golden puzzle pieces arranged as if forming names on a descendancy chart golden puzzle pieces arranged as if forming names on a descendancy chart
Reference Centre, Planning, Website Review

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genealogy.com

Genealogy.com has changed - drastically! As of September 30, 2014 all member log-in functionality and the following pages were retired and are no longer accessible on this web site: MyAccount, MyGenealogy, My Home Pages, HeritageQuest (ProQuest) content; Virtual Cemetery; Outdated and less popular help articles; and Shop. Furthermore, Genealogy.com now proudly states that it is "part of the Ancestry family of websites". Leading, no doubt, to the drastic changes and loss of functionality that are to be seen on this site, now.

GenForum message boards, Family Tree Maker homepages, and the most popular articles remain available in a read-only format on Genealogy.com, meaning the pages have been preserved to allow you to view, but not edit information. The content on the site is now only accessible via a very basic search in Forums, Forum Postings, Forum Contributors, Articles and Family Tree Maker Content. With this much functionality gone from the site one has to wonder why Ancestry would bother wasting the internet space and all of the technical and practical operating costs associated with maintaining a marginal web site when they could easily shift the content from Genealogy.com to the Rootsweb group where the content would still be free to access and, yet, restore functionality to the forums as message boards.

Member activity has been discontinued on Genealogy.com and as such "User" submitted content can no longer be edited. However, previously posted content may be removed if necessary. To request removal of your submitted content contact Member Services at support@genealogy.com and provide the following details to them:

  • The information as it appears exactly on our website

  • The URL address where the information is found on our website

  • Why you believe the information should be removed

Genealogy.com makes no assertion that they will, unequivocably, remove information that is requested to be removed, but that they will "consider" its removal. Hmmmm! I conjecture that this "consideration" must relate to the copyright that was snatched from every user via the terms of use posted on the web site. This excerpt from the Terms and Conditions (revised September, 2014) aptly describes the situation:

"2. Your Use of the Website
The Website contain text, software, scripts, graphics, information, data, pictures, sounds, music, videos, interactive features, user generated information, editorial and other content accessible by Users (the "Content"). All Content is owned, licensed to and/or copyrighted by Ancestry and may be used only in accordance with this Agreement."

Lastly, I have to remark on the poor readability of the site contents. Apparently, someone has never heard of contrast legibility for web pages. Contrast is the core factor in whether or not text is easy to read. Good contrasts will make text easy on the eyes, easy to scan quickly, and overall more readable. On the other hand, poor contrast will force the user to squint and make reading the body text almost painful, not to mention a lot slower. The contrast legibility on the site is very poor making it very tiring to read more than a few lines at a time. Whereas the measured contrast legibility on AncestrySolutions.com is very good: Brightness difference = 238 (Pass) and Hue difference = 705 (Pass) based on a background colour set at HEX#ffffff (RGB 255, 255, 255) and typeface colour set at HEX#360006 (RGB 54, 0, 6).

Due to the poor contrast legibility on Genealogy.com to read through one of the articles on the site is sheer torture and not recommended for people with any form of visual impairment. Except for specific usages, W3C has set a "Contrast (Minimum)" for web design that requires the visual presentation of text and images of text on a web page has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 or where the brightness difference is over 125 AND the hue difference is over 500 [Note the measured results for the AncestrySolutions.com web pages shown in the preceding paragraph]. The 4.5:1 ratio is used to account for the loss in contrast that results from moderately low visual acuity, congenital or acquired color deficiencies, or the loss of contrast sensitivity that typically accompanies aging. Genealogy.com rates a dismal fail on both aspects of contrast legibility with a Brightness difference of 95 (Fail) and a Hue difference of 288 (Fail) based on a background colour set at HEX#f1f0e9 (RGB 241, 240, 233) and typeface colour set at HEX#9e8f7c (RGB 158, 143, 124). [To test the legibility quotient yourself, go to Had to Know.

For interest sake, and to serve as a warning bell for other would-be start-ups, I have included, beginning immediately below this paragraph, my original web site review from 2003. A lot has changed at Genealogy.com in the intervening years but the corporate changes and list of partial holdings of Genealogy.com may be of some use to some individuals.

