Business News

CompuServe’s Forums Are Closing On December 15

Sad news: the CompuServe forums are closing down. Admittedly, they have been declining for years and the end always appeared to be inevitable. Still, it is sad news when it the shutdown is finally announced. Many online genealogists got their start on CompuServe’s Genealogy Forum.

You can read more about the closure of CompuServe’s forums at: http://bit.ly/2zKhN5T.

I feel especially saddened as I was the one who founded the Genealogy Forum on CompuServe in 1988. It was my first entry into online publishing and running a discussion board. While CompuServe canceled my contract years ago and I moved on to other things, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Genealogy Forum on CompuServe.

Legacy Tree Genealogists Honored as One of Utah’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies

The following announcement was written by Legacy Tree Genealogists:

Legacy Tree Genealogists announced today it was named to the 2017 Utah 100, MountainWest Capital Network (MWCN)’s annual list of the 100 fastest-growing companies in Utah. The company was honored at the 23rd annual Utah 100 Awards program, held at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

Legacy Tree Genealogists Honored as MWCN Utah100 fastest growing companies in Utah“We are excited to receive this recognition,” said Jessica Taylor, founder and president of Legacy Tree Genealogists. “This growth wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of each member of our team and their commitment to provide consistently high-quality research for our clients.”

Ancestry Delays IPO

This sounds like a ping-pong game. Ancestry first went public in 2009 on the NASDAQ Exchange with the ticker ACOM in a $100 million IPO. The company later went private through a $1.6 billion private equity acquisition in 2012 and was valued at $2.6 billion in an investment round last year. In June of this year, Ancestry said it had filed paperwork to go public once again.

Now Tim Sullivan has announced he is stepping down from the Ancestry CEO position and will instead become Chairman of the Board. (See the announcement published yesterday in this newsletter at http://bit.ly/2w5Xq4g.) In a related move, Sullivan also said that the recently-announced IPO will now be delayed.

The assumption can be made that the Board of Directors decided to wait until a new CEO is named and then will let him or her drive the IPO effort.

Huge Changes in the Genealogy Businesses

In a strange coincidence, two of the larger providers of genealogy information have announced new CEOs this morning:

Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan is stepping down to become Chairman of the Board and is being replaced temporarily by the company’s CFO/COO Howard Hochhauser. The Ancestry Board of Directors is conducting an external search for CEO candidates.

FindmyPast has been operating for some time with an interim CEO but has now announced the appointment of Tamsin Todd to guide the company into the future. Former interim CEO, Jay Verkler, has been appointed Chairman of the Board.

What does this mean to the genealogy business and to individual genealogists? I have no idea. My crystal ball was sent out for polishing some time ago. However, I suspect there will be very few changes in the immediate future, to be followed by some major shifts in business plans and operations in 2018 and beyond. I would not be surprised to read about future acquisitions, mergers, and cooperative partnerships amongst the 4 or 5 largest players in this industry.

This should be fun to watch!

Findmypast Appoints Tamsin Todd as CEO

The following announcement was written by FindMyPast:

Findmypast strengthens its management team with two key appointments – Tamsin Todd, an experienced digital and ecommerce leader, takes over as CEO and Jay Verkler, former interim CEO, has been appointed Chairman of the Board

London, September 12th 2017

Findmypast has named Tamsin Todd as new CEO. Tamsin has worked in the travel, retail and technology sectors, and brings a track record of leading successful growth businesses. She spent the early part of her career at Amazon and then Microsoft, where she led the introduction of ecommerce and search products into UK and Europe. This was followed by stints as Head of Ecommerce at Betfair, and Managing Director of TUI-owned Crystal Ski Holidays. She joins Findmypast from Addison Lee, where she was Chief Customer Officer of Europe’s largest car service company. Tamsin lives in London with her family, and is Digital Trustee of the Imperial War Museums.

Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan Stepping Down; Will Transition to Chairman

Major news within the genealogy business community! The following announcement was released this morning by Ancestry:

Company CFO/COO Howard Hochhauser Named Interim CEO

LEHI, Utah, Sept. 12, 2017 — Ancestry today announced that, after twelve years of leading the company, Chief Executive Officer, Tim Sullivan is stepping down and will transition to Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors, effective October 1. In his time as CEO, Sullivan has built the company into the recognized world leader in family history, overseen its transformation into the world’s largest consumer genomics provider, and grown revenues to what is expected to be in excess of $1 billion for the full year 2017. Howard Hochhauser, the company’s Chief Financial Officer since 2009 and Chief Operating Officer since 2012, will assume the role of interim CEO as the company conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

MyHeritage Acquires the Legacy Family Tree Software and Webinar Platform

Major news in the genealogy software marketplace! MyHeritage has acquired Millennia Corporation, makers of the popular Legacy Family Tree genealogy desktop software and well-attended genealogy webinar platform, Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

The following is a quote from the MyHeritage Blog:

We’re delighted to announce today that we’ve acquired Millennia Corporation, makers of the popular Legacy Family Tree genealogy desktop software and well-attended genealogy webinar platform, Legacy Family Tree Webinars. This is our 9th acquisition to date. We consider Legacy’s products to be highly complementary to our wide range of features and services. The acquisition will introduce MyHeritage users to Legacy’s valuable genealogical webinars, and will also provide Legacy’s hundreds of thousands of users with improved resources and access to new services.

Legacy’s webinars, which have been around since 2010, have become the most popular source of education in the genealogy industry. Viewers enjoy talks accompanied by presentations and tutorials on a wide variety of genealogy content from the comfort of their own homes while learning from speakers who are leaders in their field, such as Judy G. Russell, Blaine Bettinger, Lisa Louise Cooke, and Thomas MacEntee. Topics include genealogical research methodology, DNA, historical records, and more. The webinars will continue to feature diverse and high-quality educational content. The webinar platform will also enjoy infrastructure upgrades to support larger audiences.

Ancestry Appoints Evan Wittenberg as Chief People Officer

The following announcement was written by the folks at Ancestry.com:

LEHI, Utah and SAN FRANCISCO, July 31, 2017 — Ancestry, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, today announced that Evan Wittenberg, most recently the Senior Vice President of People at Box, Inc., has joined the company in the new position of Chief People Officer. Wittenberg brings an extensive track record of helping world-class organizations grow and foster their talent while evolving their cultures to support continued expansion.

“There is no higher priority at Ancestry today than our ability to attract and grow the world’s best talent. Very few people can match Evan’s history of leading so many great organizations through change and growth, and fewer still can come close to his track record of success,” said Tim Sullivan, chief executive officer of Ancestry. “I am incredibly proud of the team we have built and of their ability to create a company, brand and products that resonate with millions around the world. Evan will play a critical role in helping us continue to grow and develop the great people we have while attracting the high-caliber talent we need to lead us into tomorrow.”

New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD) Announce Collaboration

The following announcement was written by the New England Historic Genealogical Society:

NEHGS to Digitize the Fifth Generation of Mayflower Descendants from GSMD “Silver Books” and 50 Years of Mayflower Quarterly

Mayflower Databases to Be Searchable on AmericanAncestors.org

GSMD Members to Enjoy Discounts on Membership in New England Historic Genealogical Society

July 13, 2017—Boston, Massachusetts—New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) has partnered with the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD) to bring invaluable genealogical resources to their members. New searchable databases—to be found on AmericanAncestors.org—will be created from authenticated Mayflower Pilgrim genealogies and from 50 years of published Mayflower passenger scholarship from the Mayflower Quarterly as the program advances. In addition, GSMD members will enjoy generous discounts on new memberships in NEHGS, the founding genealogical organization in America.

Trace Acquires Genealogists.com

The following announcement was written by Trace (formerly known as AncestorCloud):

AncestorCloud rebrands to Trace and announces the acquisition of Genealogists.com

Trace adds additional genealogy expertise to its technology products and services.

July 7, 2017 (Provo, Utah) – Trace, a technology company making family history more accessible, announced the acquisition of Genealogists.com, the world’s largest family history research firm. Genealogists.com has developed a network of thousands of expert researchers worldwide who perform genealogical projects for the lowest price and highest quality. The addition of Genealogists.com will increase Trace’s network of professional researchers to over 4,000, bringing unmatched expertise to Trace’s products and services.

