August 27, 2008


I returned from Ireland (no opportunity to post, but I include a photo from the walk here) and went directly to the Conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) in Chicago. I attended the conference to announce an exciting new relationship that we have just worked out with, the commercial genealogical website. The agreement with Ancestry represents a win-win-win for JewishGen (and the Museum), Ancestry, and the public.

Here is what I said about the Agreement at the Conference:
On Sunday night, we honored Susan King and acknowledged her pathbreaking efforts. I am pleased that tonight we announce a new chapter in the life of JewishGen that will build upon and extend the remarkable institution that Susan founded.

We are very excited about our new partnership with It is the result of a long and complex negotiation that was marked by unusual good will on both sides. While I can’t give you a blow-by-blow account of the negotiation process that led to the agreement, I can describe to you the principles that guided us throughout. First, we were determined to remain faithful to the basic tenet that the records available on JewishGen would remain free and freely accessible. Second, we were determined to find a way to ensure that JewishGen was technically stable, indeed robust, and that it had sufficient bandwidth to serve a growing and demanding public. Third, we sought a way to improve the functionality of JewishGen and ensure that we can get more data up more quickly. Our driving concern was to continue to serve our public.

Principle elements of the Agreement
1) JewishGen data, and Warren will detail which data that is, will be available on Ancestry at no charge;
2) Ancestry will provide pipe and power and maintain JG servers;
3) JewishGen will receive a percentage of revenue that derives from business driven to Ancestry from JewishGen;
4) Ancestry will consult with JewishGen on technical, design, and user experience issues.
5) JewishGen will consult with Ancestry on Jewish genealogical issues.

Now is a decidedly for-profit company, and JewishGen is decidedly not-for-profit. How could these two entities, which are so wildly different when it comes to the bottom line, reach an agreement that would serve each of their individual interests and that of the public all at the same time. Well it happens sometimes that the stars align and that there is a happy coincidence of interests, and that was absolutely the case here. As I understand Ancestry’s business, they profit from interest in genealogy because they know that if people are engaged in family research, they will end up at Ancestry. For this reason, they are interested in a stable and thriving JewishGen. JewishGen, on the other hand, desperately needed to find a means to ensure its future. The financial component of the agreement with Ancestry will go some way to ensure JewishGen’s survival, but more important, the reach of Ancestry will introduce a significant new audience to JewishGen and allow us to extend our reach and add more and more members to our family.

Ancestry will benefit from the expanded exposure that its relationship with JewishGen will enable, and JewishGen will benefit from a stable technical platform, and the increased power of Ancestry’s marketing and promotional reach, and all of you will benefit from continued access to crucial records and the assurance that JewishGen will survive and flourish.

Important Points to Remember
1) JewishGen will remain an independent, non-profit organization. It will retain its current structure and continue to rely on volunteers and donations. It will continue to provide unique tools and content that will not be available anywhere else, and it will continue to host the data of other organizations like JRI-Poland and LitvakSig.
2) JewishGen records will remain free and freely available both on JewishGen and on Ancestry.
3) Ancestry will provide “pipe and power” to JewishGen; they will not administer the site nor will they have access to any personal data for JewishGen users.

I know that when the full extent of this agreement is realized, when JG is installed on powerful servers with generous bandwidth, when Warren and his team can focus all of their attention on acquiring more records and getting more records on line, when we can make useful changes to improve navigation and the user’s experience, I know that you will all agree that we have made the right move in developing this relationship with Ancestry. Until that time, I am here to listen to your concerns, address your questions, take your suggestions, and provide you with whatever information you need.

It will take time before we can really assess the reaction of the community to the Ancestry agreement. It took no time, however, to learn that there are a number of people who are very upset at the new logo which we introduced! For good and supportable reasons, we decided to give JewishGen a new graphic identity and we engaged in a deliberate and consultative process that resulted in the logo that appears at the begining of this post. It replaces the original logo:

If you have a strong feeling about this logo issue, please feel free to comment. For more on Ancestry, JewishGen, and the logo, see:

Here is the promised photo from my walk in Ireland: