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Geneanet Joins Ancestry, the World’s Largest Genealogy Company

Posted by Jean-Yves on Aug 30, 2021

Ancestry, the world’s largest genealogy company, announced today that it has reached an agreement to acquire Geneanet. This announcement marks a new chapter in the history of Geneanet. This blog post aims to explain the ins and outs of this important news.

Who is Ancestry?

Ancestry is a United States-based company that offers online services similar to those of Geneanet: hosting your family tree, searching in numerous collections and offering a DNA genealogy service.

Ancestry hosts over 120 million family trees containing 16 billion individuals. Ancestry also offers the largest consumer DNA genealogy database in the world with 20 million profiles.

Ancestry is also known for the richness of the collections it offers. They represent more than 30 billion records from 80 countries and are continually updated through a massive investment program.

Ancestry employs more than 1,400 people in offices in Lehi, Utah, San Francisco, Dublin, London, Munich, Berlin, Toronto and Sydney.

Ancestry takes great care to comply with the laws of the countries in which it operates. For example, unlike MyHeritage, Ancestry does not sell DNA genealogy tests in France unless they are authorized.

It should be noted that the Ancestry and Geneanet websites were created the same year, in 1996!

Why is Geneanet joining Ancestry?

Over the past few months, we have kept you informed of our plans to develop and join forces with Filae. As we explained in a previous blog post, this merger was not possible and Filae was finally acquired by MyHeritage.

The combination of Filae’s databases and know-how with MyHeritage’s human, technical and financial resources make it a formidable competitor for Geneanet. Not to mention the considerable distortion of competition represented by the massive sales of DNA kits by MyHeritage in France despite the current legislation that prohibits it.

Therefore, the risk for Geneanet is to lose a large number of its subscribers and not to be able to continue to invest in its services and new content.

To face this increased competition, several strategies are available to us.

We could have sought funding to invest heavily in data acquisition and marketing campaigns. The fact remains that data acquisition, as Filae has done, takes several years. The other risk is that by trying to ape MyHeritage and Filae, Geneanet could lose its soul and its original model.

We prefer to rely on a strong partner and Ancestry is the best partner for our future development. It allows us to strengthen ourselves with its content and resources while preserving our unique model.

We have been working with and exchanging information with the various players in the world of genealogy for over 20 years. We have always appreciated the exchanges with Ancestry’s teams, who have clearly understood what makes Geneanet strong: its original model and its community. Ancestry wants to, and is committed to, preserving our uniqueness. They are well aware that a community is fragile and that membership is based on trust.

What’s not changing?

Geneanet will remain Geneanet with everything you are attached to.

Geneanet will remain a stand-alone site within Ancestry.

In concrete terms, this means that you will continue to be able to use all the services of the “geneanet.org” site, which are managed by the Geneanet company based in Paris with the same team of employees.

Your trees are and remain your property and will continue to be hosted by Geneanet. The Geneanet teams remain your contacts.

Our model does not change. It will continue to be based on a “contributive, collaborative and freemium” model. The principle is still the same: everything that is shared by our members is accessible for free. We will continue to provide and develop our free or premium services, all financed by our Premium offer.

What will change?

Geneanet subscribers will benefit from access to many additional databases as part of their Premium subscription. For example, we have just added the entire civil registry of Paris, indexed by Ancestry, which is more than 11 million records. Other collections will be available soon.

Just as the public individuals in your trees are indexed on Geneanet’s search engine, they will also be indexed via Ancestry’s search engine with a link to Geneanet for viewing the trees.

The Terms of Use that apply will still be those of the Geneanet site. However, they will be adapted to reinforce the security of your data and to correspond to this new situation. We will come back to you in the next few days to explain the changes.

In Conclusion

This is an important step for Geneanet. This decision seems to us to be the best way to ensure the durability of all that we have built with Geneanet for nearly 25 years.

This merger will allow us to focus on what we do well and what you appreciate so much at Geneanet. Our goal remains to serve our members, whether they are Premium or free subscribers, by cultivating the spirit of mutual aid and sharing that characterizes our community and is its strength.


