Ah, Dear Readers, disaster looms. In its usual, myopic fashion, the anglophone world of genealogists writes of the "Big Four" genealogy websites:
In terms of using them for French genealogy, we give them the following marks: Ancestry is mediocre to poor; FamilySearch is limited but can have some nice surprises; FindMyPast is irrelevant; MyHeritage is the worst, with next to useless search results, a lack of sufficient search criteria and a catalogue of French records and archives that seems to be empty. Of course, France has two excellent genealogy websites of its own, about which we have written often:
The Ancestry and FamilySearch liaison is mirrored by the links between Geneanet and Filae in that the former owns about forty-two per cent of the shares of the latter. We find both to be quite good but in different areas. We prefer Geneanet when searching family trees and original documents that have been filmed. We prefer Filae when doing a quick search based a a few details known about a person. Geneanet is a bit better for eighteenth century records, while Filae is quite strong in nineteenth century records. Filae's great strength is its indexing and its large catalogue of records and archives. Both are exponentially better for French genealogy than any of the so-called "Big Four". Now, the worst of the Big Four, in terms of French research, MyHeritage, is set to take over Filae.
From January, the press has reported that the founder of Filae is keen to sell to MyHeritage but that Geneanet is not at all keen about the deal and made a counter-offer. MyHeritage raised their offer. Last month, Filae accepted the offer from MyHeritage, to be approved at the next annual general meeting later this month. Geneanet still hopes to block the move.
Why would we oppose Filae becoming a part of MyHeritage? We wonder how a company that is so bad at French genealogy can help but debase the smaller one that is so good at it, as it is extremely unlikely, almost unnatural, for a smaller and better organization to improve the larger one that consumed it. In essence, we suspect that MyHeritage will want Filae not to continue as it is but to blend in more with the MyHeritage style. That, Dear Readers, will make Filae, or the catalogue and access to it, much, much worse to use for research. Additionally, in February, MyHeritage itself was purchased by a San Francisco private equity firm, Francisco Partners, that just likes to acquire tech companies. As is ever the case with such entities, it will be interested in profit over quality and will be unlikely to exert any influence to preserve the excellence of a small French company in its vast stable.
No one could dispute that the founder of Filae, Toussaint Roze, who worked long and hard to create a company with the best search function and indexing of French records, may be tired and of an age to sell up and take the money, or that he has the right to do so. Nevertheless, we gloomily anticipate a rapid deterioration of what was a great French genealogy website.
©2021 Anne Morddel