23 October 2012

Ancestry Announces Sale for $1.6 Billion

There have been news stories and rumors that Ancestry.com was going to be taken private. It's now official. Here is the official news release from Ancestry.com announcing the upcoming sale:

Transaction Valued at $1.6 billion;
Permira Funds Partners with Ancestry.com Management and Spectrum Equity to Acquire World’s Leading Online Family History Resource

PROVO, Utah, October 22, 2012 –Ancestry.com (Nasdaq:ACOM), the global leader in online family history, and Permira, the European private equity firm with global reach, today announced that a company owned by the Permira funds and co-investors has entered into a definitive merger agreement to acquire Ancestry.com for $32.00 per share in cash in a transaction valued at $1.6 billion. Tim Sullivan, Ancestry.com’s President and Chief Executive Officer, and Howard Hochhauser, Ancestry.com’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, will maintain a majority of their equity stakes in the company as part of the transaction. Spectrum Equity will also remain an investor in the company.

The transaction represents a premium of 41% over Ancestry.com’s closing stock price on June 5, 2012, the last trading day prior to press reports that Ancestry.com had retained a financial advisor in connection with a possible sale of the company. The disinterested members of Ancestry.com’s Board of Directors have unanimously approved the transaction and recommend that Ancestry.com stockholders approve the merger. Affiliates of Spectrum Equity, which together own approximately 30% of the company’s outstanding shares, have agreed to vote their shares in favor of the merger.

Ancestry.com is the world’s largest online family history resource. Its global network of websites empowers users to make meaningful discoveries and share their family history. Over 15 years Ancestry.com has assembled an unrivaled worldwide collection of over 10 billion digitized, indexed records and built a feature-rich, engaging product experience for its 2 million-plus subscribers. The company’s best-in-class technology ensures access everywhere via web, desktop and mobile.

“This is a successful outcome for our public stockholders, and a great day for Ancestry.com employees and subscribers around the world,” said Tim Sullivan. “We’re excited that Permira shares our commitment to keep investing in our technology and product experience to make family history easy and accessible for more and more families around the world. Their strong investment track record in the technology and Internet sectors makes them a terrific advisor and partner as we take the company forward.”

Added Charles Boesenberg, Chairman of the Board of Ancestry.com, “Our board conducted a thorough sale process, and we are pleased to be able to offer our stockholders this premium transaction.”

Brian Ruder, Partner and Head of Permira’s Menlo Park office said: “With its pioneering technology and market leading position, Ancestry.com is an exciting investment opportunity for the Permira funds. We are thrilled to be able to back the company as it continues to develop new and innovative content, and expand in both its core markets and into new geographies. We look forward to bringing Permira’s  technology and media experience to bear in supporting Tim, Howard and the rest of the talented team at Ancestry.com and its mission of helping everyone discover, preserve and share their family history.”

Ancestry.com and Permira indicated that the company will continue executing on its growth strategy and initiatives led by content acquisition and technology investment, with the support of the Permira funds and the investor group. There are no anticipated changes in Ancestry.com’s operating structure. Ancestry.com’s focus will continue to be on investing in content, technology and its user experience, expanding its product offerings in areas like DNA, and building the Ancestry.com brand and the family history category, all on a global basis. Ancestry.com will remain headquartered in Provo, Utah, with a continued large presence in San Francisco, Dublin, London and other international markets.

The transaction, which is subject to the approval of holders of a majority of the outstanding shares of Ancestry.com common stock and other customary closing conditions, is expected to close in early 2013. The company will file additional details regarding the transaction shortly with the Securities and Exchange Commission on a Form 8-K, and in proxy materials to be provided to the company’s stockholders in connection with the special meeting to vote on the merger.

The Board of Directors of Ancestry.com received financial advice from Qatalyst Partners LP, who also provided a fairness opinion in connection with the transaction, and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz served as the company’s legal counsel. Morgan Stanley served as financial advisor to the Permira funds while Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP and Clifford Chance LLP served as legal advisors. The Permira funds were also advised by McKinsey & Company, Aon M&A Solutions, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Barclays, Credit Suisse Securities, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets have agreed to provide financing to the acquiring company in connection with the merger.

Ancestry.com Third Quarter 2012 Financial Results
As previously announced, Ancestry.com will release financial results for its third quarter 2012 on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at approximately 2:00 p.m. MT (4:00 p.m. ET). In light of today’s announcement, the company will no longer be hosting a corresponding conference call with analysts and investors to discuss the financial results.

