A few weeks ago in our E-mail Update newsletter, I mentioned a subscription Web site called Genealogy Archives.
I was skeptical because most of its collections seemed to be free elsewhere online, you couldn’t get even basic search results without a subscription, and there was no information about the site’s owners.
Genealogy Archives spokesperson Julie Hill took notice and contacted me. I had a chance to talk with her and senior product manager Joe Godfrey, and to try out the site.
Though the subscription genealogy space is crowded, Godfrey believes his approach is unique: Offer family historians a low-priced option with basic content that’s useful to most people, plus links to add-on, fee-based services (such as the option to order a record through VitalChek).
There’s also a forum and Expert Advice section with how-to articles, and you can add your family tree or upload a GEDCOM.
Though it’s still relatively small, Genealogy Archives added 200 million new records last week, including the 1860 and 1930 census indexes from Footnote, newspaper obituaries (you get a link to the obituary online and/or a transcription of it), and vital records from California and Colorado. It also looks like there’s more customer support information, including FAQs.
Hill points to the site’s living-people sources as unique content not available with other genealogy sites.
On the home page, the Trace Your Family Tree As Far Back As Possible section is a living-people search. You type in your name and age, and if the site finds the right listing for you, you get a tantalizing “We found your family tree” message and a prompt to join the site for $39.95 annually. (The records found may or may not be relatives.)
The Search for an Ancestor section lets you search the site’s historical records and indexes. It’s not as sophisticated a search as you find on competing sites—a first and last name are required; you also can pick a state and add the birth and death year and record type. (The site searches as though you entered an initial for the first name.)
Results give you the number of matches found, but nothing about them, before you’re prompted to subscribe—so it’s hard to decide whether or not to bust out the credit card.
Genealogy Archives subscribers can search within a database, which usually adds a few more search fields. Some of the categories are census records, immigration and passenger lists (from NARA’s free Access to Archival Databases listings), newspapers, “Find Famous Relatives” (finds notable folks with your last name—not necessarily relatives) and cemetery listings (actually, obituaries and the Social Security Death Index, or SSDI).
I liked how SSDI results link you to a list of cemeteries near each person’s place of death, which in turn link to the cemetery’s results in Find-A-Grave or from a Google search, and any USGenWeb entries for the cemetery (no guarantee, of course, that you’ll find information from your ancestor’s head stone).
Godfrey says plans call for beefing up the site with higher-quality family tree software. He hopes a redesign will make the site more engaging and make it easier for you to tell what records it has.
To me, that seems crucial for getting subscribers.
Godfrey adds that he’s having “a lot of conversations with a lot of other folks” (i.e., potential partners) about more content. Also, the Genealogy Archives blog promises “members will be blown away by the dramatic upgrades coming soon.”
You can sign up for a free seven-day trial of Genealogy Archives, though you do need to enter your credit card number.