Who Owns Ancestry.com?

by Marc McDermott on

The current owner of Ancestry.com is the Blackstone Group. This company purchased a majority stake in Ancestry back in August of 2020 for a staggering $4.7 billion. Originally founded in New York in 1985, Blackstone is an equity investment company and the majority of their investments include media (data) companies and real estate. Rather than viewing Ancestry as a genealogy company, really, it is essentially a large tech company and its largest product is the use, or subscriptions, to the data that they hold.

History of Ancestry’s ownership

As the company has massive amounts of data, which today is considered gold, you can expect that they have changed ownership quite a bit. In 2007, a private equity company named Spectrum Equity took 30% ownership. Just two years later, Ancestry went public in a 2009 and  $100 million IPO (initial public offering). Eventually, the majority of the equity was bought out by Premira, another equity firm based in London. When Primera owned a large portion, the company expanded into Ireland and England and, in 2012,  Ancestry opened up their European headquarters in Dublin. In 2016, Silver Lake and GIC obtained significant amounts of equity within Ancestry, and then we eventually move into when Blackstone acquired the majority in 2020.

Why did Blackstone buy Ancestry?

Visually, to the consumer, Ancestry is very much a genealogical platform but because data is really what larger companies consider “good investments”, it really sets the premise as to why these investment companies obtain, then sell their ownership of the company’s equity.

Is Ancestry.com owned by the Mormon Church?

Whether you believe in the teachings of the LDS church or not, one thing cannot be argued – They are world leaders in terms of record keeping. Outside of Salt Lake City, Utah in the Wasatch mountain range, there is an apocalypse-proof vault, called the Granite Mountain records vault, which contains millions and millions of genealogical records from all over the world. The record vault has was built in 1965 and has stored and preserved over 3.5 billion images in different file types (microfilm, microfiche, and digitized media). The majority of these records have been digitized and made available at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. Many of these digitized collections can be located online through Familysearch.org which is run by LDS church as a non-profit organization.

Due to the fact that many of the digitized records on Ancestry.com can be accessed at Familysearch.org, many people assume that the company Ancestry is owned by the LDS church. This is not the case! However, throughout the years the two organizations have done massive amounts of collaborative work. In fact, if you are an LDS member, you have free access to Ancestry’s World Edition. You can also obtain free access at different municipal libraries and other non-religious institutions.

The company still to this day continues to grow and, though its past was highly influenced by people in the LDS church, the company has never been owned by the church itself.

However, the company has truly been a pioneer in the space of online subscription databases. Today, Ancestry is considered a major technology company rather than a genealogical company.Though the company has done numerous amount of collaborations with the LDS church’s non-profit organization Familysearch.org, it has never been owned by the church itself.

Understandably, the misconception comes to many people because of the church’s practice of “temple work”, the founding from LDS church members and BYU graduates and, of course, their headquarters being in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Who founded Ancestry?

To give a further look into Ancestry as a company, let’s rewind the clocks a bit more and dig deeper into a time when data was hardly even thought of, economically or technologically.

In 1990, two Brigham Young University (BYU) graduates, Paul Allen and Dan Taggart, began compiling LDS publications. Eventually,c this collection would go on to be called Infobases and after much of their compilations were stored on floppy discs and compact discs their collections only grew! The company at first, sold mainly LDS discs from the founder’s car and as their stored publication became larger, Infobases was on Inc.’s top 500 fastest growing companies. This is before people realized how data would go on to become tangibly profitable for larger companies. 1996 was the first year that Ancestry went online and Infobases’ parent company, Western Standard Publishing purchased Ancestry Inc. The two founders of Infobases would go on to purchase Western Standard’s interest in Ancestry inc. and after the purchase the company gradually snowballed, becoming larger and larger.

Digitization to online databases became a gold mine and as Ancestry grew, they compiled more and more records. They continued to compete with Deseret books which, still today, mainly publishes and sells LDS works. In 1998, Ancestry Inc. launched MyFamily.com and the site accumulated over one million users in a matter of half a year! $90 million was gathered from investors and by November 1999 MyFamily.com changed its name to Ancestry.com, as you and I know it.

As the company only continued to grow, they were truly among the first companies to really take action in uploading their data to the internet. While the internet was still in its early days, they take pride in having seen the potential in what was to come. In fact, this is one of the main reasons that Blackstone acquired the majority of the company’s equity. As of 2020, Ancestry has nearly 30 billion online records in its database.

When was Ancestry DNA founded?

In 2012, the company launched AncestryDNA and mail-order DNA kits began being mailed out to consumers and over 18 million have utilized this product. Some other companies that are under the ownership of Ancestry include Fold3, Findagrave, and ProGenealogists where all of the Ancestry researchers provide clients with professional research.

Final thoughts

Though genealogy has been practiced by many people in or outside of the LDS church, as technology improves, companies learn how to make their profits. Imagine the detail and patience one had before census records were made available online. Trips to libraries, archives, index card drawers stacked upon one another! Incredible individuals saw the potential of utilizing the internet back when very few people even understood what it was. It was because of this that the company has become a world leader in technology. In the last decade, the company has outdone itself in terms of growth of profit, subscriptions and employees. Currently, they are operating offices in Dublin, Ireland, San Francisco, California, London, England, Sydney, Australia and Munich, Germany.

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