Two Fewer Free Lunches

By Diane Haddad Premium

Two genealogy Web sites recently limited library patrons’ free access to their subscription-only databases.
Last October, <> (the parent company of < > and other genealogy sites) ended Michigan State Library patrons’ short-lived home access to AncestryPlus, an institutional version of’s databases.
And <>, a popular site for sharing family tree files, announced in early December that it had canceled free access at libraries and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Centers (FHCs) <>.

From Oct. 1 to Oct. 19, Michigan residents could log on to the state library’s Web site from home and use state identification to access AncestryPlus. But the remote access shouldn’t have been offered in the first place, says spokeswoman Mary-Kay Evans. The company licenses databases to its partner Thomson Gale <>, a provider of Web-based information to educational institutions, which then sells the databases to libraries as AncestryPlus.

Evans says never authorized Thomson Gale to add free remote access to library contracts. “AncestryPlus is meant for use in libraries, not as an at-home product — that would compete with our sales [of subscriptions].” Library users can still access AncestryPlus databases from computer terminals at subscribing libraries.

The Michigan library issued a press release calling’s actions abrupt, and said the company gave “customer abuse” as the cause. A library staff member told the Monroe Evening News that a Michigan resident had sent his driver’s license number to an internet mailing list, allowing people across the country to use AncestryPlus. Evans says she’s unaware of any incident of abuse, and that was alerted to the breach of contract by technical-support calls and postings on Internet message boards. isn’t talking about its decision to eliminate free library access to its database. Its announcement cited only “customer support issues,” and a company representative wouldn’t comment. But an FHC staff member who contacted the company posted its response on an FHC mailing list: Technical issues and a few “rude and demanding” telephone calls from staff at unidentified FHCs reportedly prompted the change in service.

You can still get free access to by uploading a family tree to <>. The length of the subscription depends on the size of the tree; at minimum, 15 families and 60 individuals earns you a free month. Paid subscriptions range from $5 for 10 days to $100 for a year.

From the April 2004 Family Tree Magazine