Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tech Tuesday: Find A Grave Acquired by Ancestry.com

In a press release dated September 30, 2013, Ancestry.com, the mega fee-subscription genealogy site, announced that it has acquired the free, contributor-based burial index site Find A Grave.

I have to admit that my first reaction was, "Oh no, there goes another one."  Over the years, the Ancestry corporate powerhouse has built its service and beefed up its fee-only content by "acquiring" smaller sites in the genealogy/family history industry.  I do recognize the advantages to having Ancestry's convenient collection of genealogical information at one's cyber fingertips (and yes, I am a subscriber), but it is still extremely sad and disappointing to see smaller, volunteer-based websites being assimilated.

So -- what does Ancestry's acquisition of Find A Grave really mean?  One can only speculate, but in yesterday's Press Release, Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan stated,

     "Find A Grave is an amazing phenomenon supported by a passionate and engaged community of volunteers around the world ... We at Ancestry.com are so excited...honored really...to take on the responsibility of supporting this community. We will maintain Find A Grave as a free website, will retain its existing policies and mode of operation, and look forward to working with Jim Tipton and the entire Find A Grave team to accelerate the development of tools designed to make it even easier for the Find A Grave community to fulfill its original mission to capture every tombstone on Earth." 

Find A Grave founder, Jim Tipton, states on the site's FAQ:

     "Ancestry approached me a few months ago about working together and I was impressed with the creative, bright people they have that were really excited about the thought of being involved with Find A Grave. We have come up with an arrangement where Find A Grave will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ancestry, but we will continue to operate in the same way we always have. I'm going to keep running the site and all of the familiar admins that many of you have come to know over the years will still be here. But, I'll be armed with a full Find A Grave team that should allow us to push out improvements in a much at a much faster pace. Customer support should improve drastically, too."

Tipton and Ancestry both explain that they have exciting plans for the future of Find A Grave, including a much-longed-for mobile app that can be used on site by volunteers to record burial information.  Also, consider that the two sites have had a licensing agreement in place for over a year, with Find A Grave memorials appearing on Ancestry index searches, including active links to the memorials.

I suspect that the greatest concern generated by the announcement in the minds of Find A Grave volunteers/contributors such as myself is, "Will Find A Grave remain a free resource?"  Both Tipton and Ancestry have made multiple assurances that Find A Grave will continue to be a free resource and that "Find A Grave plans to continue its focus on honoring user's privacy and protecting their user generated content."  While I hope that both sites will honor this commitment and continue Find A Grave's free-access policy, ultimately only time will tell.

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