SALT LAKE CITY — Free access to three prominent genealogy websites may be coming sooner than expected for LDS Church members.
In February, FamilySearch.org, a nonprofit family history organization owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced that LDS Church members eventually will be granted free subscriptions to Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and FindMyPast.com as part of an ongoing partnership in which the companies collaborate to obtain historical records and share resources.
Originally, FamilySearch encouraged church members to be patient because this special access wouldn't be available until the end of 2014.
But Thom Reed, FamilySearch's partner marketing manager, recently reported the project is ahead of schedule.
"The launch is currently scheduled for the middle of the second quarter," Reed said. "We are in the testing phase with our internal group right now. ... In the next two months, we will begin with a limited rollout. Patrons will be notified by an individual email invitation once we go live. We anticipate broad access for all members of the church will happen in the late summer, early fall, if all goes well."
Free access to two of the commercial family history websites is already available to the general public at more than 4,700 FamilySearch-owned family history centers and libraries worldwide. Ancestry and FindMyPast currently offer free access to all patrons at the centers. MyHeritage will begin granting free access later this year, Reed said.
Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch, said it took about a year to negotiate a win-win arrangement for all involved. Because FamilySearch is funded by the tithes, offerings and devotion of LDS Church members, Brimhall requested free subscriptions on their behalf. The other companies said that was fair, Brimhall said.
"We are very excited about the deal. We are coordinating our resources so we can collectively get more out of this than everybody going in their own direction," Brimhall said in an interview during the RootsTech Conference in February. "They have a lot more records than we do. ... Ten years from now, the public, including our members, will have access to significantly greater multiples of records than we have today because we are bringing our resources together."
"They have a commercial model and we respect that. We want these companies to be successful because the more successful they are, the more successful we are because of the investment our partners put into records and technology," Brimhall continued.
Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry.com, said the arrangement will expand Ancestry's reach.
"We're thrilled. This relationship will allow us to bring new content online ... and we think it's a great way to drive more awareness," Sullivan said. "We value tremendously what we are going to gain through this strategic relationship."
The four family history websites, and possibly others, will continue to work together going forward, Reed said.
"Partnerships between FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage and other companies in the future will provide new opportunities for people to discover their ancestors (and) preserve and share those memories for generations to come," Reed said. "By working collaboratively with these companies, FamilySearch enables individuals around the globe to have access to billions of more records and make more conclusions to their family trees than they would otherwise have been able to do."
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