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PROVO — This October, Provo-based Ancestry.com is celebrating 15 years of being online. CEO Tim Sullivan says his company has grown from being a content-based service to a place of community where families can share stories and experiences.
"One of our goals is to make the service easier and more accessible, and therefore something more entertaining and more interesting to a younger demo," Sullivan said.
The company's demographic is 60 percent female, typically in a stage of life where they are more reflective and have more time on their hands. But an increasing number of younger people are gaining interest. One thing that has helped, is NBC's hit show "Who Do You Think You Are?" which Sullivan is now taping its third season with Ancestry.com's help.
"I think it has helped more than anything, since "Roots," really drive family history into the main stream. It shows what the process is like and how emotionally satisfying that can be," Sullivan said.
The service is moving beyond just digitized content to really harvesting the power of new Internet technologies, social networking, and harvesting a large community of people collaborating and sharing stories.
–Tim Sullivan, Ancestry.com CEO
He says the family history industry is changing to keep ahead of the changing demographics. "The service is moving beyond just digitized content to really harvesting the power of new Internet technologies, social networking, and harvesting a large community of people collaborating and sharing stories."
Sullivan says it's easier than ever to connect with someone else's family tree. "Millions of people are creating their family trees and uploading content and records," he said. "We give you these ways, these shaky leaves, to connect with a distant cousin or someone who has found a common ancestor and that opens up new avenues for discovery."
Ancestry.com senior public relations manager Heather Erickson has found members of her own family through that service. "I've seen pictures of my great-great-grandfather that I never would have had," she said, explaining that what was once a lonely hobby is becoming so much more integrated and collaborative.
Ancestry.com is also working with other genealogy services and sites as they work on their social networking as well. Erickson says the company has an iPhone and iPad app, and is working on Facebook integration. Sullivan says they have been working with the free LDS service FamilySearch.org over the years and hope to expand that relationship in the future.
All of these changes and new interest is creating a need for more people to help. Ancestry.com has offices around the world. They hired 100 people so far this year and are looking for 50 more for their Provo and California offices — mainly engineers and developers to help expand the website and deliver on their mission.
FamilySearch.org is looking for more volunteers, particularly people who speak a foreign language, to help index names. CLICK HERE for more information on how you can help.