Genealogy Subscription Costs:
One Way to Reduce Them

Stack of Money

Fed up with high genealogy subscription costs?  I’ve seen many a complaint about this, with the ‘grandaddy’ of them all, Ancestry – the one with the most records, and also the most expensive site – being the target of many of these complaints.



I tend to agree with posts by bloggers, such as Dick Eastman, who point out that, to do research the old-fashioned way, it would be much more expensive than $300 per year.  You would have to take a weekend and/or vacation time in order to travel to the relevant archival facility, book a hotel for several days, incur driving or airfare costs, purchase meals, et cetera, all of which would yield you only a few documents, if you were lucky. 

When you think of it that way, a $300-per-year annual genealogy subscription to all records on their sites, worldwide, is actually quite a bargain – and, given the indexing that has been done and the documents that have been digitized and placed online, the time required to locate relevant documents is significantly reduced.  Further, this research can be done from the comfort of your home, with no transportation, lodging, or meal costs!

Nevertheless, a $300 outlay can be a significant amount for someone to pay, if, for example, they are retired and living on a fixed income.  So, here’s a strategy that might prove useful!


The Strategy:  Introduction

Let's use Ancestry as an example, as it is the oldest, largest and best-known of the subscription-based genealogy websites.

As you no doubt are aware, Ancestry has operations in many different jurisdictions.  For researchers in Canada, the US, and Australia, for example, there is an Ancestry website dedicated specifically to each of those countries.

The problem, of course, is that Canada, the US, and Australia are countries founded by immigrants.  Other than the indigenous peoples in each country, their populations all came from elsewhere.  Also, specifically in North America, there was a great deal of movement between Canada and the U.S., in both directions. 

Sooner or later, then, it is very likely that you will find that you need to expand your research into another country, to continue your family tree research.

For me, with ancestors mainly in the British Isles whose descendants have spread through the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and more, I need a Worldwide subscription, rather than one catering only to my home country of Canada.


The ‘Nitty Gritty’:  A Bit of Math

Let’s take a look at Ancestry’s current rates (as of January 2013).  For ease of reference, I will refer only to annual subscription rates, although each country has other types of genealogy subscriptions available.





AustraliaCanada UKUSA
In-Country Only AU$215.40* C$119.40 ₤107.40 US$77.70*2 = US$155.40**
Worldwide AU$299.88 C$299.40 ₤155.40 US$149.70*2 = US$299.40**


*Australia has two levels of coverage: the "UK Heritage" Basic plan, which include key Australian and UK records only, and the "UK Heritage Plus”, which provides access to records in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Ireland. I have included the "UK Heritage Plus" plan here.

**At the present time, the US site does not offer an annual subscription. The longest genealogy subscription available is for 6 months. I have multiplied the US’s 6-month subscription rate by two, so as to provide a useful comparison.



Looking at the chart, it is clear that the pricing for the individual countries varies considerably, depending on the depth of coverage and the number of documents which have been scanned and are available online, and on the size of the population.

A quick glance also tells you that, if a person needed a genealogy subscription, say, to Canada and the US, assuming that the Canadian and US dollars are approximately at par (as they are at present), the price of purchasing both subscriptions (C$119.40 + US$155.40) amounts to about $275.  It therefore is likely that a worldwide subscription, for an additional $25, would be a better investment.

Comparing the pricing for the Worldwide subscription across all four countries, it is clear that the intention is for a worldwide genealogy subscription to be approximately US$300 per year, expressed in the local currency.



Currency Conversions:  Foreign Exchange

Many of us have travelled to other countries, and have done the ‘mental gymnastics’ necessary to translate a price in the local currency into our home-country currency, to give some sort of reference point as to whether an item is well priced. 

Also, in this computerized age, many of us now order things over the internet from other countries and in other currencies, using credit cards or PayPal accounts. 

For example, my husband is British, and his immediate family (which includes teenaged nieces and nephews), all live in England.  When it comes time for birthdays and Christmas presents, I turn to a variety of British sites offering gift certificates of interest to the recipient. 

