V I I I . 5 C a s e s t u d y : Tu rn i n g a rc h i v a l d a t a b a s e s
i n t o g o l d m i n e s t h e g e n e a l o g y c a s e
This case study focuses on:
Public records and other archival material: One would think that historical public
records, and archival material in general, do not lend themselves easily to exploi-
tation. Generally this might be so, but there is at least one highly interesting
area where they can be a "gold mine": genealogy or family history. Looking into
how main players do get and try to protect a "claim" in this area can provide hints
also for activities in other cultural heritage fields.
The importance of community:The basic business model and related strategies in
the online genealogy market show that volume of digitised content is essential (at
least in this market), but user community is also a very important key to be
Private users: Genealogy is a field booming with private users, what one cannot
easily say about other usages of cultural heritage sources.These private users might
be or become very interested in history and cultural heritage, but they are primarily
interested in their "individual case", their family roots and tree. Being to a consi-
derable part an "over-50s market", genealogy also highlights the importance of
this age-group for the cultural heritage sector.
High-end technologies: Providing online access to information in digital surrogates
of archival material is technologically demanding, including mass-digitisation and
mass-indexing as well as a high integration and performance of all systems.
Finding the mine, and protecting the claim
In the information society, a digitised archive is a gold mine. It has at least a chance to
become one. But how? By looking into a major field of archive exploitation, this case study
shows how this is feasible.The case study focuses on exploitation models and strategies in
the field of genealogy or, as it is also referred to, family history.While looking into how the
most popular and financially most potent American family-history.coms develop their
business, this case study is also about whether such methods could be applied by cultural
institutions, taking into account their mission-intrinsic "e-commerce constraints".
This case study focuses on the two major U.S. players, Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com,
as well as "institutional" ventures of cultural heritage institutions in the UK, Origins.net and
the 1901 Census Project of the Public Records Office (PRO) scheduled to go online on
the first working day of January 2002.
Genealogy: A booming online market
Genealogy is becoming increasingly popular.There is a growing number of for-free
genealogy information providers and commercial enterprises, and clear signals also come
from market observers: Genealogy is obviously an important area of interest and is be-
coming a significant e-commerce market. For example: According to Nielsen/NetRatings
(<http://www.nielsen-netratings.com>), online genealogy sites are considered to be very
For this case study primarily Internet sources, in particular "info bits" from the genealogy & family history web sites themselves, have been used.
For information on the enterprises and institutions, their core activities, subscription plans, product price lists etc. the relevant information can be
easily found on their web sites. Rather than providing for all detail information the web page from where it has been taken, only for most valuable
information the title of the article or press information plus the URL is given. References for this material are provided in each paragraph separately.