Thursday, August 30, 2007

Do You Know Who Your Friends Are?

[updated 8/31/07]
As I watched the events with Ancestry's debacle unfold in the last couple of days, I looked for who was saying what among the genea-bloggers. But I was also looking to see which commercial entities would have a voice and which would remain silent on the issue. I kept waiting and waiting for the "other players" to take a stand. But the other commercial entities were eerily quiet. Did you notice?

Today I did a quick survey of some of the leaders in the genealogy industry to see if I'd missed something. Here is the quick list of names that had nothing to say on the subject.

World Vital Records
Family Tree Magazine
Family Chronicle/Internet Genealogy Magazines
Ancestral Quest
Roots Magic
Also quiet but understandably so because they're owned by The Generations Network, (parent company of were Family Tree Maker and We also didn't hear from Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak or George Morgan who at least publicly would have to be neutral on, supportive of, or quiet on the subject of the Ancestry nonsense since they are more or less on Ancestry's payroll too.'s blog said nothing on the subject until the announcement that the database would be taken down.

So who does that leave? I found three [five, see update below] who fall into the category of what I consider to be industry leaders in the field of genealogy who had something to say on the subject.

Dick Eastman wrote a blog post titled, "Internet Biographical Collection is Free at". It's a short post but his position is easy to discern in the first paragraph. recently introduced a new genealogy-specific web search engine, called the Internet Biographical Collection. The service looks great but created a bit of controversy amongst web site owners whose sites were being indexed and cached. Today, converted the new search engine to a free service, available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. That conversion to a free service should eliminate most of the concerns.
He got a lot of comments on his post, both in support of Ancestry and against. He weighed in a second time with the following comment.

One comment: the so-called "pillaging" and "theft" and all the other words are a bit strange. There is nothing new here. I don't recall anyone complaining about Google, Yahoo, Dogpile and all the other search engines. Yet they have been doing exactly the same thing for years, only on a bigger scale. The general-purpose search engines index and cache ALL the web sites. There are even a number of for-pay search engines that perform specialized searches for paying customers only. is one such for-pay search engine. Again, has been charging customers for specialized web searches for years.'s Internet Biographical Collection is a much smaller search engine: it is also a specialized search engine as it only indexes what it believes to be genealogy-related pages. It is designed to make genealogy information much easier to find, regardless of where it is hosted on the web.

I don't see any difference between and all the other free and for-pay search engines. They all do the same things.

As always, if you do not want search engines to index your site, create a ROBOTS.TXT file with the proper parameters and place that file on your web site. That is easy to do. Then the search engines will not add your site to their databases.

Of course, your site will be a lonely place as users will no longer be able to find you by using search engines.

- Dick Eastman
So that's what Dick had to say. I'll share with you the comment I made on his blog in a bit but for now let's move on.

Leland Meitzler wrote The Generations Network Continues to Tarnish Their Image on the Everton Publisher's Genealogy Blog and updated it multiple times as events warranted. I think you can catch the drift of Leland's position from the title of his blog post. But I encourage you to go over and read it if you haven't already. I was pleased as could be to see that not only did Leland speak out against the giant of the industry but he also listed all of the genea-bloggers who'd written on the subject with links to their posts. We all know that links are like gold when it comes to getting one's blog ranked and read. Especially from a high traffic blog. He gave us a gift that industry leaders seem to do very grudgingly if ever. Thank you Leland.

And last but not least, The Legacy Blog wrote - You're Not Going To Believe This. I don't know who writes the blog for the Legacy Family Tree software company (Geoff Rasmussen?) but they wrote a very nice article. They made no bones about the fact that Ancestry "went too far" but also gave them credit for having very valuable databases that are helpful to and appreciated by many genealogists. They told Becky Wiseman's story well and then went on to mention and link to all the genea-bloggers who wrote on the subject. Once again we receive some valuable link love. Thank you Legacy.

Did you check your traffic stats for yesterday fellow bloggers? I had the most hits on my site ever. No doubt about it, the traffic I got came from your links (and Leland's and Legacy's ;-) not the Google search engine. I know we all try to help each other out with links when we can but let's face it, it's sure nice to have some traffic sent our way from a couple of the industry leaders.

And now I'll share with you the comments I posted to Dick Eastman's article and to Legacy's article. Leland, I couldn't find a link to comment on your blog, but you have my thanks as well for speaking up and for linking.

Here's what I posted on Dick's blog:
Think about this Dick. Let's say had a way to cache your "premium" newsletter and post it in their database with their header on it. Knowing that folks could read for free that which you charge for would no doubt outrage you. Now take a look at how many genealogy blogs and web sites have Google Ads, affiliate links, click thru ads to WVR or and who count on traffic to their sites to help support the continued hosting of their sites. Then ask yourself this... If it were your "premium" newsletter that Ancestry was using would you still think this is no big deal? If they put a link to your site under the one to their cached page, would that make it OK with you? If they made it free (with registration) instead of making it available to subscribers only, would that make you feel better about them having your pages cached?

If after thinking about things this way you still think this is no big deal, then may I suggest you offer your archive of "premium" newsletters to Ancestry? I'm sure they'd be happy to create a database just for you! What the heck, it's no different than Google is it? Oh wait, you only allow the teaser paragraphs of your "premium" articles to get listed with Google. It can't be that you want to protect your income could it?
Here's what I posted on Legacy's blog:

First off, I want applaud you for having something, anything, to say on this subject. The big (commercial) names in the genealogy world have been noticeably quiet on this issue. Kudos to you for not being afraid to have a voice!

Secondly, I want to thank you for not only mentioning the "hobby" genealogy bloggers who bravely stood up for what they believed in but also for providing links to their articles on this subject. Our little band of merry genea-bloggers rarely get any recognition from the commercially sponsored blogs. In the the blogosphere, links are like gifts. Believe me your links are appreciated by us hobby bloggers.

I certainly think Ancestry was out of line with their actions. We shall see what happens next. I'd like to believe that they've seen the light and won't try this again but "for the time being" I'll remain a bit skeptical.

Did I miss anybody? What do you think about the lack of voice from the industry leaders?

[update 8/31/07]
George Morgan and Drew Smith discussed this topic in the August 28, 2007 edition of their podcast. I haven't listened to it so I can't comment further on it but I wanted to acknowledge that they did address this issue.

I want to send out a big apology to Kimberly Powell for neglecting to mention that she was a voice on this issue from the very beginning on her blog and she linked to all the genea-bloggers who wrote on the subject as well. She wrote not one but two articles on the topic, Cache 22 - Has Gone Too Far?, and The Legality of Caching. is a high traffic and high profile blog and I should have included her among the industry leaders who had something to say on this subject. I suppose that because is about so much more than just genealogy I tend to forget that it is a major resource in the genealogy world. But it certainly is. And too, Kimberly interacts with the genea-bloggers from time to time so she feels like one of "us" and not so much like one of "them". So thanks to Kimberly for getting the word out and for the links!

And still another faux pas on my part... I neglected to mention DearMYRTLE's contributions to the battle of the Bloggers vs Our dear Myrt wrote two articles, Numbers, Ranking, and, and Ancestry Withdraws Offensive Database. Myrt was another big name who called Ancestry to task early on and helped to get the word out by including links to our brother and sisterhood of bloggers who had written on the topic. DearMYRTLE is truly our "friend in genealogy" and I'm wearing egg on my face right now for having not thought to mention her sooner. What was I thinking? (Obviously I wasn't.) A super-sized THANK YOU goes out to DearMYRTLE for her willingness to take a stand and for linking to the genea-bloggers.