Posted by on May 23, 2008 in Content

We have run many surveys regarding content interest around the world.  We consistently see relatively small interest in content from Central and South America.  We have a huge number of people that have ancestors from these areas both in the United States and in those countries. We have some opportunities to get many more records from these areas but the interest from current customers seems very low.  I would love to understand more about this discrepancy – meaning a high number of people but very low interest.

Is it that we have had so few records from Central and South America that people that come from those places do not visit Ancestry?

Is it that they just have lower interest in Genealogy?

I actually spent a few years living in Argentina and learned to really appreciate the people. I felt like they were generally very interested in their family history but I didn’t really focus on this. I am still a little surprised to not see more interest in these records. If you have any insights into this we would appreciate your feedback.

Thanks for working with us.

GG

25 Comments

Randy Seaver 

Gary,

An interesting question, but I can think of several responses.

1) How many databases do you have for Central and South America?

2) It’s a pretty big place – with a total population exceeding North America. Only Belize and Guyana speak English as a first language, right? Brazil speaks Portuguese, Surinam Dutch, and the rest speak Spanish. Does Ancestry have a Spanish or Portuguese language capability?

3) The population of much of Latin America is poor, and does not have universal Internet access. If poor, buying basic necessitites would trump paying for an Ancestry subscription – but a subscription to what?

4) If you offer services in their language that meet their needs, they will come. The horse has to come before the cart.

Regards — Randy Seaver

4)

May 23, 2008 at 9:04 am
Dan 

I tried to research my ex wifes side for my kids. The Spanish Mexican records and found that the use of last names very irregular and some used the mothers maiden name and then next child may have a whole different last name so I just gave up. I am guessing this will have to be professionally done.

May 23, 2008 at 2:40 pm
Valerie 

I’ve tried to look through records to help my friend with her father’s line. There just didn’t seem to be any records available. It doesn’t even look like this site provides material for Central/South America when you look on the search page.

By not having anything available, how do you expect to bring in researchers interested in those areas? They’ll come by, see there’s nothing, and not come back.

I’d say, get some records and *then* you’ll see more interest.

May 23, 2008 at 3:23 pm
Athena 

Is it that we have had so few records from Central and South America that people that come from those places do not visit Ancestry?

How exactly, do people access the material that you do have today? If I go to the main Ancestry page and click Search > Historical Records, I don’t see any way to indicate that I’m searching for someone born in Mexico or anywhere else in Central/South America.

Under the circumstances, I’m not surprised that your metrics indicate low interest in whatever it is that you do have. In fact, I don’t know how you can tell either way.

May 26, 2008 at 11:23 am
Valerie 

I would love to be able to have some records from Peru to research. I pay quite a lot of money for your premium world-wide service and I feel shortchanged by your lack of records in some parts of the world.

May 26, 2008 at 4:07 pm
Diana 

Central and South America sound great to add to the site, however, there are a lot of spanish people that came here from Puerto Rico as well. Since Puerto Rico is practically part of the US, why hasn’t this island’s records been updated?

Canada, England, even parts of France have large data bases on ancestry.com, but nothing more than the 1910-1930 census is mentioned for PR.

I have to agree with most of the comments that have already been made…most of the hispanic people researching their ancestors have very few records to access and have to look elsewhere, causing a low search field in this area for your site, and as with Valerie, I too pay a lot of money for access to this site for so few results when researching the smaller islands.

May 27, 2008 at 5:37 am
Gary Gibb 

Thanks for the feedback. We do have a few good records for descendants from Mexico. Probably the best is the border crossings from Mexico to US 1903-1957. This includes 3.6 million names.
In the next year we do have plans for some much more significant records from Mexico and Puerto Rico. We will measure the interest in these records and then proceed from there.

Thanks again.
GG

May 28, 2008 at 8:44 am
Athena 

Gary,

You haven’t answered our question about how anyone is supposed to find the records that are there. How do you measure use of something that people cannot even find?

May 28, 2008 at 10:16 am
Manolo Espinosa 

Hi Gary,

Your question seems based on lack of interest from, as you write, “current customers.” Not knowing your customer mix, I wonder if that the responses are skewed — since your current base may be more interested in what you currently have (in English, website skewed towards non-Hispanics).

I think some specialized Hispanic marketing would be helpful, and could indicate strong interest. The notion of the family is very very strong as you know in Latin/Hispanic communities.

My family is from Ecuador, and I would love to have as much info about them as possible.

Thanks!

May 28, 2008 at 6:02 pm
martha Carlton 

Look at your drop down list of countries in the search engine. Mexico is not even listed! When I search I have to use Mexico as a key word. Bottom line is the site is not only impossible to use when searching for mexican roots, but disrespectful to the mexican american community.

