A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]Just a day after news of Ancestry.com's proposed settlement of a Truth in Lending lawsuit went public, news of a second settlement has been leaked.
The Provo, Utah, company has agreed to refund money spent on fruitless searches of their vast genealogical databases. Past and present members who have failed to find their ancestors on the website will be entitled to full reimbursement of their membership fees. The settlement is expected to cost Ancestry.com close to $200 million.
"This is a victory for failed researchers," said Amy Tollinson of Chicago, who brought the original suit. "Anyone who can't figure out Soundex should be rejoicing today."
Renée Belanger of White Plains, New York, is one of those who can expect a full refund. She bought a year's access to the U.S. Census Records database before remembering that her family had emigrated from France in 2003.
Another beneficiary will be Tom Clanton of Baton Rouge — a member since 1998 who has yet to find a single ancestor.
"Everybody told me to start with what I know," he told The Genealogue. "But every time I search for my name, it gives me a bunch of other Tom Clantons. I've searched every day for seven years, and still nothing about me but my phone number — which I already knew. I guess I deserve a refund."
A highly placed officer at parent company MyFamily.com said that she expects this lawsuit will bring a change in how the company does business.
"It's clear that we have to do more to support our members who are . . . differently abled, competence-wise. As part of the settlement, every new member will receive a copy of Genealogy for Morons and our CEO's home phone number. As a last resort, we'll go to the member's house and do the research ourselves. It's the least we can do, our lawyers tell us."