Trace is the new brand for AncestorCloud, a company which started by offering cloud storage and sharing for genealogy documents and evolved into a marketplace to buy and sell genealogy services at an affordable price. The rebrand allows the company to expand into new businesses and have a company identity more in line with the value offered. The marketplace technology that exists on AncestorCloud.com will be moved to Genealogists.com to further scale the business.

Mylestone’s Heirloom App is Shutting Down

In the February 21, 2017 edition of this newsletter at http://bit.ly/2rAmsCm, I described Mylestone’s Heirloom app as “a new startup that is experimenting with turning our digital footprints into narratives that help us recall highlights from our lives, as well as those of our family members and other loved ones. Mylestone’s mission is to ensure life’s most precious memories are accessible upon command. Utilizing memory artifacts, and a combination of artificial intelligence and external data, the company generates narratives that are available via virtual assistants, such as Alexa.”

Sadly, the service is now shutting down.

The service’s web site at https://mylestone.com/heirloom states:

Ancestry, Inc. Announces Confidential Submission of Draft Registration Statement for Proposed Initial Public Offering

Genealogy website Ancestry.com Inc on Monday said it had confidentially submitted a draft registration statement on a proposed initial public offering (IPO) to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company did not disclose the number of shares to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering.

Last May, Ancestry.com said in a statement that the company was valued at about $2.6 billion. We can probably assume today’s price is higher. However, the draft registration statement is confidential so today’s expected price is still not known.

Here is the official announcement from Ancestry, Inc. (which seems to be very brief):

Ancestry.com Migrates Its Entire Server Infrastructure to the Cloud

I have written often about the advantages and the disadvantages of storing your data, especially backup copies, in the cloud. Mostly, it is an efficient and effective method of keeping your information safe. A lot of industry leaders agree. Now Ancestry.com’s entire data center has been moved to cloud computing.

A few years ago, I visited Ancestry.com’s data center on two different occasions. While impressive, it was a typical data center. (I have been inside hundreds of data centers over the years.) One major disaster, such as a fire or earthquake, could have left the company without a lot of data processing capabilities. To be sure, Ancestry.com maintains almost constant backups of their data. However, building a new data center after a disaster, probably in a new location, and restoring the backups would have required months, possibly years.

Geniarts – “When a Family Tree Becomes Art”

I must admit that I do not have any experience with this proposed product but it certainly looks interesting. Geniarts is the name of a company that develops “family tree templates, by creating a website dedicated to contemporary artists who imagine new family tree template.” The company also states, “In three simple steps, your family tree becomes the heart of an work of art.”

Geniarts is a company in Brussels, Belgium that has started a Kickstarter project. That is, the project is described on the Kickstarter web site as part of a global crowdfunding effort. Kickstarter collects money from the general public and provides it to the various projects described on Kickstarter.com, such as Geniarts. Project creators choose a deadline and a minimum funding goal. If the goal for that project is not met by the deadline, no funds are ever collected. The result is a kind of assurance contract.

Quoting from the Geniarts project on the Kickstarter web site:

Legacy Tree Genealogists Earns SBA Business Award

In genealogy business news, Legacy Tree Genealogists, a Utah genealogy research firm specializing in custom family history services, has been selected as the Small Business Administration Woman-Owned Business of the Year, and will be honored at an awards ceremony May 24.

“Legacy Tree Genealogists was among a competitive field of deserving applications,” said Small Business Administration spokesperson Siobhan Carlisle. “Legacy Tree stood out during the selection process because of its sustained growth in the genealogy field, for its peer-to-peer support within that community and its dedication to a high standard of personal service to its world-wide customers.”

National Library of Ireland Genealogy Service 2017 Renewed with Ancestor Network and Eneclann

The following announcement was written by the National Library of Ireland:

Dublin, Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Ancestor Network and Eneclann have been awarded the tender to support the genealogy advisory service with the National Library of Ireland in 2017.

This is the 6th year these leading Irish genealogy firms are partnering with the NLI to provide this unique genealogy service.

Visiting researchers to the NLI can avail of the advice of professional genealogists from Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 5:00pm.  The professional genealogists advise and assist on sources available at the NLI and other repositories as well as online resources.  They are also available to respond to enquiries via email, telephone or by letter.