Addenda

Our announcement has understandably generated reactions and questions. Here are some frequently asked questions:

Will the Geneanet Premium subscription price change? Will an Ancestry subscription include Geneanet?

As mentioned above, Geneanet will continue as before. What will change will be the availability of major French datasets from Ancestry at no additional cost, starting with the Paris birth/marriage/death records already online (11 million documents). We hope to add other, non-French datasets in the future. Note that the procedure is a bit complicated for now, but we are working on simplifying it.

That said, it will not be possible to access Ancestry’s 30 billion documents with Geneanet Premium’s 50 euros/USD annual cost. For now, a separate subscription to Ancestry is required to access all of Ancestry’s collections. We expect to be able to offer a bundle price in the future.

What about the ownership of the documents I have uploaded to Geneanet?

Just like your Geneanet trees, the records, indexes, and documents you have uploaded remain yours and will continue to be available for free to other genealogists. Geneanet’s terms & conditions apply, not Ancestry’s.. As we mentioned above, our contributive, collaborative, freemium model will not change. Ancestry understands the essence of Geneanet: our community and our spirit of mutual assistance and sharing.

We would like to thank those who have always had confidence in us and continue to do so. We hope to convince skeptics, by our concrete actions, that this agreement will be beneficial for them without changing what they appreciate about Geneanet.


Addenda of Monday, September 6, 2021

Our post above has generated many comments showing your strong attachment to Geneanet, which we appreciate and are always very sensitive to.

Some comments are very inaccurate, please allow us to answer your questions as precisely as possible.

Despite our explanations, some are saying:

  • “The Geneanet subscription price will increase considerably”;
  • “Ancestry is a profit-minded American company which cannot be trusted;
  • “Ancestry is a monopoly and any acquisition will result in the disappearance of the acquired company, with examples to support this such as Rootsweb”;
  • “There is no advantage or interest for Geneanet members in this acquisition, Ancestry is not going to bring anything new to Geneanet”;
  • “Ancestry is going to transfer all Geneanet trees to its platform, behind a paywall”;
  • “Geneanet’s collaborative and freemium model will inevitably disappear”.

The following clarification is relatively long because we feel it is important to respond to these erroneous assertions and to clarify the future of Geneanet.

Will the Geneanet Premium subscription price go up?

There will be no extra cost to your subscription price as we add Ancestry’s datasets.

For those of you who are wondering about a grouped offer with Ancestry, this will be evaluated soon.

Ancestry is an American company focused on profits and can’t be trusted

Ancestry is perceived by some Geneanet members as a big company owned by a major investment fund, and therefore suspected of being solely interested in short-term profits.

Ancestry’s model is not the same as Geneanet’s. This is also an opportunity. It means that we are complementary. It doesn’t mean that their model will apply to Geneanet.

Ancestry has experience working with a large community of volunteers since acquiring the FindAGrave site (equivalent to Save Our Graves) and preserving its spirit.

Some of you have cited Rootsweb in your comments, a company Ancestry acquired over two decades ago which had a vibrant community with its mailing lists and message boards. We are confident the different Ancestry team in place today has learned from this experience.

Ancestry is not going to bring anything new to Geneanet members, and Geneanet trees will disappear behind a paywall

Have you read the blog post and its addendum?

Ancestry has already agreed to make some of its European content available to Geneanet Premium members at no extra cost. Eventually, several hundred million indexed records will be accessible via Geneanet. This is a considerable added value for the Premium membership. Already, you can access the civil records of Paris and the censuses of several French départments; if you have French ancestors, Geneanet will be of great help. And, we will regularly add other collections in the weeks to come.

For our members with roots outside of France, we hope to obtain content in other countries to meet their needs (Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, etc.).

Ancestry will bring much more than additional data for our Premium members. This company will support us in the projects we wish to develop for the benefit of the genealogical community.

In summary, Geneanet is not changing and remains an European company with the same team of employees and the same services, which will allow you to access a much more substantial offer.

Just as the public individuals in your trees are currently indexed on Geneanet’s search engine, they will also be indexed on Ancestry’s engine with a reference to Geneanet for viewing the trees. Private data and DNA data will not be available on Ancestry. We remind you that this indexing is already done on search engines like Google or Bing.