About Ancestry.com
Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world’s largest online family history resource, with more than 2 million paying subscribers. More than 10 billion records have been added to the site in the past 15 years. Ancestry users have created more than 39 million family trees containing approximately 4 billion profiles. In addition to its flagship site, Ancestry.com offers several localized Web sites designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history

About Permira
Permira is a European private equity firm with global reach. The Permira funds, raised from pension funds and other institutions, make long-term investments in companies with the ambition of transforming their performance and driving sustainable growth. Founded in 1985, the firm advises funds with a total committed capital of approximately $26 billion.

Permira established its presence in North America with the opening of the New York office in 2002 followed by the Menlo Park office in 2008. The Permira funds have a long track record of successful technology and digital media investing in companies around the world including Odigeo, NDS, Renaissance Learning and Genesys. Since 1997, over 30% of the Permira funds’ investments have been in the core sector of Technology, Media & Telecom.

23 August 2012

FamilySearch Turns to Indexing Immigration and Naturalization Records

Yesterday, FamilySearch announced another major indexing initiative: Indexing Immigration and Naturalization records.

I am excited about this as I have numerous "persons of interest" who immigrated and became naturalized. Over the years, I have found arrival records of many, but I have a lot of work to do to find naturalization records of many ancestors.

Here is the brief announcement:

22 August 2012 

More than 160,000 volunteer indexers made the 1940 U.S. Census available for searching in just five months. The project was an unprecedented success that dramatically illustrated what the genealogical community can accomplish when united in a common cause. 
Now many volunteers are turning their attention to the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Community Project, an indexing effort to make passenger lists, naturalization records, and other immigration related records freely searchable online. Hundreds of thousands of North American volunteers are expected to contribute over the next 18-24 months, focusing initially on passenger lists from the major US ports. 
Individuals, societies and other groups that want to participate should visit familysearch.org/immigration to learn more.

The FamilySearch website already has information about the project, including charts of the various projects and their progress toward being completely indexed. Here is what the website says:

Immigration and Naturalization Records and Research

The United States is a nation of immigrant families. Records that document the immigration and naturalization of our ancestors include crew and passenger lists, immigration and border crossing records, passports, and citizenship and naturalization documents. Many of these documents are not yet indexed, making them difficult to find.

Make More Records Searchable Online

Getting started with indexing is as easy as 1, 2, 3
Join hundreds of thousands of volunteers in a community effort to make more of these records searchable online, so everyone can find their ancestors. This same volunteer indexing effort made the 1940 US Census available for searching within five months of its public release. Indexing is a fun challenge that rewards both the volunteer and the future researcher.
1. Download and install the software.
2. Register as an indexing volunteer and designate the volunteer group you wish to be affiliated with (if you have one).
3. Sign into the software and download a "batch of images to transcribe.

What's Ahead for FamilySearch Indexing

A few days ago, a look into the future of FamilySearch Indexing was provided in the FamilySearch Blog. The following article was written by Scott Flinders and posted by Jen Anderson on 17 Aug 2012:

The current FamilySearch indexing system has done a remarkable job of supporting a growing workforce of active volunteers and allowing us to index hundreds of millions of records in more than a dozen languages each year. However, the system is due for some major renovations. We are happy to announce that work has begun on a new, more robust system with new architecture and features better suited to handle the continuing growth of our active volunteers and increasing project availability.

A Full Suite of Indexing Tools
The new FamilySearch indexing system will include several different tools to make indexing more convenient and powerful. In the new system, the FamilySearch indexing program will be browser-based, meaning you will simply sign in to the website, select a project to work on, and begin indexing right in your browser—no need to download and install the indexing software on your computer anymore! While most indexers typically have a constant connection to the Internet, the tool will also have an offline feature so you can check out a batch and work on it even if there is no Internet connection.
You asked for the ability to make corrections. You got it! Along with the new tool, you will be able to correct and annotate records already published in our searchable database. If that isn’t exciting enough, indexing on-the-fly will also be available. This means that genealogists will be able to index and add incremental pieces of information to the searchable database as they come across them in their research. Today, records can only be added to the searchable database as part of whole collections.

New Tools for Societies and Archives
The new program will include more of the tools an archive or society needs to set up and manage their own projects, organize groups of volunteers, and perform all of the tasks necessary to create digital browse aids and searchable indexes from collections they control. Additionally, individual users will have the ability to belong to multiple groups, so they won’t have to pick and choose.

