Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ancestry Sold and Family Tree Emerges

I’m in Salt Lake City for a week of research; but my attention has been hijacked by events in the larger genealogical world:

  1. First my wife texted me and then Dick Eastman, elaborated, in a special edition of his newsletter (EOGN), yesterday morning that Ancestry.com had been sold for 1.6 Billion dollars. 
  2. Yesterday afternoon the listserv of the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG) erupted with a discussion of the efforts of FamilySearch to offer a new generation of online family trees.  
  3. This morning, while I was sitting in the Family History Library organizing my research priorities for the day, the PA system announced a class Family Tree (FT) 
With all the concerns from the ISOGG list posts still fresh in my mind, I decided to attend the session.

To say that I walked into the room a skeptic would be an understatement. I have long resisted the entreaties of Ancestry and others to me to share my family trees online. I wasn’t against sharing; but I was not interested in giving up all control of my intellectual property so that a for-profit company could benefit. I also was not eager for others to “improve” on my efforts without giving me giving me credit and/or adding totally undocumented persons, facts or events. I shared freely from behind password protection where those who viewed my work could be screened and advised of copyright courtesies. That generally worked to my satisfaction.

Within the last month I allowed my concerns to erode and began to post several generations of my direct line ancestors within the DNA matching portion of Ancestry. I did this to facilitate matches with distant cousins who appeared to share segments of my DNA. Ancestry makes it so seductively easy to graft branches onto one’s tree trunk. However, my concerns about quality control of the information only intensified.

Is it a good thing for genealogists that Ancestry is being taken private? Of course, only time will tell. As one who has a small investment in company stock, I stand to make a decent return on my investment. Yet I wonder if my potential future earnings have been short changed. According to Business Wire several legal firms are sniffing around for potential class action suits by shareholders. In that article it is stated that these firms are investigating:
whether the Board of Directors of Ancestry.com breached their fiduciary duties to stockholders by failing to adequately shop the Company before agreeing to enter into the proposed transaction, and whether the Company has disclosed all material information to shareholders about the transaction. The Company has seen substantial recent growth. Its share price has skyrocketed from $20.95 on March 22, 2012 to $33.23 on August 3, 2012. Further, at least one analyst has set a target price for the Company’s stock at $45.00.
This is probably par for the course for any purchase of this magnitude. It is also of little interest to most subscribers of Ancestry. Their legitimate concerns are what will happen to the product.

Speaking of product and my introduction to Family Tree (FT), I was very favorably impressed after my two and a half hour guided test drive. Although all the program functionality is not yet available, my exposure to it this morning left me eager to use it. Those of us who are not LDS members may have a few months to wait. Some of us have endured broken promises about when the rest of us would get access to the New FamilySearch. However, what I was introduced to in the computer lab this morning left me very eager to learn more. I will attend an advanced session on Thursday. In the meantime I will investigate whether I can log in and explore the program outside the controlled environment of the lab. We were told the program was moving from “beta” to “pilot”. I guess that is progress.

The concept of one correct record per person is very exciting. So is the emphasis on documenting and managing sources. However, the Wikipedia like ability to monitor any changes by made by others either to individuals and sources was key to winning me over. FamilySearch readily acknowledges it lost credibility with the sloppy data incorporated into the New FamilySearch (nFS). They seem committed to give users of FT the tools necessary to edit and clean up this messy data.

Now I’d like all this to settle down so that I can get back to researching my ancestors!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Dave. I'm encouraged by your initial impression of the new familysearch. However, if you have a chance on Thursday, I would be very pleased if you could ask them how a user with "proven" data can make that data rise to the top. I'm finding that mine is suppressed in favor of wrong data found in many trees. I cannot edit it because I did not submit the wrong data. I submitted the correct data that is being buried in garbage.