Who Owns Ancestry.com?

Marc McDermott
Last updated: December 4, 2023

In the genealogical research industry, Ancestry.com dominates the market. While its services are widely utilized, its ownership details remain less known to the public. In this piece, we take a straightforward look at this leading platform’s financial and corporate aspects, highlighting the key players and structures steering its course.

Who Owns Ancestry?

Ancestry.com is owned by the Blackstone Group, which acquired it for $4.7 billion in August 2020. The Blackstone Group, a prominent American private equity firm, has guided Ancestry.com’s transition from a genealogical research entity to a high-value tech company, capitalizing on its robust database and subscription services.

History of Ancestry’s ownership

As the company has massive amounts of data, which today is considered gold, you can expect 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 2009 with a $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 its European headquarters in Dublin. In 2016, Silver Lake and GIC obtained significant amounts of equity within Ancestry, and then we eventually moved into when Blackstone acquired the majority in 2020.

The acquisition attracted legal scrutiny, leading to a class-action lawsuit over alleged Genetic Information Privacy Act violations. In 2023, a Seventh Circuit panel dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims as “bare bones,” affirming that the acquisition did not inherently breach the privacy law. This ruling not only upheld Blackstone’s acquisition but also set a precedent in interpreting the applicability of privacy statutes to corporate transactions.

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, and then sell their ownership of the company’s equity.

Is Ancestry.com owned by the Mormon Church?

Since many of the digitized records on Ancestry.com can be accessed at FamilySearch, many people assume that the company Ancestry is owned by the LDS church. This is not the case! However, the two organizations have done massive amounts of collaborative work throughout the years. 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 online subscription business model. 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 their headquarters being in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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 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 the LDS church as a non-profit organization.

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, 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 was 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 mainly publishes and sells LDS works today. 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 took 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.

What is Ancestry.com?

Ancestry.com is a genealogy website that has revolutionized the way people conduct family research. Leveraging a rich array of resources, it facilitates users in tracing their family tree with an enhanced precision that brings together conventional research methods with modern technology.

An integral part of its services includes genealogical DNA testing through AncestryDNA, a tool that has ushered in the era of genetic genealogy, allowing individuals to find biological relatives and trace their lineage through a database of DNA samples from people around the world.

By offering a platform where users can dive deep into their family’s past through a combination of historical records and genetic testing, Ancestry.com provides a comprehensive view of one’s heritage.

Who Owns MyHeritage?

MyHeritage is owned by Francisco Partners, a global private equity firm focused on tech investments. Acquired in February 2021, the deal reportedly amounted to around $600 million. Despite the acquisition, the company retained its foundational team, with Gilad Japhet remaining as the CEO, preserving the firm’s mission to foster easy family history discoveries through technological advancements.

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