REVIEW: Ancestry.com’s ProGenealogists.com

A conversation on a mogul’s social media platform led me to look up companies under Ancestry’s umbrella. Later I returned for future reference, who not to use (yes, I admit, I’m no longer enchanted with Ancestry, but it took me 23 years to get here.. and I’m not leaving this headspace even if they paid me!) The company “ProGenealogists” intrigued me and after clicking around I really felt compelled to put this out there in the universe, for a thought provoking experiment.

Experiment:

  • If you’re a non-hobbyist, would you pay this company for their services?
  • If you are a hobbyist/any level genealogist, what do you think about the offerings, as spelled out?
  • Now.. same question to those who are Ancestry customers, and in light of the recent change in TOS, where this same parent company will have eternal ownership of not just YOUR work but also your photos and images added to the site? And to those of you who copied your way to 12k people in your tree on the backs of other’s tireless work and photographs … sit down. NOW.
    • So, tell me in comments after you read my take on this, what you think. Remember, ugliness gets the boot! I own the right to snark here- I mean I literally own it. My site. My rules.

Up for conversation ProGenealogists.com. The homepage is clean, pretty straight forward but I am not interested in the marketing (coughBScough). Give me the meat and potatoes… the top subject tabs, which are hyperlinked for your convenience, include:

Where do I begin? First, I’d like to point out I’m in the wrong business! I could be a gazillionaire for something I do out of love. $135/hr plus printing, travel and who knows what else? HA! But there’s a glaring issue that is staring me in the face, especially in light of the last post, re Ancestry’s TOS changes and ‘owning’ our data and photographs. That is:

where do you think they might begin doing research for their ‘clients’ who pay them, $135/hr for “genealogy research”? Hint: They’re owned by … ummm, a genealogy conglomerate who monetizes their own client’s data in ways we probably haven’t thought of. This being one I NEVER dreamed of!

Genealogy Research fee is quoted as, with bold emphasis made by me:

Pricing starts as low as $2,700 USD for 20 hours of research

Genealogy Research, The Products
Lineage Society Membership: “prove descent through industry approved genealogical proof standards”. What? You prove with documents such as land, military and birth for direct lineage: Bingo Bango Bambo… you’re in DAR… (especially if someone from the ancestor’s line has already been admitted, and you piggy back onto their application, which was authorized.) Don’t get me wrong it’s not easy, but if you’ve done your research properly and can prove your lineage, with papers (maybe even DNA now- I haven’t looked) then… you’re in!

When you click “Free Estimate” it takes you to this page:

Notice, if you can, the 6 listed “Factors that may influence the full cost of a project…”

So, $135/hour, a minimum of $2,700 for the Research, potentially extra for DNA analysis, and guess what? You can KEEP your images and documents! Wait WHAT?

As an Ancestry ‘customer’, we pay this company a fortune every year for membership, we do our OWN work (well most of us do)* and then when/if we allow our subscriptions to lapse-hey, life gets in the way– when we want to peek at our trees, we can no longer see the documents we’ve attached as sources to our trees- meaning our work product is no longer viewable until we cough up more $$. People and things written in manually (err, typed) but source documents saved and attached photos? NO. Our own photos which we’ve uploaded? Yes… and as of Sept 1 (or 3?), if your tree is public, Ancestry will give you another benefit of your subscription, for free. They will now own all of your work products and non-copyrighted images…

FOREVER.

But hey, if you can afford close to $3k- you get to keep the images/documents!

* well most of us do our own work>, I’m talking to the click bait up and coming class of entitled ‘genealogists’ who expect everyone to put our own work out for them to copy and claim as their work products because “we have a right to know our family“. (ggrrrr) Don’t forget all those private family photos they expect you to give away!! And if you don’t, then you’re selfish! (To my cousins, you won’t understand this and please know I am NOT talking to you! But to other researchers, who will be on one side of this or the other, I’m clear where I stand, but if it’s not clear, just ask me.)

So for fun, let’s click Books and Oral Histories, because this one while set you on an orbit that even Bezos would be impressed with, since you did it for zero cost! Oh hell- where do I even start?

  • Family Narrative: 20 pictu..excuse me, photographs, historical contexts using maps copies of records and … bs bs bs
  • Ohhh, they can either print it OR email it to you in a PDF
  • More functional for “smaller trees” (well, to my family. Ours is BIG!)
  • WOO Hoo. You get 20 whopping pictu…there I go again, photographs.
  • Don’t write your check just yet for the price posted, as it says starts as low as …and… before printing.
  • $FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS!
  • 20 pictures, a few maps and ‘copies of documents’ printed or sent via email in a PDF…. and you pay FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS, plus printing. That’s just the MINIMUM.

    But wait.. there’s more and it’s not the one that will send you into orbit. And I’m having a hard time deciding who the winner of this will be, but let’s look at a less expensive option.

