All your ancestors are belong to us …

Over the past few days, both the Vancouver Sun and the Ottawa Citizen have published (basically the same) story about “Toronto-based Ancestry.ca.”  From the articles, this appears to be related to such public institutions as the national archive and Library and Archives Canada.  And the price is right: “A two-week free trial period that began June 10 allows users to search for and download documents at no charge.”

I tried it out.  Giving minimal information about him brought up over 6,000 hits, the second of which was my grandparent’s marriage certificate.  Pretty good.

Unfortunately, that is not the whole story.  If you want to actually see anything that the search finds, you have to register.  And, if you pay attention, and actually read the “Terms and Conditions” (and look at the full screen, not the portion that shows when the box first pops up), you find that you are registering with “an Internet service (the “Service”) owned and operated by The Generations Network, Inc, an American company incorporated in Delaware, USA, and whose registered address is 360 W 4800 N Provo, UT 84604, USA.”  In order to register you have to provide a credit card.  After 14 days (and it isn’t clear whether that is 14 days after June 10, or 14 days after you register) “[i]f you wish to terminate your subscription you must notify us at least two (2) days before the Renewal Date by calling (800) 958-9073 Member service is available from Monday to Friday 7:00 am to 4:00 pm MST, or by sending an email to cancel@ancestry.ca providing the following information: Given name and surname, Username, Subscription type (UK/Ireland collection, etc.), Email address used when subscribing, Phone number including country code, Country.  If you fail to respond to the notice, your subscription will be automatically renewed,” and, of course, your credit card will be charged.

So, read carefully, people.  Are you dealing with a public institution, or a private company?  Are you dealing with a company in your country, or another?  And, is your “free trial” an “opt-out” contract for the company to start billing your credit card?

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  • Miriam Britt

    Isn’t that interesting; in order to opt out, you are required to give them information they can sell. If it isn’t illegal it ought to be. Thank you for exposing this.