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OPLIN 4cast #443: The business of family histories

Posted in 4cast

family portraitAncestry Library Edition, which has been part of the Ohio Web Library since July 2011, is one of the most popular statewide library databases, generating over 3 million public library user searches a year (and another 1.3 million from school and college libraries), despite the fact that it is the only Ohio Web Library resource that requires people to go to their library to use it. This on-site requirement stems from’s business agreement with ProQuest – the Ancestry Library Edition vendor – which did not allow at-home access under any circumstances; that would have reduced’s sales to individuals. Recent news about a possible sale of is a good excuse for us to take a look at the history of the company and this business of selling online genealogy information.

  • About me (Paul Allen blog)  “My biggest claim to fame comes from co-founding in 1997 (again with Dan Taggart) and launching the web site in 1998. I was the company CEO for the first year, where we actually achieved positive cash flow as an internet subscription company before raising outside capital. Then we hired my brother Curt Allen, who led the company as we raised $90.5 million in venture capital. We tried to go public in 2000 but missed the window.”
  • Permira to buy for $1.6 billion [October 2012] (New York Times | Mark Scott)  “The agreement comes three years after raised $100 million in an initial public offering. The site, which allows individuals to trace their heritage, has customers in 15 countries, though the majority of its users are based in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. The deal will be a welcome reprieve for the site, which has struggled since becoming a publicly listed company. After hitting a $45 high in 2011, its stock price has tumbled to around $29 on concerns that consumers are reducing their spending because of the economic crisis.”
  • Exclusive: Genealogy website explores sale: sources (Reuters | Liana B. Baker And Greg Roumeliotis)  “Permira Advisers LLC, the buyout firm that owns most of privately held Ancestry, has hired investment banks to run an auction for the company, the people said this week. The sources asked not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. Permira declined to comment, while an Ancestry spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. Based in Provo, Utah, Ancestry has a database of more than 15 billion historical records and more than 2.1 million paying subscribers. Subscription fees accounted for 83 percent of its total revenue of $619.6 million last year.”
  • HeritageQuest Online now provides data from Ancestry (Eastman’s Own Genealogy Newsletter | Dick Eastman)  “HeritageQuest Online (a division of ProQuest) has supplied genealogy information to libraries for years. […] HeritageQuest Online has now announced that the genealogy information within its service is being replaced with information from Indeed, I logged onto my local public library’s web site this morning, went to the HeritageQuest Online database, and performed a search for an elusive great-great-grandfather of mine. When a census page appeared on the screen it looked clearer than what I have seen before and it also had an Ancestry logo in the upper-left corner.”

Articles from Ohio Web Library: