An open letter to Ancestry.com
Ancestry.com is an incredibly valuable resource, their online collection of records is certainly the most extensive collection available to the general public. I have been a subscriber to Ancestry.com for several years and one of the best innovations that they have come out with were the Ancestry.com family trees and the ability to link data from their records base and other family trees at the click of a mouse. There is perhaps nothing that has grown my collection of data faster, and more accurately, than this method.
I am a paid subscriber to Ancestry.com, my ID on Ancestry.com is KYVoelkers, feel free to drop me a line there, and I support their business model. There is one aspect of the business model for Ancestry.com that befuddles me and that is why they limit the viewing of family trees to paid subscribers. Opening up all Ancestry.com family trees to public view, with owner permissions of course, would serve a highly valuable public service and would certainly drive more subscriptions to Ancestry.com. Further, if Ancestry.com were to make their family tree data search engine friendly they would drive additional traffic, and hence future subscribers, to their site.
I like to make my research available to others and have used a number of different software programs over the years to not only house my data but also to make it available online. The tools at Ancestry.com are perhaps not robust enough to satisfy the most demanding researcher but the value of of their online family trees for making their research visible can not be understated. I currently maintain my data in two places, one at Ancestry.com and another for general online public viewing. This implies that I am trying to keep two data sets in sync and jumping through unnecessary hoops to make this happen. The ability to use the Ancestry.com tools to find and update my family tree from their records base means that most of my updates are now coming through this channel and I can either export a GEDCOM from Ancestry.com and load it into my other program or perform dual data entry, neither option is ideal. What would be ideal is for Ancestry.com to open up their family trees and make them viewable to the public, and watch their subscriber base rise with it. Seems like a solid business decision to me anyway.