Ancestry.com Owners Reportedly Weigh 2017 IPO of Genealogy Website

An article in the Bloomberg Markets web site reports that the owners of privately-held Ancestry.com are weighing an initial public offering of the company this year. The company’s owners, which include Permira and Silver Lake, have held talks with banks and are taking formal pitches from potential advisers who want to have a role in the offering, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

No final decision has been made and the owners may opt to keep the business for now, the people said.

MyHeritage Appoints Prominent DNA Expert Dr. Yaniv Erlich as Chief Science Officer

The following announcement from MyHeritage was released today at the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. I would draw your attention to two different facts in the announcement: (1.) the credentials of Dr. Yaniv Erlich indicate that he is one of the leading DNA scientists of our time and (2.) the announcement of “MyHeritage DNA, the company’s newly established DNA service for family history and ethnicity.”

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah , February 9, 2017 – MyHeritage, the leading international family history and DNA company, announced today the appointment of Dr. Yaniv Erlich as its Chief Science Officer. Dr. Erlich, a DNA scientist of world renown, will lead scientific development and strategy for MyHeritage DNA, the company’s newly established DNA service for family history and ethnicity, and ensure that its products are built on a solid scientific foundation.

Dr. Erlich, nicknamed the Genome Hacker by Nature journal, brings to MyHeritage unparalleled experience in the field of genomics as Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Computational Biology at Columbia University and as a Core Member at the New York Genome Center. He is also the former principal investigator and a Whitehead Fellow at MIT’s Whitehead Institute, founder of DNA.LAND and the principal investigator of the Erlich DNA lab.

Announcing the Genealogy Business Alliance

The following announcement was written by Janet Hovorka and Jessica Taylor:

From Competitors to Community: Two Women’s Mission to Unite the Genealogy Industry
As Genealogists They’ve Dedicated Their Lives to Helping Others. Their Competitors Are No Exception.

gbaSALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, February 1, 2017 – Janet Hovorka and Jessica Taylor are both successful entrepreneurs in their own right in the booming family history industry. Hovorka, an industry leader for nearly two decades, has built several genealogy brands, including genealogyDOTcoach, a one-on-one genealogy consulting business, and Family ChartMasters, creating heirloom-quality family charts. Likewise, Taylor started Legacy Tree Genealogists in 2004, which has become the world’s highest client-rated genealogy research firm and has grown into a million-dollar business.
The pair crossed paths at a genealogy conference, and hit it off, drawn to their similarities—working mothers that wanted to take what was considered as “a hobby” by many and capitalize on the potential to grow their businesses and allow them to help bridge the divide between individuals and their ancestors on a much larger scale

“Genealogy is considered one of the largest online hobbies,” explained Taylor. “But as a small business community, many operations are still learning how to mature into the larger genealogy industry and gain the knowledge necessary to compete.”

Discouraged by the lack of a formal entity available to mentor small business and provide a cohesive community for genealogy startups to bounce ideas off one another, Taylor and Hovorka decided if an organization didn’t exist, they would create one – and the Genealogy Business Alliance was born.

Ancestry’s CEO, Tim Sullivan’s Message Concerning the Recent Restrictions on Immigration

With the recent political climate, Ancestry’s CEO sent an email to the entire company. Tim also wanted to share it with others. Feel free to share this as well:

The last 48 hours in the U.S. have been both heart-breaking and outrageous. Of immediate importance is the status of our Ancestry employees and/or their families. We do not believe that any of our employees are currently affected, but if we are wrong, please let us know immediately, and we will do everything we can to help.

Our company values decency, works hard to embrace diversity, and is very familiar with the difficulties that families all over the world have endured for centuries in their attempts to stay together and to improve the lives of the next generation. We are a company that lives history, so we’re familiar with the ugliness that we’re witnessing right now. We’ve seen how families were impacted by the quotas on Chinese immigration less than a hundred years ago, by the refusal to accept Jewish refugees fleeing the horror of Nazi Germany, and by the absurd detainment of Japanese Americans during that war. Today, it is broadly understood that these policies each left a black mark on our history and ran counter to the fundamental values of openness and inclusion that are our country’s strength.