This last week Ancestry.com announced a new agreement with FamilySearch to publish a billion new records over the next few years. The agreement and relationship between FamilySearch and Ancestry is significant and will add a large amount of new records that have never been published before.
It is also significant because these records will be in addition to records indexed by the army of volunteers at FamilySearch. Ancestry will pay commercial data entry companies to index most of these new records. Also, many will be in markets that are not traditional genealogical markets. Together FamilySearch and Ancestry are working to expand the number of individuals involved in family history worldwide.
FamilySearch publishes more than a million records every day from volunteers who donate their time to help make records freely available. Over the course of five years this means that FamilySearch will publish nearly two billion records indexed from volunteers. It is a staggering number given that FamilySearch today has only about three billion total records on their site (plus about a billion family tree records). The agreement with Ancestry will bring the number of newly published records to three billion. A thirty percent increase with just one agreement. WOW!
As significant as this announcement is, it is simply a part of the ongoing work at FamilySearch. Last year, FamilySearch worked with partners and volunteers to publish the 1940 census. Over the course of four months the volunteers produced 132 million indexed records. Earlier this year Ancestry and FamilySearch agreed to work together to publish 100 million pages of probate records. FamilySearch has also previously announced agreements with MyHeritage and brightsolid to publish records.
Partnerships are key to FamilySearch, particularly their relationships with commercial companies. FamilySearch is non-profit, completely funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They do not charge for their services. This means that for FamilySearch to increase its investment, the LDS Church must use more donated funds to support these efforts.
Commercial companies, on the other hand, are funded from their subscribers. Their spending naturally increases as they gain more subscribers. As their revenues from subscribers increase they spend this money on more records, better software, marketing to increase the number of individuals involved in family history, and profit for their investors.
Many of the dramatic improvements in family history over the past decade have been fueled by the growth of Ancestry, brightsolid (findmypast.com), and MyHeritage. Without these companies, their large number of subscribers, and the revenue generated from these subscribers our ability to find our ancestors would be severely limited.
FamilySearch works with commercial partners, in part, because they charge for services and can bring more investment into the genealogical market. The revenue these commercial companies make increases investment in genealogy in a way that FamilySearch cannot. FamilySearch works with volunteers, other non-profit organizations and governments in ways that the commercial companies cannot. It is an incredible synergistic partnership.
This announcement is really just the beginning of new relationships that FamilySearch is forming to grow family history around the world. The combination of FamilySearch’s capabilities as a non-profit and the commercial organizations to general revenue will produce tremendous growth in family history and innovations that will benefit all of us. I look forward to the next set of announcements from FamilySearch over the coming months and the benefits we will see from these agreements in our quest to find our families. The joint efforts from these agreements will benefit all of us for generations to come.