Improved Group Administration Tools
Within the new administrator portal (which will be accessible from any computer with Internet access), group administrators will be able to create and manage groups of volunteers. Administrators will be able to set up groups so that any user in the system can see the group and request to join. Or groups can be set up so they are available by invitation only. Group administrators will also be able to associate their group with specific projects.

Group administrators can manage membership in the group, invite other users in the group to be administrators, send messages to group members, and see reports on the work done by members of the group.

New Linking Tool
Sometimes an archive or society may have already created an index of a record collection using some method other than FamilySearch indexing. In many cases, the specific records in those indexes are not linked to the corresponding images in the collection. One of the valuable elements of a searchable index is the ability to quickly jump to the source image once a record is located. The linking tool allows volunteers to link records from previously-indexed sources to the corresponding image in a collection. The volunteer looks at various images from a collection, identifies the records that belong on each image, and links them from the list of records that were previously created.

The original index may have been incomplete for one reason or another, so the linking tool also makes it possible for volunteers to add records and automatically link them to the image during this same process.

Digital Browse Aids
While a searchable index of every record in a collection is the most efficient way for researchers to find records, it is also time consuming to create, since volunteers must transcribe much of the information on each image in the collection. As a result, FamilySearch and some archives choose to publish the images in certain collections online first so genealogists can at least browse them image by image. This process, called “digital browsing” is much like a microfilm reader but occurs from the convenience of any computer with an Internet browser.

For browse-only collections, it is helpful to provide digital browse aids that act like links or pointers to help the researcher quickly jump to the desired part of the collection. The digital browse aids simply allow volunteers to highlight multiple images in the collection and tag them as a subsection of the collection. Typically, these tags represent a period of time, location, etc., depending on the type of records within the collection.

As you can imagine, building out such a powerful and complex system takes significant planning and effort. FamilySearch is well underway on this project and has already begun piloting some of the new functionality with a limited number of projects and volunteers. While the exact dates for rolling out the new system have not been set, we will progressively open up the testing to more users as we move forward.

We are excited about the tremendous work that is being done in making more records searchable online. We also understand how much work is left to do and look forward to the new indexing system coming online to help accelerate that work!

22 August 2012

FamilySearch Posts Last 5 States for 1940 Census Index

August 21, 2012 By Steve 18 Comments

We did it! The final five states of the 1940 US Census Project have been posted on the FamilySearch.org website! These states include Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee. We have posted the indexes for Guam, Panama Canal and Virgin Islands, as well. American Samoa is nearly complete and Puerto Rico is 25% complete. These last two territories will be posted as soon as they are ready to post.

The 1940 US Census Project started on the April 4th of this year. With the posting of the last states today, we have published the census 73 days earlier than expected! What a great thing to brag about. And it was all due to a great group of dedicated volunteer indexers like you.

Once again we want to thank every one of you who have worked so hard to help create this valuable census index. Your efforts have been remarkable. Many will benefit from your hard work for many years to come.

I’ve said this before and would like to repeat it again. We hope you will continue to visit the FamilySearch Indexing site and index some of the many other collections we currently have available. Your indexing and arbitration skills are seriously needed. We invite you to continue using your skills to make more records freely available to all who want to discover who they are and where they came from.

Thank you for being a part of this great project.

14 August 2012

Is Ancestry.com for Sale?

I just caught up with the news that the owners of Ancestry.com are in talks with investment houses for taking the company private. I pass along the article below for readers who may not have learned of this by other means. The  article appeared in the Salt Lake City Tribune a few days ago:

Buyout talk for Utah’s Ancestry.com intensifies, reports say
Deal » Suitors, deadlines surface same week as Provo company posts robust results.
First Published Jul 27 2012 09:03 am • Last Updated Jul 28 2012 08:11 pm
Final bids are due next month from potential buyers for Provo-based Ancestry.com, published reports say.
The company that provides online family research tools and databases declined comment on speculation that it is discussing a possible buyout with several private equity firms.
"The way it’s trading, people think it’s a no-grow," Raghavan Sarathy, an analyst with Dougherty & Co., told the Times. "But there should be interest from private equity because they are generating copious cash."The New York Times, citing sources that it did not identify, reported earlier this week that the publicly traded company is in talks with TPG Capital, Providence Equity Partners and Permira on a possible sale.
The reports came as the company announced earlier this week that second quarter revenue rose 18 percent, to $119.1 million. Per-share profit also rose to 44 cents.
On Friday, the company’s shares closed up 72 cents to finish at $33.07 on the Nasdaq exchange. Analysts have suggested Ancestry.com could fetch more than $35 per share, Reuters reported.
Ancestry.com has been working with Frank Quattrone’s Qatalyst Partners LLC to find buyers, Bloomberg News reported last month. It already has taken first offers, Reuters said, which also did not identify its sources.
Ancestry.com CEO Tim Sullivan was asked during a conference call Wednesday about whether he could comment on a possible sale.
"No, we read the newspapers, also," Sullivan said. "We’ve seen them. I think we obviously just never would be commenting on anything like that."
Representatives for TPG, Permira and Providence each declined comment.