This past Christmas, I ordered gift certificates from Amazon.co.uk for the teenagers, and asked to have them delivered via e-mail the day before Christmas.  My credit card statement contains the amount paid in British pounds, plus the exchange rate and the Canadian-dollar equivalent.

Similarly, with respect to an Ancestry "World Deluxe" genealogy subscription, there is nothing to say that you must sign up in your home country. Whichever country you choose to place your subscription with, you still have the same access to all of the Ancestry records, worldwide.

Let’s look at that chart again, for the Worldwide genealogy subscription, and do a bit of math:




AustraliaCanada UKUSA
Worldwide Subscription - Annual Rate AU$299.88 C$299.40 ₤155.40 US$149.70*2= US$299.40**
Converted
to AU$
AU$299.88 AU$289.97 AU$239.13 AU$289.89
Converted
to C$
C$309.65 C$299.40 C$246.92 C$296.25
Converted
to UK₤
₤194.84 ₤188.42 ₤155.40 ₤186.46
Converted
to US$
US$312.91 US$302.51 US$249.50 US$299.40


For each country, I have converted the funds listed in the first row into each of the listed currencies, using the currency converter on www.xe.com. As you may be aware, the values of one currency in relation to another are constantly changing.

I have highlighted the lowest-cost option on each line.

For example, if you lived in Australia, you could purchase a worldwide subscription from the Australian site at AU$299.88; from the Canadian site at AU$289.97; from the UK site at AU$239.13; and from the US site at AU$289.89.



The Results

Look at the results:  whether you live in Australia, Canada, or the US, you can save money by purchasing your worldwide genealogy subscription through the UK site!  That is:

  •  An Australian purchasing a worldwide subscription can save about AU$60 a year by purchasing his/her subscription through the UK site (AU$299.88 at home versus AU$239.13 through the UK site);
  • A Canadian purchasing a worldwide subscription through the UK site can save about C$52 (C$299.40 at home versus $246.92 through the UK site); and
  • An American purchasing a worldwide subscription through the UK site could save about US$50  (US$299.40 at home, versus $249.50 through the UK site).

No such luck for our UK friends, though, as at present, their rate is the least expensive!

As noted above, the value of one currency against another is constantly changing.  That means, of course, that you will not get exactly these numbers when you attempt to do the ‘number crunching’. 

It is also possible that, in future, the values will change, so that it may be less expensive to subscribe through a different country.    However, it is still worth doing the comparison, to see if some savings can be had by taking advantage of the foreign exchange rates.




A Real-Life Example

When my Ancestry genealogy subscription came up for renewal a couple of years back, I was essentially between jobs, and was having trouble justifying paying about $300 for my subscription. 

I played around with the subscription rates, as detailed above, and discovered that it was less expensive to renew through the UK site than to purchase a worldwide subscription through the Canadian site.

In addition to the above savings obtained simply as a result of taking advantage of the foreign exchange rates, I was given one free month, and was credited for the 10 days or so remaining in my prior subscription.

In short, my out-of-pocket expenses ended up just under C$200, simply because I used the British site, rather than the Canadian site, to do the renewal.

The following year, I again renewed through the UK site, after repeating the above exercise.  (Can you tell I'm 1/4 Scottish?!?)  My recollection is that I paid about C$220, thereby saving myself approximately C$80 off the price I would have paid by subscribing through the Canadian site!


Conclusion

Checking the rates in other countries, and finding out what you would pay in your country's money if purchased through the other country's website, therefore, is well worth considering.  There will always be a difference in the genealogy subscription rates from country to country for the same offering, usually as a result of foreign exchange variations.

I have used Ancestry as an example. However, this strategy will work for any subscription where the company is operating in two or more countries, or where the same item is offered for sale in two different countries, at different prices. It's worth doing a bit of math to find out whether substantial savings can be had in this manner! 



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