Ancestry Promises Holocaust Records Will Be FreeBreaking News
tags: Holocaust, genealogy, DNA, Shoah Foundation
Steven Spielberg’s U.S.C. Shoah Foundation has partnered with the genealogy giant Ancestry to digitize about 50,000 records, adding to a free searchable database in Ancestry’s Holocaust archive.
The Shoah Foundation’s partnership, and an additional nine million records from the Arolsen Archives in Germany that Ancestry digitized this year to add to its site, nearly doubles the size of Ancestry’s Holocaust archives.
The partnership makes available a Shoah Foundation index of survivor video interviews, and, from the Arolsen Archives, a trove of passenger lists of displaced persons and other persecution documents.
But a recent glitch during a soft launch trial run left some survivors and their family members, already uncomfortable about having so much sensitive information public, wondering just what is free and what isn’t. A formal announcement of the partnership and a media rollout, originally set for Wednesday, is now slated for Sept. 2.
“The customer experience was not optimal” during the soft launch, an Ancestry spokeswoman said in a statement. “We regret that some individuals had an experience during this period that led to the impression the materials were not free.” (My maternal grandparents recorded video testimony with the Shoah Foundation in the 1990s. When I tried to access the records, like Shoah testimony and concentration camp documents, on Ancestry’s free guest membership, I hit the paywall.)
While access to those records was being fixed, there has been past confusion. Those paying members who access the 10 million Arolsen records that Ancestry received last August continued to pay fees to view a collection that was promised as free. The company would not say whether it would offer refunds to those customers and maintains that access has been free.