With stable revenue and relatively lower valuation, Ancestry.com was "attractively priced," Bank of America Corp. analysts said last month in a research report.
Ancestry.com was founded in 1983 as a publisher of genealogical books and magazines. In 1996, it became one of the first companies that recognized the power of the World Wide Web and moved operations to its website.
Private equity firm Spectrum Equity Investors LP acquired a majority stake in the parent company that runs Ancestry.com and other sites for $300 million in 2007. It took Ancestry.com public two years later in a $100 million offering.
A spokesman for Spectrum, which owned about 31 percent of Ancestry.com as of the end of March, declined to comment, Reuters said.
The company, which reported having a workforce of nearly 1,000 at the end of 2011, has more than 2 million subscribers who pay $12.95 to $34.95 a month to use its services.
The company lost almost a third of its market value earlier this year amid concerns that the cancellation of a television show featuring its genealogy research would crimp subscriber growth. "Who Do You Think You Are?" showed celebrities such as Martin Sheen and Marisa Tomei exploring their roots with the help of Ancestry.com research and gave the service more exposure. The final episode aired on May 18 on NBC.

04 August 2012

Ancestry Wins Race to Completely Index 1940 Census

Ancestry has issued the following news release announcing that it is offering the complete index to the 1940 Census:

Ancestry.com Releases Completely Searchable 1940 U.S. Federal Census

A searchable index to 134 million records makes researching family history in the latest available U.S. Census dramatically easier
PROVO, UTAH – (August 3, 2012) – Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, is proud to announce that it has completed the records indexing process for the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, which is available atwww.ancestry.com/1940census. All 134 million records are now easily searchable by name, date, place of birth and other key information recorded in the census. These records, which are free to search, offer valuable insight for the nearly 90 percent of Americans who either have family members recorded in the 1940 U.S. Census or are in it themselves.
Since the initial release of the 1940 U.S. Census by the National Archives in April, Ancestry.com has progressively published information from this important family history resource state by state. Ancestry.com has made this vital family history information while providing an engaging user experience including the ability to search for maiden names or other family names, often a roadblock when searching records. Additionally, users can make corrections or update information that is incomplete, leading to a better overall database of information.
Assisting in navigation of the 1940 U.S. Census is Ancestry.com’s Interactive Image Viewer, which enables users to easily peruse document pages with simple graphical overlays. The viewer adds highlights, transcriptions and other functionality directly on the Census page. This enables searchers access to small census fields by simply scrolling over them for a pop up that magnifies the information recorded by census takers.  With the ability to zoom in on individual records, these new features dramatically improve the usability of the 1940 U.S. Census, which previously only included images of the paper records. These paper records, handwritten in small entry fields, have traditionally been very hard to read, making the visual enhancements in the Interactive Viewer a huge improvement.
“We are so excited to be publishing our index to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census for free on Ancestry.com,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry.com. “As one of the most anticipated family history resources ever, the 1940 Census is a fantastic way for almost every American to get started making discoveries about their family history as well as a key new resource for so many of our two million existing subscribers.  Experienced through our new Interactive Image Viewer, the stories and discoveries inside the 1940 Census really come to life.”
Users can now find basic information such as their ancestors’ names and where they lived, but also gain more insight about their ancestors’ daily lives. This information includes whether they owned or rented their home, the value of the residence and how many people resided there. For the first time, census takers in 1940 also asked questions specific to income and education. Interestingly, details like prior military service, the ability to read or write, and whether citizens spoke English – all asked in prior censuses – were not asked in 1940.
The entire census can be viewed online at www.ancestry.com/1940census

25 April 2012

Ancestry.com Inc. to Acquire Archives.com for $100 Million

The following is a blockbuster announcement from Ancestry.com:

"Simple and Affordable" Fast-Growing Start-up Adds Complementary Offering to Ancestry.com

PROVO, Utah, April 25, 2012 -- Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq:ACOM) announced today it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Archives.com, a family history website, for approximately $100 million in cash and assumed liabilities.

