It came as a surprise, at least to most, when Ancestry.com announced today that it had acquired the popular website Find A Grave, the largest online cemetery database of user-contributed burial data and photos. According to the press release, Find A Grave will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ancestry.com, and will continue to be managed by its founder, Jim Tipton, who will operate as an employee of Ancestry.com. The site will also remain FREE to all users according to Ancestry.com president, Tim Sullivan:
We will maintain Find A Grave as a free website, will retain its existing policies and mode of operation, and look forward to working with Jim Tipton and the entire Find A Grave team to accelerate the development of tools designed to make it even easier for the Find A Grave community to fulfill its original mission to capture every tombstone on Earth.
What does Ancestry.com gain through this transaction? There are no official answers here, but you could speculate that because they were already incorporating Find A Grave results into their online family tree hints and search results, the acquisition ensures continued access. Purchasing this content outright might also make better long-term financial sense, than continuing to license the data from Find A Grave. Thomas MacEntee on Hack Genealogy points out the popularity of Find A Grave (ranked #826 in the U.S.), and its potential as a platform on which Ancestry can advertise its products and services.
For all of you wonderful Find A Grave volunteers out there, the site should hopefully make out as a result of this acquisition as well. Ancestry.com plans to add a mobile app for volunteers to more easily upload monument data and photos on the go, plus provide additional customer service and improved editing tools and foreign-language support.