MyHeritage Acquires Legacy Family Tree: Is This Good for the Genealogy Industry? Good for Genealogists?

Genealogy author, educator and market analyst adds his commentary on the upcoming acquisition of Legacy Family Tree by MyHeritage

On Thursday, August 3, 2017, MyHeritage announced that it is in the process of acquiring genealogy software and education provider Legacy Family Tree. For many of us in the genealogy community, as well as those who follow the genealogy industry, the announcement was a surprise and a bit of a shock.

Currently on social media, I am seeing many posts by genealogists and family historians relating their concerns about the acquisition. These posts range from “full support” to a “wait-and-see” attitude to outrage and disappointment. Unfortunately, our community has a history of not being able to embrace change when it comes to technology and the tools we use for research. Remember when Ancestry purchased Find-A-Grave or acquired Footnote (now fold3)?

I find such a resistance to change surprising since as researchers we are in the business of documenting change when it comes to family history. Where would we be if our ancestors did not make changes such as migrate to a new location? That is quite a considerable change in one’s life and for many of us a change that we seek to document and preserve.

Instead of pronouncing that the sky is falling, here is my take on what the MyHeritage acquisition of Legacy Family Tree means not only to the genealogy industry, but also to genealogists, both hobbyists and professionals.

Why the MyHeritage/Legacy Acquisition is a Positive Move

When I say that this is a positive move for all of us – industry and individuals – I’m not taking a Pollyanna approach filled with constant positivity . . . all rainbows, unicorns and kittens. I realize that there will be many issues involved in the transition and hopefully such a move will be successful. What is my vision of success for a MyHeritage/Legacy merger? It might be quite different from your vision, but here is why I am hopeful:

  • Non-US Centric Genealogy: I frequently receive emails concerning a heavy US-focus when it comes to genealogy records as well as offers such as DNA testing kits. MyHeritage has a strong foothold in the European market and it currently supports 42 different languages. Legacy Family Tree has relied upon various volunteers and loyal customers to support foreign language versions of its software. A merger with MyHeritage will ensure continued growth of the genealogy industry outside of the United States.
  • Expanded User Community: MyHeritage currently has over 91 million members and personally, I rely heavily upon MyHeritage users to make progress with my own genealogy research (especially my research in Germany). A merger will greatly expand the reach of Legacy Family Tree software as well as its webinar platform. More users mean more connections, which mean more progress in genealogy research for all of us.
  • More Capacity for Legacy Family Tree Webinars: The move to MyHeritage will allow for more expansion of the Legacy Family Tree Webinars platform, which currently has a 1,000 seat limitation for live webinars. With the considerable resources at MyHeritage, look for not only more webinar topics, but an expanded educational channel for the genealogy community.
  • More Competition for Ancestry.com: With US-based Ancestry controlling approximately 70% of the US market, a stronger and expanded MyHeritage will be better able to penetrate the US market especially when it comes to DNA test kits and DNA matching.

Has Genealogy Gone Too Corporate?

Periodically we see genealogists on social media speaking about how the genealogy industry has become too corporate. Have we really thought about what this means when we say this?

The genealogy industry has grown exponentially over the past 10 years led by major genealogy companies such as Ancestry, Findmypast, and MyHeritage as well as the free website FamilySearch. Have you ever thought about the record sets and the technologies we would NOT have available to us if it were not for such corporatization of genealogy?

There will always be a trade-off involved in transforming what many view as a “hobby” to an industry. In addition, there always be tension between those who want things to say the same and others who are willing to endure change in order to access new information and new technologies.

Customer Service: An Ongoing Issue for MyHeritage

One main concern of current Legacy Family Tree users relates to customer service. Since the MyHeritage acquisition announcement there have been many social media posts including those on Facebook, discussing the contrast in customer service styles between MyHeritage and Legacy Family Tree.

Legacy has had tremendous growth and support over the past five years due to its “family” feel and many loyal Legacy customers and subscribers fear that this sense of family will be lost in the move to MyHeritage. In addition, MyHeritage has in the past been much more aggressive in its marketing including phone calls to current subscribers in regards to renewals and upgrades.

As seen by Facebook pages such as MyHeritage Family Tree Complaints, MyHeritage will need to work hard to smooth out any customer service issues during the transition and once Legacy is fully integrated into the MyHeritage family of products and services.

What Changes Can We Expect at the New Legacy under MyHeritage?

Here is a quick look at what I believe will be changed and unchanged at legacy as it transitions to become part of the MyHeritage:

  • Legacy Family Tree Webinars: The webinar platform provided by Legacy Family Tree is probably the most visible property and the most valuable one gained in the acquisition by MyHeritage. It would be more than just “silly” for MyHeritage to “over-tweak” this popular feature at Legacy Family Tree. MyHeritage will be gaining a valuable genealogy education platform and would be smart to follow the old adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” We hope that Geoff Rasmussen, the moderator for the Legacy Family Tree Webinars, will continue in this role since he has been one of the most recognizable ambassadors for quality education in the genealogy industry. One change that we may see: webinar topics will unlikely include competitors of MyHeritage such as Ancestry and Findmypast. In addition, we will likely see more MyHeritage-specific topics included in the list of webinar topics. In fact, these MyHeritage webinars will likely be free to the public as a form of marketing for the company.
  • Subscription Model: Currently MyHeritage allows users to create a free account and maintain an online family tree with 200 family members or less. Any more than 200 family members currently requires a subscription to MyHeritage. This will not change (since the freemium model has worked as proven marketing technique for MyHeritage), but a MyHeritage subscription may now include the Legacy Family Tree Webinars and other added-value apps. In addition, I do not foresee any price increase to the basic Premium package at MyHeritage (approximately $240 USD per year).
  • Family Tree Builder: This online family tree platform has been an integral part of MyHeritage, but is has never really been embraced by the genealogy community, which tends to favor standalone software such as Family Tree Maker: Roots Magic, and Legacy Family Tree. Expect MyHeritage to abandon Family Tree Builder in favor of the legacy family tree software, albeit in a web-based platform (see below).
  • Software vs. Web-based App: Following software industry trends away from standalone PC-based software programs, I would expect to see Legacy Family Tree become a web-based platform for maintaining a genealogy database. Such a move has several advantages: 1) there would be no need to develop a Mac version of the software (this is one of the major complaints currently about Legacy Family Tree); 2) there would be no need for different versions and upgrades of Legacy Family Tree software (being web-based the software would always be up-to-date); and 3) easier integration with MyHeritage features including SmartSearch, RecordMatching and DNA matching.
  • Improved Record Sets: One of the major deficiencies with MyHeritage is its lack of records for genealogy research as compared to competitors such as Ancestry and Findmypast. The bulk of the records available at MyHeritage are derived from its acquisition of World Vital Records in 2011. Look for more partnerships with FamilySearch, which is an economically viable way of adding more records for MyHeritage. Also possible would be acquisition by MyHeritage of record providers such as newspaperarchive.com and/or Genealogy Bank.

Conclusion

I will concede that not all recent changes in the genealogy industry have been beneficial to genealogist family historians: one recent change being the sale of Family Tree Maker software by Ancestry to The Software Mackiev Company with many users abandoning the program due to transition issues in the and inability to sync with Ancestry family trees.

I have several years’ experience with MyHeritage, having worked with many of their staff members and being a MyHeritage member with a paid subscription (Full Disclosure: I am currently a MyHeritage affiliate). I have also witnessed the growth pattern of MyHeritage and have been impressed by recent acquisitions and expansion of its platform. I am hopeful that the MyHeritage acquisition of Legacy Family Tree will be a “win-win situation” for all involved and in the near future will see the Legacy Family Tree Program expand with amazing features.

References and Resources

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PLEASE NOTE: The post content above contains affiliate links. This means I make a percentage of sales via these links. This does not INCREASE the price you pay as a consumer. It simply supplements my income so I can continue providing as much free genealogy content as possible through my “abundance model.”

Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2017, copyright Thomas MacEntee.  All rights reserved.

About the Author

Thomas MacEntee
Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee has been researching his family history for more than 40 years and is the creator of Abundant Genealogy, Genealogy Bargains, DNA Bargains, The Genealogy Do-Over and numerous other web-based genealogy and family history properties.

7 Comments on "MyHeritage Acquires Legacy Family Tree: Is This Good for the Genealogy Industry? Good for Genealogists?"

  1. Linda York | 4 August 2017 at 12:56 pm |

    I dont see where these “advantages” are advantages for me — I like having a stand- alone program on my computer and not linking it to another — such as Ancestry or My Heritage. It is my program and not accessible to others unless I specifically allow it.
    I do not trust My Heritage from past experiences — their customer service is almost non existant. I dont expect them to change for the better but for Legacy to slowly go away.

  2. Elizabeth Ristau | 4 August 2017 at 1:25 pm |

    Legacy webinars are offered at a reasonable price. I think I pay about 35 or 40 a year. Nothing about My Heritage is reasonable. I dont even see a way to use it for a bit before paying a whole year at a pretty high price. In addition i have uploaded my DNA to My Heritage and had a real mess as they kept trying to translate my info. As my maiden name is Schlecht everything went “bad”. I really want this service to be workable due to German usage, but not there. Now I worry what they’ll do to Legacy.

  3. Meg Staton | 4 August 2017 at 1:49 pm |

    Thank you Thomas for your reasoned approach and blog. I have probably been one of the most vocal opponents of this merger, with my main concern being the customer service angle. When I have to spend an entire day attempting contact, I consider it unacceptable customer service.

    I can see all of the benefits for MyHeritage and that the cash flow with help Dave, Ken, and Geoff expand their dream. I truly hope that all of this angst is for naught and that a terrific product evolves. Just color me extremely skeptical in the meantime.

  4. I currently use MyHeritage’s FamilyTreeBuilder software completely offline.

    It does ask me every time I open it if I want to sync with an account – and I answer ‘no.’ Some may find that annoying. But FamilyTreeBuilder is not exclusively online. The data file is on my computer; not housed on MyHeritage’s servers.

  5. I will add that I used to have a paid MyHeritage account. It is now unpaid. At some point I may pay again for a few months of searching. But, like others, prefer a standalone database that resides on my own computer. And FamilyTreeBuilder allows that – for free.

  6. Thanks for your thorough thoughts on this merger. I’m one who prefer a standalone database for my family info. I’m not a fan of the subscription software nowadays (e.g. Windows 10 updating at inconvenient times) but I do agree that’s the wave of the future. I don’t think it’s mainly a “resistance to change” that is fueling these feelings. I will be one who hopes (and prays) that Legacy is able to retain that family feeling because they’re awesome.

  7. Marilyn Dahneke | 6 August 2017 at 10:46 pm |

    My Heritage has the best technology of any of the Genealogy “Super Powers” through their record matches and smart matches, our German Family Tree has exploded this year. Legacy has always been my private genealogy software. Hopefully, Legacy will remain the simple, powerful software that is now. In fact, I wish Legacy would stop adding whistles and bells and remain a good, easy to use private genealogy software program.

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