This transaction will enable Ancestry.com to add a differentiated service targeted to a complementary segment of the growing family history category. In addition, Ancestry.com will welcome a team of talented engineers, digital marketers, and family history innovators into the Ancestry.com fold and also gain access to a proprietary technology platform that has supported Archives.com's rapid growth.

Archives.com is owned and operated by Inflection LLC, a Silicon Valley-based technology company. Since Archives.com's launch in January 2010, the site has rapidly grown to more than 380,000 paying subscribers who pay approximately $39.95 a year. Archives.com offers access to over 2.1 billion historical records, including birth records, obituaries, immigration and passenger lists, historical newspapers, and U.S. and U.K. Censuses.

"Archives.com has built a fantastic and fast-growing business that we think is highly complementary to Ancestry.com's online family history offering," said Tim Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ancestry.com. "We love their focus on making family history simple and affordable, and we are excited to help the talented Archives.com team continue to grow alongside Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and Family Tree Maker."

"Family history remains a dynamic and growing online category," added Sullivan. "Archives.com's focus is consistent with our mission to help everyone discover, preserve and share their family history, which will help continue our efforts in delivering amazing discoveries to an even broader audience."

Over the past two years, Archives.com has partnered with multiple well-known family history organizations that have helped build out Archives.com robust collection of family history records. Most recently, Archives.com partnered with the U.S. National Archives to provide free digital access to the recently released 1940 U.S. Federal Census.

"We are proud of the experience we've built with Archives.com and believe strongly in its future potential," said Matthew Monahan, CEO and Co-Founder of Inflection. "Combining with Ancestry.com positions Archives.com to best capitalize on that potential, pairing complementary visions of the marketplace and the opportunity. We've long admired Ancestry.com's content and technology and the innovations that the Ancestry.com team continues to bring to market. We're excited to see how this transaction expands the reach of family history to an even larger audience."

Upon completion of the transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, including expiration of the HSR waiting period, Ancestry.com will continue to operate Archives.com separately retaining its brand and website. Multiple Inflection employees, including key product and engineering executives are expected to join the Ancestry.com team.

About Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq:ACOM) is the world's largest online family history resource, with more than 1.8 million paying subscribers. More than 9 billion records have been added to the site in the past 15 years. Ancestry users have created more than 34 million family trees containing approximately 4 billion profiles. In addition to its flagship site, Ancestry.com offers several localized Web sites designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

About Archives.com

Archives.com is a leading family history website that makes discovering family history simple and affordable. The company has assembled more than 2.1 billion historical records all in a single location. Archives also partners with other leading family history websites to provide a comprehensive resource for researching your family history. Archives.com is free to try for seven days, allowing anyone to explore the benefits of membership without risk or obligation. For more information and to start discovering your family history, please visit http://www.archives.com/.

About Inflection

Inflection is a Big Data and e-commerce startup headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley. Leveraging its proprietary technology platform, the company has built innovative data services like Archives.comPeopleSmart.com, and Identity.com. Inflection was founded in 2006 and is backed by tier-one venture capitalists Matrix Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures.

24 April 2012

OGS Publictations To Go Digital in 2013

The Ohio Genealogical Society issued today the following news release:

For the first time, in 2013, OGS Members will have the ability to receive Ohio Genealogical News and/or Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly digitally on the OGS Website at http://www.ogs.org. For those who still want paper, both will still be available through the mail.


For many years OGS Members and Non-OGS people have been given the option to buy two subscription publications: Ohio Records and Pioneer Families and Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal. Beginning in 2013 there will be no need to subscribe to these two publications as they are being merged into the all new Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly with more pages covering all types of material from all eras of Ohio genealogy including Civil War and early Ohio Pioneers. There will be no increase in dues and no more subscription rates to pay!

All OGS members will have the opportunity to use the Ohio Civil War Genealogy Center online at http://www.ogs.org which includes articles, databases and all back issues of OCWGJ; and to use the all new Article Archives.

Eric Johnson, VP of Members Services has named Susan Lee as the Senior Editor of the Publications Committee. The committee is in charge of the merger. Laurel Sheppard will be joining Susan as Assistant Editor of OGS Quarterly. Daniel Reigle will continue to work on Civil War related articles and databases, but has personally decided to step down as an editor into a Civil War Contributor’s role. Sunny Morton will remain Editor of Ohio Genealogy News, Kay Hudson will be joining the Publications Committee as Editor of Special Articles. More committee members will be named in the near future.

Ohio Genealogy News will not be affected by the merger of ORPF, OCWGJ with OGS Quarterly.

Details and more information will be announced shortly.

The Ohio Genealogical Society
611 State Route 97 West
Bellville OH 44813-8813

Phone: (419) 886-1903
Fax: (419) 886-0092

13 March 2012

NEOCAG Assumes Leadership in Indexing 1940 Census for Cuyahoga County

NEOCAG (North-East Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogical Society, Inc.) is excited to announce that Cuyahoga County has joined the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project to help index the 1940 U.S. Federal Census! Indexing records from our state will be an essential part of this monumental grassroots effort that will put one of the richest genealogical data sets in the world on-line, complete and free of charge, forever.
This is a FamilySearch project in conjunction with Archives.com and FindMyPast.com It can be done at home on a personal computer. After a simple download of the program, the image is on the screen at the top, and the form to fill in is at the bottom. Indexing can be a lot of fun. You can start and stop any time. There are no quotas or large commitments. A batch, after the first couple, should take 20-30 minutes, certainly less than an hour.
NEOCAG is helping by coordinating the effort in this county to accomplish this project. Jane Riedel, President of NEOCAG and Cynthia Turk, past president, will be working to recruit indexers, train and support indexers and arbitrators, and lend encouragement along the way. Indexers can get started in the FamilySearch.org system now to be ready to go when the census is available to index in April. The secure website with the beginning information is https://the1940census.com/.

If you are already a FamilySearch indexer, you can join the Cuyahoga project by going to https://indexing.familysearch.org/ Go to help, sign in, edit the profile, under Groups click on NorthEast Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogical Society, then save. We hope many of you will join us in this community service project which will benefit researchers for years to come. We look forward to working with you.

08 February 2012

Act Now to Avoid Restrictions on Access to SSDI

The genealogical community needs your help now! The Social Security Death Index is in peril.

The press release below was released yesterday. Please visit http://wh.gov/khE and sign the petition. If you don’t have an account at WhiteHouse.gov, see the instructions at http://fgs.org/pdf/rpac_petition.pdf (opens in PDF). Also please pass this information on to your friends, family, fellow genealogists and society members. We need 25,000 votes by March 8, 2012 in order to have our petition reviewed by the White House.

For Immediate Release
February 7, 2012
Genealogy Community Responds To Efforts To Remove Access to Social Security Death Index and Other Records
February 7, 2012– Austin, TX: The Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) – a joint coalition of international genealogical societies representing millions of genealogists and family historians – announces the launch of its Stop ID Theft NOW! campaign with its We The People petition posted at WhiteHouse.gov.
Call To Action For IRS To Do Its Job
Each year, fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from recently deceased infants and adults are filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The current target is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) or Death Master File since this file, as found on numerous genealogy-oriented websites, could possibly be the source of identity thieves acquiring a deceased person’s Social Security number.
The IRS could close the door to this form of identity theft if, in fact, it were to use the Death Master File for the purpose for which it was created: to reduce fraud. If returns claiming a tax refund were screened against the Master Death File and matching cases identified for special processing, the thief should receive a rejection notice for the filing.
Tax Fraud and Identity Theft: Genealogists Are Not To Blame
The House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security is proposing to completely shut down use of the SSDI by genealogists as well as other industries such as banking and insurance that rely upon its information. Such an attempt is short-sighted and runs counter to the original purpose of the SSDI: to actually combat fraud.
Loss of Access to SSDI Affects More Than Genealogists
The SSDI is accessed by many different companies, non-profits and other entities besides individuals researching their family history. Forensic specialists utilize the SSDI when reuniting remains of military veterans with their next-of-kin and descendants. Law offices, banks and insurance companies utilize the SSDI to resolve probate cases and to locate heirs.
All of these entities would be required to spend more money and more time leveraging other resources of information when the SSDI has served this purpose, uninterrupted, for over a decade.
RPAC Petitions Obama Administration
The We the People petition, now posted at http://wh.gov/khE and accepting signatures, has a simple yet effective mission:
Take immediate steps that would curtail the filing of fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from recently deceased infants and adults.
No need for lengthy hearings in front of a Congressional committee. No need for filing statements for or against any House action. No need to waste time and effort which could be directed to more pressing national  issues. In fact, the National Taxpayer Advocate in 2011 issued suggestions which do not require additional legislation but can be implemented collaboratively between the IRS and Social Security Administration (SSA) almost immediately in time to impact the current tax filing season.
About Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC)
The Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) was formed to advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to historical records of genealogical value in whatever media they are recorded, on  means to affect legislation, and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices.
The genealogical community works together through The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), which today includes The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) as voting members. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), the American Society of Genealogists (ASG), ProQuest and Ancestry.com serve as participating members.
To learn more visit http://www.fgs.org/rpac/.
Contact: RPAC
c/o Federation of Genealogical Societies
PO Box 200940
Austin, TX 78720-0940
phone: +1 (888) 347-1500
fax: +1 (866) 347-1350