You don’t trust Ancestry to honor its commitments

Many people believe that, despite the announcements that have been made, Ancestry will take over your trees and sell them on its platform, thus making Geneanet disappear. Some claim that the price of the subscription will definitely increase and that Geneanet’s model will eventually disappear.

It is important to know that you have a triple commitment, the pillars of which are:

The Geneanet employees

The first guarantee comes from the Geneanet team. The Geneanet employees all remain in place and remain your contacts. They are themselves genealogists and intensive users of Geneanet. They intend to continue what makes Geneanet so attractive and to preserve its spirit.

We also want to remind you that Ancestry has publicly committed to maintain Geneanet, its team and its model and we would never have accepted Ancestry’s proposal if we had any doubts about their intentions.

Data stewardship

Geneanet is a company based in Europe.

You are protected by the various European laws including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which also applies to companies outside the EU. All personal data is protected by the GDPR, sensitive data such as genetic data even more so.

The rules of use of the Geneanet website are governed by its Terms and Conditions of Use (ToS). This is equivalent to a contract. These ToS clearly stipulate that “Genealogical data remains fully the property of the members who publish it on Geneanet”. In other words, no one can appropriate your work to resell it without your consent.

By having an account on Geneanet, you are subject only to the Geneanet Terms of Service and not to the Ancestry Terms of Service.

In addition, for your protection, we must notify you well in advance of any significant changes to our ToS so that you have time to decide whether to accept them or to delete your account with its content.

We’ve also added a clause to the revised ToS (which will be effective October 1) that protects all Premium members from future changes: if you decline the new ToS, you can continue to use the Geneanet site under the old ToS until your membership expires.

The Geneanet community

As we have stated in our Terms of Service, the trees remain the property of each of their authors. The Geneanet community does not belong to Geneanet or Ancestry; it will be loyal to Geneanet only as long as we respect our model and our values. If we fail to do so, it may vanish with its content and its vitality.

Why did you change the ToS?

The most virulent messages imagine that these changes are made in order to sell your trees back to Ancestry.

The reason is simpler. As explained above, Ancestry is a company with a high level of legal compliance requirements.

During the audit phase, the expert GDPR and ToS attorneys identified several items that needed to be improved including:

  • the need to group the personal data management policy on a separate page as recommended by the European regulators and to clarify the legal bases of this processing.
  • clarification of the notion of “non-commercialization”: This is a commitment prohibiting any resale to third parties and should not concern Premium research options that could be interpreted as commercial use. This is also why we have replaced the previous statement at the bottom of each page on this subject with a statement on ownership with a link to the ToS. An alternative would have been to add the details found in the ToS to this statement, but it is not possible to express them in a simple and concise way in only one line.
  • The notification of change clause did not foresee the case of a Premium member refusing modifications to the TOS: he must be able to continue to benefit from his Premium service.

These changes are described on a dedicated page. This does not give Ancestry the right to appropriate your genealogical data, which remains your property. You can’t take ownership of something that doesn’t belong to you. Similarly, deleting your tree does not give Geneanet or Ancestry the right to keep a copy.

Geneanet has always taken great care to ensure that its members retain ownership and control of their genealogical data. This is a high standard that is maintained with these changes.

If in the future these clauses are modified in a way that you do not like, you will always have a prior period to delete all your content.

In conclusion

Please don’t put us on trial or accuse us of ulterior motives. We understand that you may be worried or distrustful. If you don’t trust us, at least give us the benefit of the doubt!

Thank you also for not relaying false information. The current situation is already disturbing enough for the members of the Geneanet community without erroneous, unfounded information. If you see that, don’t hesitate to set the record straight.

Finally, if you are satisfied with what we have done so far and what we want to do in the future, thank you for your testimonies. It is very important to us, especially in these turbulent times!

Geneanet is a community site based on mutual aid and sharing and we intend to remain so!

196 comments

Sounds good!


Thank you for the information. I am already an Ancestry member and look forward to working on my Geneanet DNA matches and how they fit in my Ancestry tree and expanding my Geneanet tree.


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