Friday, April 17, 2015


Frequent readers of this blog know how much I enjoy doing genealogy research.  To be better able to do this research, I have been a subscriber to for years.  I started my subscription with ancestry way back when the ability to do genealogy research online was just beginning.  In fact, I started out subscribing to both and because different sites gave you access to different records.  I have always been a big booster for  I have pointed out to people that years ago genealogy research meant going to libraries and slowly spooling through rolls and rolls of microfilm and that gave you access to millions of genealogy records from all over the world - all in the comfort of your own home.  Recently two Mormon missionaries came to my door and I told them how grateful I was to the LDS Church for spending millions of dollars and sending researchers to all corners of the earth to transcribe and digitize genealogy records.  I have always said that the LDS Church is the best thing that ever happened to genealogy.   

You readers also know how much I enjoy Find a Grave.  I spend every weekend, weather permitting, in cemeteries taking photos of graves and posting those photos to Find a Grave.  As of today I have posted over sixteen thousand photos to Find a Grave.  Unlike many people I was thrilled when bought Find a Grave because I felt that it gave Find a Grave a better financial foundation and the security that came from being part of the ancestry family.

Because I have been such a fan of, the story I am going to tell you really bothers me. Through the years people have said that was all about the money and I quickly replied that my monthly ancestry subscription price was a bargain.  Where else could I get access to millions of records for less than $35.00 per month? However my recent experience with leads me to believe that the critics may have been right.  I'll tell you the story and you can draw your own conclusions. 

All the way back in 1964, my sister Patricia married Bill Friedner.  I know that Bill's ancestors were originally from Sweden and I had added Bill and as many of his family members I could find to my family tree on  Recently I received an email through ancestry from Friedner relatives in Sweden who were trying to re-establish contacts with the Friedners in the United States.   I put them in touch with Bill and both sides were very happy to reestablish the contacts and trade information and photos.  Then one day, Bill's cousin Eva from Sweden told me that she had found a "lost" Friedner relation on Find a Grave. His name was John Friedner.  It had originally been Johann Friedner, but he changed it to John after he came to the United States.  The Find a Grave page said that John Friedner had died in 1972, and was buried in a military cemetery on Long Island, in New York State.

Eva asked me what I knew about John and I had to reply that I knew nothing about him. Subsequently Eva asked Bill what he knew about John, and Bill said he had never heard of him.  So Eva and I were both excited that we had found a missing branch of the family tree.  

Eva and I both added John to our tree and using the "shaking leaf" prompts on ancestry were able to add some information about John, but not much.  Eva asked me if I knew anything about John's marriages or divorce and I asked her where she heard about that.  She told me that at the bottom of John's Find a Grave page was an advertisement "Sponsored by Ancestry" that indicated 1 Death Certificate, 2 Birth Certificates, 2 Marriage Certificates and 1 Divorce Certificate for John Friedner.

I'm sure you've all seen these ads at the bottom of the Find a Grave pages but I never paid any attention to them until now.  I clicked on the link and it took me to the website. According to ancestry, to get access to these records I needed to upgrade my membership to the World Explorer Plus membership for an additional $10.00 per month.  I looked at the differences in the membership and decided that the additional records I would get, justified the additional expense and besides, I would also get access to those records for John Friedner. So, I upgraded my membership and paid the additional monthly fee. With my new membership firmly in hand I clicked on the link at the bottom of John Friedner's Find a Grave page.  The link took me to the ancestry website where it told me that to access these records I would have to upgrade to the World Explorer Plus membership.  Well, I had already done that, and still couldn't get to those records.  The ancestry website told me that if there were any problems I could call them at 1-800-ancestry, so after work yesterday I called them.

After being kept on hold for a while I finally reached a very courteous young-sounding gentleman who asked me what my problem was.  I told him the whole story and said that even though I had upgraded my membership I still did not have access to the John Friedner records. He asked me if I was familiar with the ancestry card catalog which listed all the records that ancestry had, and I told him I was, but that the Find a Grave page had actual links that you could click on to access particular records for a particular person.  It was then that he told me that was actually not the case.  The links at the bottom of the page were not actual links to actual records - you had to search through ancestry to find the particular records that may, or may not, actually be on the site.  He went on to tell me that sometimes the records had to be purchased through Vital Check, but that sometimes you had to prove that you were related to the person whose records you were requesting.

No, I told him, the links represented that if you upgraded your ancestry membership you would have access to particular records for a particular person - and that even the number of appropriate records was listed on the link.  He told me that he was very sorry, but that was not the case. He said they had other complaints about this, but all the link did was take you to ancestry where if you upgraded, and searched through the ancestry records, you may (or may not) find the records that were listed on the Find a Grave page.

I couldn't believe it - this was false advertising at the least and actually bordered on being a scam - ancestry offered you something that may, or may not, exist.  He again said he was very, very sorry but that was the way it was set up.  He said that he would pass along my concerns, and hoped that senior management at ancestry would do something about these ads, that could be, he admitted, misleading.

I was horrified.  I told him that others said that ancestry was in it only for the $$$ but that I naively responded that no, they were in it for the research.  I told him that in the past I had been a major cheerleader for ancestry but that might change, now that I found out about this.  I asked to speak to "someone in authority" who I could talk to about this. He put me on hold for quite a while, and when he came back he said he told the managers my concerns, and that they were sorry but were not interested in talking to me about it.  He again apologized and said that he would pass my concerns along again, and hope that something would be done.

I could not fault the young man on the phone - he was just a customer service rep - he had nothing to do about the way the business was run, but he was very apologetic.

So that's my story.  I won't be cancelling my ancestry membership - I still need access to the records they do provide, and I will continue to do my Find a Grave photography on the weekends but I have to say that I am very, very disappointed with and the way they do business.

I ended my call with the rep by reminding him that was owned by the LDS Church, and that the Church was better than this. For a Christian Church, they were conducting business in a very non-Christian manner.

Caveat Emptor - Let the buyer beware.

I Stand Corrected:  It has been brought to my attention that is not owned directly by the LDS Church.  It is a privately owned corporation whose original founders were members of the LDS Church.  So I will revise the last paragraph as follows:

For members of a Christian Church, they were conducting business in a very non-Christian manner.  

No comments:

Post a Comment