03 February 2012

Feb 13, 2012--Pennsylvania Vital Records Become More Accessible

Many residents of Northeastern Ohio--like me--have ancestors who were born and/or died in Pennsylvania. Compared to Ohio, accessing birth and death records for ancestors in Pennsylvania has been something of a problem.

There's light at the end of the tunnel in this situation. When Pennsylvania Vital Records Bill SB-361 (Act 110 of 2011) goes into effect law on February 13th, 2012 it will make death certificates over 50 years old and birth certificates over 105 years old OPEN records. It will also transfer certificates to the Pennsylvania State Archives once they become open records.

This means that researchers will have access to these records at one place: the Pennsylvania State Archives. No longer will it be necessary to traipse across Pennsylvania to county records offices to obtain these records.

If you want to study up on this developing situation, go to the website for People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access or PaHR-Access.

You might also want to go to the FAQs page where more detail is provided.

02 February 2012

More Czech and Slovak Research Guidance

Yesterday, I posted information about the Czech/Slovak Research seminar being presented by John Sabol at Western Reserve Historical Society on March 31. Complete details are available at www.wrhs.org or click here.

Today, I was reminded that the Cuyahoga Valley Genealogical Society is going to have a presentation by Cynthia Smith entitled "Prague to Cleveland." In this presentation, Ms. Smith focuses on the Czech people who settled in the Cleveland area during the late 19thand early 20th centuries. She explores the areas they settled in and their faith communities. This event is on Mar 5, 2012 - 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM in the  Willow Room at the Independence Civic Center, Independence, Ohio 44131. Click here for info.

Also, the Ohio Genealogical Society 2012 Conference in Cleveland will feature "Demystifying Eastern European Research," by noted lecturer and author, Lisa A. Alzo. She will address the the special challenges and frustrations involved in tracing their ancestors back to Eastern Europe. She will talk about the most common myths and misconceptions and how to work around them. Lisa is the author of "Three Slovak Women." The OGS Conference will be held Apr. 12-14 at the Hotel Intercontinental on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic, with Lisa's presentation on Friday, Apr. 13. Lisa has a website at http://www.lisaalzo.com/. For complete details on the OGS conference, go to www.ogs.org and click on The Registration Brochure. Or click here.

01 February 2012

Learning Opportunity: Finding Your Czech/Slovak Roots Coming on March 31.

An all-day seminar for family history researchers with Czech and Slovak ancestry is being sponsored on Saturday, Mar 31, 2012 by the Genealogical Committee, an auxiliary of the Western Reserve Historical Society. It will be held in the Norton Gallery of the Society's History Center at 10825 East Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio 4410.

Seminar leader will be John T. Sabol, who will discuss research methods he has used to find his roots, which are both Czech and Slovak. A Cleveland native, writer, and historian, Sobol has written three books plus several church histories and genealogical articles. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International.

The morning session will consist of two presentations stressing the ultimate goal of finding the locations in the Czech and Slovak Republics where your ancestors came from. Since research in these countries is village-based it is of central importance to know your ancestral village. Once this is known, it opens doors to a number of research avenues.

The afternoon session consists of roundtable discussions about finding your ancestral village. Participants will be able to share their successes and failures in hopes of learning from each other.  Roundtable participants are urged to bring documentation or clues regarding their ancestral origins in the Czech and Slovak Republics. Each discussion group will be moderated by a volunteer from the  Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI).

For more information, access the detailed flyer with a registration form by clicking here

24 January 2012

Details on the Upcoming Season 3 of WDYTYA

I guess I am playing catchup here. I announced on this blog in November that NBC was renewing the series, "Who Do You Think You Are" for a third season. But the announcement of who the featured subjects would be got by me earlier this month.

