Internet Biographical Collection Removed from Ancestry

I received the following message from the Ancestry home office just now:  

Earlier this week we launched the Internet Biographical Collection on Ancestry.com. Our goal was to offer members a search engine that focused primarily on genealogy resources. We intended this collection to help surface family history information that many people would not be able to find easily because it is often scattered among numerous websites across the Internet. We cached individual Web pages in an effort to preserve history – if a Web page featuring important family history information were taken down in the future, a cached version would still be available.

Many people have expressed concerns about the collection and the search engine we created on Ancestry.com. We recognize the significant time and resources members of the genealogical community invest to make their family history research available online.

Over the past few days we have reevaluated this collection’s goals, caching and crawling ability, and user experience. We have decided to remove this collection and search engine from Ancestry.com for the time being. We are still dedicated to providing family historians the online tools and aggregated records that make it easier to trace their family tree and will work to develop a solution that meets those needs in a way that will be most beneficial to our customers and the community.

17 thoughts on “Internet Biographical Collection Removed from Ancestry

  1. OK, for some reason the rest of my comment got dropped. So here’s the rest of it.

    ^ That’s me giving a round of applause to the genea-blogging community for all their efforts to make our concerns to Ancestry known. And a nod goes out Ancestry.com as well for doing the right thing. The only thing that has me a bit nervous is the “We have decided to remove this collection and search engine from ancestry.com FOR THE TIME BEING.” I think we still need to be vigilant in monitoring Ancestry’s site to make sure they don’t try to “test the waters” again any time soon.

  2. My sincere THANKS to Ancestry for doing the right thing, and I sincerely hope the statement will be forthcoming that it is removed for ever, not just the time being.

    The right to “take over” add code to and cache other people’s domains and pages is not theirs. Regardless of their reasoning described
    “We cached individual Web pages in an effort to preserve history – if a Web page featuring important family history information were taken down in the future, a cached version would still be available.”
    Maybe, just maybe, the owner didn’t want it saved, maybe it was full of errors.

  3. Ancestry, you go.

    I think that there’s a way to get a win-win here, still… you point out resources for your subscribers on the web in such a way that owners of those web sites have their efforts and rights protected.

    I encourage you to engage in lots of discussion w/ site owners here before you roll out your “Take 2.”

    Two obvious points for consideration: a- Give priority to a link straight to the actual site (links! me likey links!), and b- Explicit acknowledgement that any cached copy of the site is, in fact, a cache, and that ownership and copyright rights belong with the site creator and not with ancestry.com.

    I had done some research on how to use robots.txt [1] in order to keep the MyFamilyBot away… but that option is not available for those whose sites are hosted on blogspot, wordpress.com, or typepad. The same tools that make it easy and free for a genealogy enthusiast to quickly start posting things to the web offer a subset of plain-old-internet hosting options. That kind of limitation makes it difficult for many genealogy bloggers and site owners to fully act on their own behalf. It’s a limitation that needs to be borne in mind in order to create a win-win solution, next time around.

    [1] http://familyoralhistory.us/news/view/ancestrycom_scrapes_websites/

  4. If it is still there could you PLEASE give a link. I wanted to test searching it as non-Ancestry paying, but cannot find it now!

  5. Although the above says the Internet Biographical Collection has been removed I can still reach the cached sites by doing an advanced search. Out of curiosity I clicked on some of the links on the cached page and each link leads to another cached page, several of them with prominent copyright notices. This brings up an interesting thought – in ancestry’s own terms of usage they forbid copying any data from its site and making any use of it, including placing anything on another site. Since they have shown that it’s OK for them to copy sites, store them and display them as their own as long as they use the words “cached” and offer a token link to the original site, to me that means they think that particular type of usage doesn’t violate any copyright or terms of usage. So, that must mean I can copy any of their pages, place them on my website as long as I say it’s a “cached” page and put a tiny link back to ancestry with it. Now that’s a thought worth considering.

  6. As of right now, its still up and searchable and results are viewable (unless you get that “error” message you get from them saying the search couldnt be completed, when the site is bogged down with users. If you go here http://www.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1162&enc=1

    it will take you to the “unknown” database, but the pages still has the IBC comments on it and when you “search this title”, it still gives you the page to input your search criteria, and it still gives you results and it still lets you “view” record

  7. You quoted: “We cached individual Web pages in an effort to preserve history – if a Web page featuring important family history information were taken down in the future, a cached version would still be available.”

    What gives Ancestry that legal right of disbribution with other folks’ property? If something is removed by the owner from their site, what right do you have to still make such available and publicly distribute the same? Perhaps something was removed because it was found the material was in violation of copyright, or wrong information.

    From your statements above, are you in fact, saying it is ok for anyone to cache pages from the Ancestry free areas, place it on their site for public distribution, call it a cache with a little link back to the page on Ancestry?