Overall, this site suffers from a lack of clarity and focus concerning its' online presence. Do we really need another online subscription collection that largely duplicates resources found on other sites? At the same time, Genealogy.com suffers from a lack of under-marketing of its' potentially valuable contribution to a family historian's search - its' own CD-Rom product inventory and its' GenForum message boards. Hence my poor rating of only two gold shields for this website. But, please, allow me to expand on the points of my rating.

Here is a website that, following several years under the guidance of a series of different management teams, seems to have lost its sense of purpose. One cannot adequately review Genealogy.com without first recapping for the reader the various corporate shifts that have, in my view, contributed to the erosion of Genealogy.com's value in the genealogy marketplace.

The premier product around which Genealogy.com was designed was the Family Tree Maker software, which was first launched during 1984 by Broderbund. Broderbund was a division of Mattel, Inc. - yes, the toy giant. During November, 1999 A & E Television Networks, Hearst Interactive Media, Mattel, Inc., Thomas H. Lee Partners and Weston Presidio Capital announced a joint partnership to back a newly-formed company called Genealogy.com, LLC. At that time, Genealogy.com received US$37.5-million in initial funding in the expectation of expanding its' market share through an aggressive online presence and by continuing its' leadership in the retail software category. In fact, Genealogy.com and Family Tree Maker software did quite well under this arrangement, or, at least, so it seemed.

During February, 2001 A & E Television Network announced that it had acquired, outright, Genealogy.com, LLC. I am certain that A & E had fully expected to provide a workable fit with its other history and biography based products. However, having spent some time working in a high level corporate environment, I just wasn't convinced that Genealogy.com really offered any concrete benefit to the A & E corporate group. This instinct ultimately proved correct, for during April 2003, Genealogy.com was once again sold on - this time to MyFamily, Inc.com. For those of you not in the know, and this is no secret, MyFamily, Inc.com is fast becoming a genealogy conglomerate with its lineup of genealogy websites: Ancestry.com, AncestryUK.com, MyFamily.com, Genealogy.com, and RootsWeb.com. There is no disputing that Genealogy.com with its market-sold software and its proprietary CD-Rom databases makes its acquisition by MyFamily, Inc.com a sensible lateral-market evolution to the parent company's offerings.

Where Genealogy.com fails to produce the goods as a stand-alone website, though, is that its proprietary databases have now been integrated with those of Ancestry.com. What one can find on Ancestry.com, one can also find on Genealogy.com. Furthermore, both Genealogy.com, by way of GenForum, and Ancestry.com offer free message boards and free genealogical research instruction.

Where Genealogy.com steps above Ancestry.com is in the offering of its own proprietary databases to the genealogy-hungry public in a flexible manner either by way of online subscription or by way of CD-Rom purchase. I am not a fan of the manner in which Family Tree Maker has been marketed over the years. It seems to me that each release of the program comes at a greatly inflated price which is supposed to have been justified by the addition of a few CD-Rom databases which were included with the primary software.

I am very much in favour, however, of the separate offering by Genealogy.com of its CD-Rom databases. If you are not aware of what is in the Genealogy.com stocklist you really should take the time to puruse their online Store. A cautionary note must be added: Many of the sources that are offered on CD-Rom are already a part of Ancestry.com searches. If you have invested in a subscription to Ancestry.com there may be no real benefit to buying a CD with the same or similar information.

Each stock unit in Genealogy.com's store is linked to a fuller description of the product composition. Read the full product description before deciding whether or not to buy the resource. If it is something that you are likely to use again and again long after your subscription on Ancestry has expired, it might be worth the investment to buy the database. I would stay away from the higher-end databases, for example the 1870 World Immigration Series, 9-CD Set at US $149.99. It has been my experience that these types of resources shine only if you have a broad search to conduct or are a professional doing many searches for many different clients. Otherwise, such datasets are of little continuing value to the family-centric genealogy hobbyist beyond the production of the initial search result.

Be careful, too, of items such as the Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s. This database is listed at US$29.99. However, the data has been constructed from the in-print behemoth of the same name found in most public and university libraries. My comments concerning continuing relevance of the dataset also applies to this resource.