    For an Oral History package, you can have your family members talk into a ___ ? and they’ll record then, then have someone (or voice to text software, with an editor to make corrections) type a transcript (I just can NOT write their BS descriptions) and then you get 15 pictures. This price tag is more reasonable, after all you’re only getting pics and a tape.

    $3k (don’t forget: Pricing starts at $3k) and travel costs … AND printing= plus travel, plus printing.

    So you fly someone to you to stick a phone or camcorder in your face, 5 less pictures than Family Narrative package, but HEY, this one is Grandpa talking!

    I guess it’s a good deal after all it’s not like everyone carries around a close to 4k camera phone in their pocket these days? Right?

    I’m just putting this one out here because I can’t even… I can’t. And it’s not even the worst, or second to worst.

    FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED US DOLLARS, plus printing… oh,
    Pricing starts as LOW as $4,500….. for a C H I L D R E N’S book!
    Target age group 8-11 year olds.

    Ok, now we’re talking! Having a book written by my grandfather, which one day I swear I will publish, I have looked around at publishing, even self publishing. And this alone make me ill. To think back when he wrote his book, and what it represented, keeping the memories of his dear friends alive, due to the guilt of surviving WW2, and to know he was literally an award winning writer- the highest in the military at the time, and met presidents and famous people because of it, I literally can’t even find anything to write. Just look, but remember, it’s not the worse one. Oh, but you get 100 pictures. Ok this one: photographs.

    S E V E N T E E N T H O U S A N D USD, plus printing

    ok, are you ready for the whopper? Now, for all you beautiful cousins of mine, I want you to remember me fondly at Christmas, you hear? (and you know I am totally joking!)

    Are you ready? Are you sure? Can you take a wild stab at the pricetag? Well, let me give you some of the highlights of what you get.

    • Photographs (there’s those pesky things again), maps, copies of records complement engaging writing, including historical context..

    wait… hold the phone. WHAT? So let’s grab those photographs we now own, some stuff from this bin (maps), that bin (copies of records), toss in some engaging writing and frost it with some historical context. What a crock of crap! And that’s just the first highlight. Let’s continue… before I get ill.

    • Completely customized.

    Again. Horseshit! I’m sorry but by definition, every book they do IS customized, unless they’re doing it for the same exact family line (which, actually made me thing of a whole hosts of issues…) but let’s continue.. if I can!

    Oh this one will be disappointing, especially since the last package is $8k less, but you get the same…

    100 photographs.

    Costs? Well, of course printing is not included. And remember you’re getting a customized, original book of YOUR family (again, by definition that’s customized) and maybe if you want, the cover would be pink. Oh, don’t forget the copies of all those historically complementing engaged records contextualizing photographical writing. I took artistic license, hoping maybe someone would offer me a job writing a family genealogy book that costs……

    TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS,

    **plus printing. US Dollars.

    I am so making a Christmas list this year! lol

    So now, the experiment. After you’ve seen all this, and for those of you on planet Earth that have paid attention to what Ancestry’s been up to recently, and wondering WHY they would go to the extreme of potentially creating a backlash in their beloved, loyal, customer base…. What say you now? Do you really believe, yet again, they’re not trying to find another way to make money of YOU and YOUR work, and YOUR pictures? With the TOS changes, they could literally turn around and legally take your work and photos and put them into a $4500 children’s book, or a $25,000 FAMILY HISTORY BOOK. Something you can do yourself with programs built for this, like Family Book Creator– working in unison with genealogy software like Family Tree Maker (link here) or RootsMagic (free and paid version here). Sure, maybe not as nice as what high-end professional printers can produce, and stock historical photos or artistic historical works and maps, but still you would be amazed what you could do yourself. And, YES, I understand this company has been here for a while, but the move to OWN YOUR WORK AND PROPERTY has NOT! Once your trees and photos are owned, whether it happens the next day or the following year, Ancestry would have every legal right to literally make thousands, dare I even say, millions, off yours, mine and our collective dworks!

    For those that say other companies have similar terms in their TOS, well except for the forever own part. One thing those other companies don’t have is a huge umbrella of companies whose sole purpose is to monetizing repurposed and repackaged Ancestry databases, and available intellectual works and property. That is a huge difference in intent.

    If you made it to here the end, good for you. Maybe there’s a few of us out there in the universe that are paying attention. If you want, please leave a note below. Who knows: Maybe Ancestry will stop running over people like they’re pebbles in their shoes.

    But for me and 25+ of mine? I’m pulling ALL my/our data off Ancestry this week. TOS changes didn’t do it, but their ProGenealogists company site DID.

    And please know, the next post after my last was not to have been a continuation of Ancestry’s drama, but this was something I saw and every hair on my neck stood up. Remember, go to the beginning. We’re only covering Genealogy Research and Books and Oral Histories. There’s 6 more tabs (3 of which are company related, 3 are services related) to review. So don’t think I went hard on them. Besides… this post will serve as a future reminder when we look in our rear views, if this is what they ultimately do (or caught doing).

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