Friday, 27 April 2012

Ancestry keeps professional genies happy

I had not heard that the US parent company of Ancestry ( had recently changed its terms and conditions about use of the site, but apparently it has kicked up a bit of a kerfuffle in the US. American blogger Dick Eastman has a post this morning that thankfully carries a response from the company which seems to have resolved the issue.

It would appear that the changes removed a phrase about the use of the site by professional genealogists, seemingly excluding them. This appears to have been more of a cock up than a conspiracy, and in a letter Ancestry's PR bod Matthew Deighton has described how the legal team has now changed the terms once again to say the following:

“You may access the Website, use the graphics, information, data, editorial and other Content only for personal or professional family history research, and download Content only as search results relevant to that research.”

Genies can once again breathe a sigh of relief! Eastman's full post is at

Incidentally, compare that to RootsIreland's equivalent clause at

"You may use the content on the website for private and non-commercial purposes only. You may not use the records to create your own work (e.g. a database of records, an article, publication), copy or reproduce the records (either in whole or in part), or make available, share or publish them unless you have our permission in writing."

Guess that that goes to show there are certainly ways and means of doing things...

UPDATE: In the interests of fairness, Findmypast ( has a similar clause:

"You can only use the website for your own personal non-commercial use, e.g., to research your own family history. We are also happy for you to help out other people with their family history by telling them about records available on the website and how and where they can be found, including showing them anything within our free search results. However, you must not provide them with copies of any of the records (either an original image of the record or the information on the results page), even if you provide them for free."

I've not actually yet found any terms and conditions on The Genealogist ( - I presume they must be there somewhere!


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  1. I'd be a bit disturbed about RootsIreland's Ts & Cs. Whereas the operative bit that is forbidden by FMP is _copying_, RootsIreland actually forbids _using_. Thus, the literal reading is that if I find on RI that G-grandfather Michael came from Cork then I must not mention this fact in an article that I write for a magazine (say). I know I can't copy any image or transcribe their own work and that's fair enough. But RI says that I cannot _use_ the information. In effect, it's imposing a confidentiality agreement. Hmm. Did they mean this I wonder? And if not, why did they write it?

  2. This whole copyright "thing" is a nightmare. The providers are trying to prevent people offering lookups for money. There used to be loads of them on eBay, although I haven't checked recently. I do mainly use Ancestry as it happens, but I do have to use use FMP or ScotlandsPeople, for records that are not available elsewhere.

    The way I argue the copyright issue, is that my clients pay for my knowledge, expertise, and reporting. They do not pay me for the basic information found online, or copies thereof, which on their own could be subject to copyright. I also warn my clients that they may not publish the information anywhere, in either written or web format.

  3. Of course The Genealogist also insists on charging professionals an extortionate subscription fee which is simply unaffordable for us one-man/woman businesses. I have taken this up with the company before and they insist that professionals access far more records than hobbyists. I'm not so sure about this.