Although I will not discourage a researcher from purchasing a subscription to Genealogy.com, I will not encourage such action, either. Subscriptions to online research services that ultimately provide links to original resources - census and other primary and secondary sources - can be a great benefit to those who are unable to attend at a research facility. A great many people fall into this category, not only those who are housebound but also those who are geographically-bound - live too far away from a library or research facility to be able to justify a trip.

The downside to online subscriptions comes in the form of exaggerated subscription fees. Yes, a reasonable fee has to be charged by the data provider to cover the costs of acquisition of resources, technical experts and service providers for producing and maintaining the online resources and website presence, and to pay all corporate expenses, fixed, overhead and otherwise, and still provide a modest profit or ROI (return on investment) to the shareholders. But the key here is the "modest" profit. Genealogy has become a hobby in which the demand for tools has outstripped the supply of those tools and too many opportunists have taken this as a signal for potentially unlimited high returns.

Genealogy.com with its absurd subscription fee structure is a prime example. A "Gold" membership, listed at US$309.00 per year allows one access to the Family Tree Maker software; the Genealogy Library, World Family Tree, U.S. census returns, international & passenger records, as well as technical support. The "Deluxe" subscription, listed at US$129.00 per year allows one access to Family Tree Maker software, the Genealogy Library, and the World Family Trees. The "Basic" subscription, listed at US$79.00 per year allows one access to the Family Tree Maker software and the Genealogy Library, only.

Like its sister company, Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com also offers a "free trial" of its online resources. The word "free" means that a 'thing' is not restricted, impeded or confined in any manner whatsoever, that the 'thing' is clear of any obstructions and exempt of any impositions, monetary or otherwise. Consequently, any "free trial" that requires the conveyance of credit card billing information is not "free" at all.

Returning to a discussion of the content of the subscriptions, The Genealogy Library sounds intriguing, doesn't it? It took me awhile to find even a partial enumeration of what resources are included in the Genealogy Library. Eventually, I discovered the following partial list buried in a press release dated March 22, 2001:

  • Pilgrim Genealogies and Histories, 1600s-1900s

  • Genealogies of Mayflower Families, 1500s-1800s

  • Virginia Family Histories, pre-1600 to 1900s

  • Pennsylvania Family Histories, pre-1600 to 1900s

  • Connecticut Family Histories, 1600s-1800s

  • Virginia Family Histories, 1600s-1800s

  • Colonial Family Histories, 1607-1920

  • Southern Family Histories, 1600s-1800s

  • Revolutionary War Pension Lists Military Records

  • Mayflower Vital Records, Deeds and Wills, 1600s-1900s

  • Pennsylvania Vital Records, 1700s-1800s

  • Directory of Deceased American Physicians, Vital Records, 1804-1929

  • New York Genealogical Records, 1675-1920

  • Massachusetts Genealogical Records, 1600s-1800s

  • Virginia Colonial Records, 1600s-1900s

  • Pennsylvania Colonial Records, 1600s-1800s

  • Maryland Marriage Index, 1655-1850

  • Massachusetts Marriage Index, 1633-1850

  • New Jersey Marriage Index, 1680-1900

  • Indiana Marriage Index, 1851-1900

  • Texas Marriage Index, 1851-1900

  • Connecticut Marriage Index, 1635-1860

  • Selected Counties of Ohio Marriage Index, 1789-1850

  • The Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy, 1740-1930

  • The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Volumes 1-85

  • AL, AR, FL, LA, MI, MN, OH, WI, Land Records, 1790-1907

  • Civil War Union Soldiers of Honor

  • Lineages of Hereditary Society Members, 1600s-1900s

While the average individual can probably discern that the U.S. Census collection is going to contain only U.S. census returns, no one can be expected to figure out that most of the subscription databases on Genealogy.com are U.S. driven. Notice that the above list of resources are all U.S.-related resources. Oh, how disappointed and disillusioned the British, Canadian or European ancestor hunter would be with a subscription to Genealogy.com. At no destination on the site is there a set of instructions or a form by which a subscription can be cancelled or a refund requested.

It is my closing opinion that some rationalization planning sessions are needed at MyFamily, Inc.com in order to bring Genealogy.com back into a strong position as a genealogy resource provider.

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