I am providing the NBC press release in its entirety below. As you will see, there are twelve subjects listed in the news release, and the trailer provided on the WDYTYA website (courtesy of NBC) at http://www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are/ contains clips taken from several of the forthcoming episodes. Enjoy. I know I will.


Martin Sheen, Marisa Tomei, Blair Underwood, Reba McEntire, Rob Lowe, Helen Hunt, Rita Wilson, Edie Falco, Rashida Jones, Jerome Bettis, Jason Sudeikis and Paula Deen Take a Look Inside Their Family Histories on NBC's Genealogy Alternative Series Produced by Lisa Kudrow
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.-- January 6, 2012-- Viewers can take an up-close and personal look inside the family history of some of today's most beloved and iconic celebrities when NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" returns for its third season on Friday, February 3 (8-9 p.m. ET). The celebrities who star in the series are Martin Sheen, Marisa Tomei, Blair Underwood, Reba McEntire, Rob Lowe, Helen Hunt, Rita Wilson, Edie Falco, Rashida Jones, Jerome Bettis, Jason Sudeikis and Paula Deen.

From executive producers Lisa Kudrow ("Friends," "Web Therapy") and Dan Bucatinsky ("Lipstick Jungle," "The Comeback") - through their production company Is or Isn't Entertainment and Shed Media U.S. ("Supernanny," "The Real Housewives of New York City") -- "Who Do You Think You Are?" is an adaptation of the award-winning hit British television documentary series that leads celebrities on a journey of self-discovery as they unearth their family trees that reveal surprising, inspiring and even tragic stories that often are linked to crucial events in American history.

"We're very excited about the stories we have this season. This fantastic group of people we have will take us to countries we haven't visited before which is thrilling and gives us glimpses into crucial details of history that not only shaped their families, but our world," said executive producers Kudrow and Bucatinsky. "This is what we love about this series; it's so enriching for us the viewer, as well as the participants and their families."

From Ireland's freedom fighters to the American Revolutionary War, and from the African nation of Cameroon to Bulgaria, "Who Do You Think You Are?" will reveal the fabric of humanity through everyone's place in history. Each week a different celebrity takes a journey into their family's past, traveling all over the world. While giving viewers an in-depth look into their favorite stars' family tree, each episode will expose surprising facts and life changing encounters that will unlock people's emotions, and show just how connected everyone is not only to the past, but to one another. 

Ancestry.com continues in its role as NBC and Shed Media's official partner on the series, helping to provide the exhaustive research used to build each story. "'Who Do You Think You Are?' is such a beautiful showcase for the type of discoveries people can make through family history research," said Josh Hanna, Executive Vice President for Ancestry.com. "We are extremely proud to help produce a program that inspires so many to begin their own journey of discovery and are excited to see it grow more this season."

"Who Do You Think You Are?" is produced by Shed Media U.S. in association with Is or Isn't Entertainment. Alex Graham, Kudrow, Bucatinsky, Jennifer O'Connell and Al Edgington are the executive producers. The unique, award-winning series is based on the popular BBC television documentary series from Wall to Wall Productions, created and executive-produced by Graham.

Shed Media U.S. is noted for its strong characters and memorable casting, and produces several popular television shows including: Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York City," "Bethenny Ever After" and "It's A Brad, Brad World," Lifetime's "Supernanny," VH1's "Basketball Wives" and TLC's "All American Muslim." Is or Isn't Entertainment has been developing and producing television, features and online content since Kudrow and Bucatinsky formed their partnership in 2003. It is best known for the critically acclaimed, Emmy Award-nominated series "The Comeback," which made its own comeback on The Sundance Channel in 2011. The company's critically lauded web-series "Web Therapy," won the 2010 and 2011 Webby Awards for Best Online Comedy and was just nominated for a 2012 PGA Award. 

The series made a ground-breaking web-to-TV move on Showtime this summer with 10 critically acclaimed half-hours triggering a season two pickup for Summer 2012 with an unprecedented line-up of guest stars including Meryl Streep.

Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world's largest online family history resource, with approximately 1.7 million paying subscribers. More than 7 billion records have been added to the site in the past 15 years. Ancestry users have created more than 29 million family trees containing over 3 billion profiles. In addition to its flagship site www.ancestry.com, Ancestry.com offers localized Web sites designed for nine countries that empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.