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  9. I hate to go against the flow, but it is a matter of time before all genealogical material is fair game and in the public domain. In the current environment of genealogy some of the project members go to great lengths to prevent data from being published by the independent sites, including slandering webmasters and lying to submitters.
    In New Mexico, some are now employing a new and silly tactic. Some project members claim a “first use” right to data. No such right exists. Submitters may give databases to anyone, but submitters may actually believe there is some sort of “first use” right to data.
    It may be best that all genealogical data is someday owned by everyone, everywhere.

  10. copy of letter sent to Lucas Co., IA Listers’ site:

    Greetings all,
    re: http://blogs.ancestry.com/circle/?p=1786_

    This has been VERY interesting. Thank you Jayne for that last blog referral. I liked what was being said by Ancestry and hope, like Janice from New Hampshire said … she “can now move on” [over the Internet Biog. issue] and like another said, “We’re keeping an eye on you” [... Ancestry.com].

    Jayne’s referral was written by Ancestry’s Hulet , brings up an interesting point … something we all want:

    “… free web search engine that links directly back to the live web pages”… That WAS the idea of Rootsweb and Genealogy.com … now all part of the conglomerate. And GenWeb … same thing – FREE.

    Last Sept I paid $299 for 13 months of total access to Ancestry’s data bases. The $99 the year before did not cover “total access” or new additions” and it was frustrating being blocked to access as I hadn’t paid for that part. It’s been an AWESOME opportunity to research right from your home office. New things are added all the time. Hopefully not just cached inappropriately. It is fantastic, and yes, soooo pricey.

    It would be great if everyone had that same access .. without the fee. That would take corporate sponsors perhaps! Hey, Bill Gates, Oprah, … here’s a fabulous project for the masses.

    In case you can afford it, and have been wondering if it’s worth it to join Ancestry … YES, it is … go for it ! Accessing Ancestry’s census images alone is a fast, easy and excellent method of obtaining data for your searches. And one can browse the neighborhood to see if relatives are living nearby. In some years, the census data & individual’s names are transcribed for you & listed separately on record. This can then be cut and pasted into your file saving all sorts of time on your part. Also, the fact that someone can READ some of the lousy writing on a census image is awesome. I find it very difficult in some cases to transcribe some folks’ writing. This has been extremely helpful. And, I don’t have to get out of my pj’s, gas up the car, and head to an LDS site. The access to Ancestry has been super fast. I have under-used the entire site. You know, it all takes so much time! Can you tell I’m a fan & enjoy the subscription? I do.

    Well, just wanted to jump in & say, it was good to know the issues raised about Ancestry were being addressed and corrected — hopefully. I do appreciate the fact that they are trying to make FREE links to the data out there … that should all remain free… as it is when any of us make referrals .. links .. to other site locations. It’s just wrong to charge for other’s efforts but excellent to get a free referral to go look.

    I can understand when Ancestry has hired folks to scan data, make collections, and work hard to share that info, that it all costs money to pull together a collection for us to view.

    check out the The Family Circle blog … again, at: http://blogs.ancestry.com/circle/?p=1786_

    “I guess they feel that http://www.archive.org/ isn’t enough? most things are archived there, without the commercial attachment.” // [Hmmm, let's check that one out.]
    Comment by Jeff Scism — 30 August 2007

    And, Charles Barnum, 30 August 2007, wrote:
    “I hate to go against the flow, but it is a matter of time before all genealogical material is fair game and in the public domain. In the current environment of genealogy some of the project members go to great lengths to prevent data from being published by the independent sites, including slandering webmasters and lying to submitters. [ Didn't David have some serious concerns about his/our contributions as well, but in a slightly different venue? ]
    In New Mexico, some are now employing a new and silly tactic. Some project members claim a “first use” right to data. No such right exists. Submitters may give databases to anyone, but submitters may actually believe there is some sort of “first use” right to data.
    It may be best that all genealogical data is someday owned by everyone, everywhere.” //

    In listening & studying this issue .. it reminds me of the old college days digging through books, magazines in huge libraries trying to find quotes, content and ideas for various topics. Just think if we were charged for every bit of information we copied down and used. We all needed to be careful about not plagerizing others work and giving proper credit, references. That is still a must when sharing data… give credit where credit is due.

    FREE is good. Give CREDIT to authors. AND, in the meantime, I am a HUGE fan of Ancestry.com’s database and will likely continue to give up several dinners out for my $300 fee for access. It would be FANTASTIC if ALL people could easily access the info.
    How’s LDS doing these days in that regard? Haven’t been there for a long time … it seemed cumbersome when I did try to find things out.

    Well everyone, have a good Labor Day!!
    Mary Beth in Wisconsin

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