Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is there a monopoly in Genealogy Research?

I signed up for the Family Tree Magazine forums today at To comment on the forum, you need to register with a name and email address - no credit card. I enjoy forums, and have participated in some over the years.

The topic that caught my eye today in the "Hot Topics" category was "Monopoly?" by Diane Haddad. Her note read:

Is there a monopoly in genealogy? Does it matter? How do you maximize your choices in the online database business? After reading the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine special report on the genealogy industry, post your comments here.

My response was:

Why wait until I've read the February 2007 FTM article?

My opinion is that there are several major players in the online genealogy industry, and probably more to appear in the years ahead. There was a significant merging over the last several years as MyFamily gobbled up and Rootsweb and merged them into Ancestry. The appearance of WorldVitalRecords (with a goal of being the 2nd biggest online provider of genealogy content) and the goal of the LDS FamilySearch FHL to digitize and index the FHLC microform records (and make them available, apparently for free) in the last six months indicates that there is lots of competition ahead.

There are other web sites, free and subscription, that provide significant content for research (e.g., LDS FHL, Rootsweb, USGenWeb, Ellis Island, HeritageQuestOnline, NEHGS, NYGBR, NGS). There are many web sites that aggregate the available data by subject also.

A monopoly? I don't think so - not right now. It looks like a healthy competitive industry from my keypad.

Does it matter? It would if there was a monopoly entity that raised prices significantly or restricted access. I think competition will prevent that from happening - to the corporations, it's a business that will be treated as a business - profit and loss. Mergers will happen. New companies will form in response to the market. Current companies will offer freebies with limited time or limited access to attract new subscribers.

I maximize my choices in the online database business by using the free services available online, at the FHC and at local libraries, subscribing to organizations with content that I "need" to have to support my research (Ancestry, NEHGS, NGS), and critically evaluate new online offerings to see if I want to use or subscribe to them.

How about you - do you think there is a monopoly in online genealogy content? Tell me about it, and check out the FTM forums.

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