The online newsgroups have been buzzing all week, and on Friday it became official: one of the strongest rivalries in the genealogy business world has been between ProQuest and MyFamily.com, operators of Ancestry.com, but now the two are becoming business partners.
ProQuest is a major supplier of high-quality census images and digitized copies of thousands of genealogy books. The same company also provides the online version of the powerful PERSI genealogy database. ProQuest traditionally has sold services only to libraries. To access ProQuest's online databases of U.S. Census records, digitized books, and the PERSI database, most genealogists had to visit a library that paid two thousand dollars per year or more to subscribe to the service. A few libraries offer in-home access to ProQuest as well.
Ancestry.com has been offering a competitive service to libraries, called Ancestry Plus, which really was based upon the company reselling the services of Thomson Gale, one of ProQuest's biggest competitors. That partnership apparently soured in recent months. Ancestry.com is now dropping the Ancestry Plus product.
Reportedly, Ancestry.com and ProQuest now have signed a two-way agreement: ProQuest will market the Ancestry online products to the library market under a service named Ancestry Library Edition. In return, ProQuest will supply 20,000+ genealogy and local history books to Ancestry.com's genealogy customers. How Ancestry.com will price and position these new online books has not yet been announced.
It is interesting that these two companies are the only ones who supply all or most all of U.S. Census records online. Both have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in creating competitive online databases of census records. It is also interesting that ProQuest's census images are generally more readable than Ancestry.com's images of the same records. I had hoped that Ancestry.com would also resell ProQuests's census images; however, the announcement makes no mention of that, and I suspect that each will continue to sell its own version of census records separately.
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