May 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm
Lynn Turner 

Ancestry/TGN is light years behind FamilySearch when it comes to Hispanic family history resources online. For example, the new Record Search site has the following (http://pilot.familysearch.org):
- 1930 Mexico national census (images – in process of being indexed)
- Mexico Vital Records CDs – includes baptisms, marriages, and deaths from Catholic parishes. These are also available on http://www.familysearch.org (index only)
- 1895 Argentina national census (index and images)
- Albacete, Spain Catholic diocese (images)
- Not to mention the Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Lugo, Spain indexing projects.
Don’t forget the IGI on http://www.familysearch.org that has millions of Catholic parish records indexed records available to search.

As a professional genealogists that specializes in Hispanic genealogy I think you are way off on the interest level. I have more clients, not to mention others that ask questions, that I know what to do with. There is plenty of interest in Latin America, however, like Randy Seaver mentioned the $subscription$ and lack of quality databases for these countries makes it difficult. You should really consider looking into building your Spain collection, since most everyone doing family history/genealogy in Latin America will be tracing many of their ancestors to Spain.

May 29, 2008 at 12:56 pm
Arturo Cuellar 

I think you are wrong, the interest on Hispanic genealogy has been increased since 1996. Have you check the Hispanic genealogy forums and blogs? Have you read “Somos Primos” magazine? (is free !!!) What about the Hispanic genealogy conferences? have you been there? if I do not want to pay for ancestry membership is because I can not obtain something useful there for us. I prefer to invest my money in something better to find my Ancestors.

May 29, 2008 at 6:59 pm
Cheryl 

My husband was born in Costa Rica, Central America. Most all of his relatives are still in Central America. I believe being poor and the lack of information available are key reasons for less interest in genealogy. Having just returned from Costa Rica, I can honestly say that my involvement in genealogy was very intriguing to the family. I did some research and shared with them. They were fascinated, it was their family and they saw papers they may never have seen, or expected to see before. Since our last visit to Costa Rica, 10 years ago, we were amazed by the influx of cell phones and even computers and or access to them. Keep in mind, this is a poor family, but moving up in the world! I think if advertisement, along with affordability, some of these countries would show more interest in our hobby. I personally was born
in the United States, not of Latin orgin, and would greatly appreciate data bases involving, in particular, Central America and other Latin countries. With so many immigrants, I am surprised there isn’t more available on Ancestry, which, in my opinion would be the only way you would draw these folks to begin with. I have been a member with Ancestry for several years and I want to know where I was when these surveys were taken about interest in these Latin countries? I say build up the databases! People are attracted where the information they want is.

May 29, 2008 at 11:29 pm
Hernandez 

I’ve been a researcher for several years using Ancestry.com. But it’s only been primarily on my wife’s side, whose ancestors from Ireland into the US is very easily tracked with hundreds of records. On my Mexican and Spanish ancestry? I can probably count a handful of records – all US records of births in California (yes, I’ve looked at border crossings and that didn’t help). While I understand your curiosity, I find your question somewhat insulting.

What do I use to track my side? I follow blogs, like hispanicgenealogy.blogspot.com to give me clues. I look at familysearch.org / LDS libraries, aheb-beha.com and Somos Primos – all free and all have given me much more information than ancestry.com has given for a fee. I am still lacking good information in Mexico, but am willing to pay for it.

I suggest this – if you build it, they will come.

May 30, 2008 at 8:08 am
Blandon 

I agree with a lot of the previous comments – I am very interested in Central and South American records, but I spent less time searching for them when I found out how little was available. I have a whole branch of ancestors who came from Colombia, to Panama, then Nicaragua, but the only historical records I have found on Ancestry are of their arrival in New Orleans in 1909.

The only other interesting results were from the message boards, where I heard from others researching the same name (Blandon), but if few people visit because few records are available, it’s harder to find anyone with common research interests. So, as others have said, adding more content will help the interest level build to a critical mass.

May 30, 2008 at 3:16 pm
Robin Mina 

Gary, I am interested in records from CHILE. I know a lot of info was also registered in England, but not enough. In particular, Santiago– where most Chileans live–or Valparaiso are large population centers for English-speaking immigrants from the UK (many still speak English).

On another note, living in Texas, I know there is a large potential market for Mexican records. A friend I recommended to Ancestry has been held up by the lack of Mexican resources and will probably cancel if she hasn’t already. I will mention to her your post about the Mexican records.

I would also like to see records from Spain since my genealogy may involve Spain to Napoleonic Italy.

May 31, 2008 at 2:12 pm
Tom Santa Cruz 

Those of us doing Latin American research have had to look else where for records. The Family History Center has been a great resource, the Online Spanish Archives [pares.mcu.es] are another, also GeneaNet.com, I saw last year that WorldVitalRecords.com included family records from Argentina and others (some have already been referred to in earlier comments.)

