Dear GenealogyBank: It’s Not Me, It’s You

Dear GenealogyBank,

It’s not me– It’s you. Really. You have a great product. Sure, there is overlap with other free sites like Chronicling America and other paid sites like But I get it; you’ve got content they don’t. Like newspapers from Eastport, Maine just across the bay from where one of my ancestors settled. And I know in that paper there are articles pertaining to my ancestors including details not available elsewhere. But saying anything else would likely violate your restrictive terms of use:

“you are granted an individual, non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited license to browse, search, retrieve, view, print and/or download, the Content on the Site for your personal non-commercial purposes”

Nope, I can’t share with my Mom about the article I found mentioning her great-grandfather. Nope, I can’t share with a friend the only known photo of their ancestor. Sure, they could purchase their own subscription to view an article. They could even purchase a subscription, view the article, then cancel their subscription and get their money back but that doesn’t feel honest.

Chauncey Daryaw died of injuries 27 May...
Died of Injuries, KINGSTON, Ont., May 27, Captain Chauncey Darayw… Clipped from The Ottawa Journal, 27 May 1922, Sat, Page 1;

I’m left feeling like you don’t really understand the “family” part of researching family history. I’m more than happy to pay for a subscription so long as I can feel free to share my findings with descendants. understands this and they even have a “share” button for newspaper clippings. Here’s a little hint… every time I share a clipping from, someone who isn’t a subscriber might notice I’m finding tons of goodies using their product and become a subscriber.

Your Terms of Use therefore not only prevent me from being a subscriber, but also prevent me from passively recruiting other potential subscribers at no cost to you. Cost isn’t the issue– the Terms of Use is.

I’ve been meaning to write this for some time and a recent post in The Legal Genealogist by Judy G. Russell reminded me. She has a great prior post about GenealogyBank’s TOU as well.

Now, being reasonable, I understand these restrictive policies. GenealogyBank’s parent, NewsBank, often acquires rights to these papers that restrict them and how they distribute the materials to us, the subscribers. And I can certainly search GenealogyBank and then go find the source paper myself, likely under less restrictive terms. Making a personal visit to a library across the country is quite expensive– especially compared to the cost of a GenealogyBank subscription. Renegotiating contacts with all of GenealogyBank’s providers to benefit the genealogy community would likely be tough.

But it is simply because of GenealogyBank’s Terms of Use that I’m not currently a subscriber there but I am a subscriber.