote features do you like? Do you think Ancestry will incorporate them into its own site?

Let us know your thoughts in the Comments or link back to a post at your own genealogy blog.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

20 thoughts on “Your Opinion on the Ancestry – Footnote Merger?

  1. I subscribe to both and (as well as sites such as GenealogyBank and It’s become quite clear that Ancestry has taken the lead in subscription sites. The announcement really isn’t much of a surprise since many of the members of the Footnote team formerly worked at (according to one of them who spoke at the Family History Expo in Kansas City in July).

    Personally, I welcome the added content to Ancestry. The content at Footnote is superb; it’s just a very difficult site to search and navigate, imho. I see it as a good move.

    What’s been in the back of my mind for several months is whether or not Ancestry will make the move to acquire FindAGrave as well. Seems to be that’s just a matter of time.

  2. I agree with you Susan that while Footnote’s content tends to be superior from a digitization clarity standpoint and the documents are some that can’t be found elsewhere, searching on Footnote was always a challenge.

    As for Find-A-Grave, I’m not certain I agree. F-A-G. relies upon user submissions with no verification guidelines. While Ancestry does have similar operations such as family trees, etc., to catalog the F-A-G. listings in an index and a database similar to census records would be a stretch.

  3. I think it is a good move. Ancestry is the powerhouse with the dollars and maybe they are a monopoly. I can live with that. Their subscription prices in my opinion are still affordable and I have benefited from the content beyond my wildest imagination. I also have a membership with Footnote, and while it has its good points, the search feature drives me crazy and I find that I avoid the website. I have been watching their adding the Widow’s pensions for months now and they are only at 2% right now. Maybe with the merger they will be able to load these records quicker. My opinion only…

  4. I posted my opinions in so won’t detail them here.

    A distinction to be made: the company acquired iArchives, Inc., the company which includes They said that collections would be separate from collections, similar to the and collections that are separate from collections. So it’s not a “merger” but an “acquisition” and Footnote will be a wholly owned subsidiary.

    That doesn’t mean that they won’t link to each other – that would be smart to do!

  5. Well, I’ve been planting bushes today and just saw this. Big news.

    Let me remind everyone that has been considered a top acquisition target among all American companies for some time, so for them to take action and position themselves as a leader rather than a company waiting to be absorbed by another is a good thing. Still I don’t know if this move, or anything they can do, really makes them less inviting a target for a larger, generalized non-genealogy-oriented company. Maybe they could partner with Google to provide their search capabilities (which I generally loathe) and insulate themselves from other, less benign choices?

    That aside, I like this acquisiton. I would like to see them expand their digitization of previously microfilmed or microfiched content, so the prospect of improved technology acquisition in that area is promising. How the company manages its brands is not clear to me, but certainly at some point some consolidation needs to happen. (For example, why on earth does still exist in its old form? It’s an embarrassment.) proved they are serious about expanding with high-quality content when they acquired With the LDS Church’s recent massive expansion in the area of providing original records online for free, is going to have to continue to provide significant value-add to stay viable, and this move underlines their intention and ability to do that.

    Now they need to consolidate and reorganize some of their brands. Failure to assimilate their redundant brands will make them a more inviting target for a bigger fish with no qualms about doing so.

  6. I really hope they don’t buy out Find A Grave. I enjoy being a contributor there and I would really hate to pay a site to be a member when I am giving them stuff for free. 🙁

  7. I agree with Susan that Ancestry is far in the lead in terms of paid content providers. The Footnote search interface is practically a how-to for things NOT to do, so I’m hoping that Ancestry applies some of their usability studies if they do keep it as a stand-alone site.

    But it does give one pause to see this kind of consolidation. I’m assuming that Ancestry’s merger appetite is up ever since they went public and have stockholders to keep happy.

  8. Regarding Find-A-Grave, I think they could purchase it and leave it as it is, just like It was and still is free, but was bought by, as was Family Tree Maker, and I’m sure there are others. I believe Ancestry wants everything!

  9. Were all these comments written by’s public relations department? has bought-out almost every major online competitor providing genealogical resources in order to create a monopoly. Information which was once free, is now only available for a hefty fee. Much of the information now offered exclusively at was acquired through the hard work of volunteer researchers and individuals researching their own families, and also from public archives sold by the state and federal government; and now it’s proprietary? Anyone adding content to any of the owned sites is a fool. They are providing free content which others, including themselves, will have to pay to access. A brilliant business model, but one by which I will not allow myself to be exploited. The visitor-provided information on is already becoming dated and of a very poor quality as many people no longer participate in the genealogical message board communities or build genealogical charts on it’s sites. Rootsweb and now Footnote? What will acquire next?: The Library of Congress? Monopolies are never good for society or Consumers.

  10. Ancestry and Footnote are both sites I wish I had but don’t have money for.
    Let’s stop rumors of Findagrave being eaten by any paysite by quoting the FAQs:
    “Does Find A Grave sell the data or photos I add to other websites?
    No. We are categorically opposed to this type of behavior. [Top]

    Does Find A Grave share the data or photos I add with other websites?
    In an attempt to make Find A Grave data as visible and searchable as possible, we have partnered with FamilyLink and World Vital Records to get Find A Grave search results to show up when visitors to those sites perform a search. We think it is important that Find A Grave searching remains free and have required that Find A Grave search results always be available on the ‘free side’ of those sites. Find A Grave receives no compensation from these partnerships. [Top]”

  11. Time will tell if this is a good thing. I subscribe to Footnote because it’s affordable and Ancestry is not (for me).

    It’s definitely good for Ancestry so they can expand. Footnote had a deal with the Allen County Public Library to digitize their genealogy collection and it’s one of the largest in the country.

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