Ancestry.com has generally neglected Spanish records in the U.S. There are records for Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, the Southwest and California that are all but ignored. There are a few books in ancestry.com that address these areas. Someone already mentioned that wow the US Censuses for Puerto Rico are about all that is found for this U.S. territory.

Hispanic Genealogy is not any more homogeneous that that of New England. Even Mexican genealogy varies across the county and even more across Latin America. The practice of the two surnames differs across Latin America. There are country specific websites with databases, certainly nothing on a par with Ancestry,com in size for non-Hispanic records.

I hope that I addressed your open question.

June 1, 2008 at 12:36 pm
Arlene Miles 

Will you be adding any newspapers from Long Island New York?
The Long Island Advance
Newdsday
New York Daily News

I sure do miss these now that I live in California.

June 1, 2008 at 8:12 pm
Gary Gibb 

Thanks for the additional comments. This feedback is very useful. I appreciate your desire for more records from Mexico, Chile, Peru, etc.
It is true that we don’t have Mexico listed on the some current search drop down lists but if you try the new search (look for it on the home page or search page) then you can put in Mexico as a location.
The new search interface should help people more easily find the Central and South American records we do have and help show case them as we add many new records.
Thanks again
Gary Gibb

June 10, 2008 at 11:04 am
Robert Lowe 

I am a UK based user mainly focused on my English Ancestry.
However my mothers family featured heavily in the British West Indies. I was born in Jamaica, I lived a number of years in British Guiana (Now Guyana) I cannot access any information from there, although I know a rich archive of information exists in Guyana, although it is very much being destroyed by time, records exist of slaves being imported from West Africa.
It would be brilliant if we could save those records and make the content available.

Regards
Robert Lowe

June 22, 2008 at 4:00 am
OFRAME 

Dear Gary,
I feel that your information is terribly skewed for the following reasons.
1. I have written to your company various times asking that you include
“Mexico” on your drop down menu of countries. Years later I have yet to see it listed. How do you expect someone to find their ancestors on a site that doesn’t even acknowledge this latin american country which shares a border with the US let alone any of the other hispanic countries in the western hemisphere?
2. I also find that the lack of data your site has related to this has made me and others look elsewhere for information-other hispanic genealogy web groups, LDS, european genealogy database companies similiar to yours which are all free of charge and have more content. Your company charges a fee and offers hardly any content for that price.
3. Your search engine software needs to acknowledge the difference in surname customs-not only for hispanics-because currently your search engines do not differentiate between paternal and maternal ordering. Not having a way to show both surnames and prioritize them correctly makes using your site extremely frustrating to hispanic users.
4. Language barrier- your site doesn’t even have a spanish language web listing or web page for that matter.
5. Cost- also stated that many hispanic genealogists may find your fees a little too high given the cost of inflation in their countries and the non existent cost of living increases to their paychecks.
6. Internet access- many hispanic genealogists have limited internet access and have to pay per use fees for internet access unlike most american households with unlimited 24/7 access.
All of these problems lend themselves to making you site extremely unfriendly and hostile to hispanic users and also gives your company an air of arrogance which many hispanics find offensive. The Anglo-Saxon way is not the one and only way to do things in the world and even more so in genealogy. I hope that your company does take these issues into account and makes changes to its format in the very near future.

June 26, 2008 at 12:20 am
Katuska Serrano Christensen 

I fully agree with the first response to this article form Randy Seaver. I have found virtually no information here so I have turned to FamilySearch and to local family history centers that have proven to be truly invaluable. As a member of the peruvian genealogy group in yahoo I have noticed that while many interested genalogists want access to more records they need information to be in spanish and there is also the issue of cost. When you convert the cost of a subscription to ancestry to the local currency and what you get for it so far, it simply seems to be not worth it.
Regards,
Katuska Serrano de Christensen

July 2, 2008 at 8:05 am
Ana Montoya 

It would be extremely nice to have a section in Ancestry.com dedicated to Central/South America. I agree with other commentaries when they say that if Ancestry provides that service people will follow. I have being doing genealogy for the last 20 years and helping others do theirs. I use Ancestry to work on my italian side for the tree, but I can’t use Ancestry for the rest. It is quite difficult to search for records, specially in Peru. I use the FHCenters (I volunteer in one of them) and order microfilms from them, but they don’t have everything. We need Ancestry to come forward and provide a service that so desperately we are looking for.

Regards,
Ana Montoya

July 4, 2008 at 10:26 pm
Andy Hatchett 

Just exactly why should they show interest when Ancestry itself has shown practically none?

Very few records, very few south American countries shown in drop down menus, etc…

Little accomodation for the non-english spreaking…

Recitfy these and maybe there would be enough on Ancestry to attract their attention… maybe

July 25, 2008 at 7:59 pm
barcelona spain 

I agree that it’s quite strange although gary has hit the nail on the head I think with his respones.The horse definitely has to come before the cart when dealing with South America.

October 10, 2008 at 4:33 am