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Ancestry.com provides family histories to AOL users

The Web service, which traces family lineage online, announces a deal to distribute its content on America Online's subscriber services and Web properties.

Ancestry.com, a Web service that traces family lineage online, announced today that it signed a deal to distribute its content on America Online's subscriber services and Web properties.

With the deal, Ancestry.com's genealogy content will be featured on AOL's proprietary online service, its CompuServe service, Web portal AOL.com, Netscape Netcenter, and home-page community AOL Hometown.

Ancestry.com anticipates that the AOL deal will help increase its traffic. But, according to Curt Allen, chief executive of Ancestry.com, "increasing our subscriber base" is the company's main goal.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ancestry.com wants to tap the 36 million U.S. households that currently connect to the Internet, of which 87 percent use the Net to communicate with family and friends, the company said. The service is divided into two sites: Ancestry.com, a subscription-based service, and MyFamily.com, which is free.

Ancestry.com expects to have more than 100,000 subscribers by the end of September. Subscribers pay between $60 and $100 a year to become members.

MyFamily.com allows families to create private online communities. These communities allow family members to create their own Web sites, where users can chat, create photo albums, or update an online calendar. The site is similar to other Web-based community sites, such as eGroups or eCircles. Web giants Yahoo and Excite also have similar private community offerings.

AOL gained an undisclosed stake in Ancestry.com when it participated in a $33.2 million round of financing in August, along with Tango, Group Arnault, Compaq Computer, Pivotal Asset Management, and Amerindian Investment Advisors.

"Genealogy has become one of the most popular hobbies online," Jonathan Sacks, general manager of AOL Interactive Services, said in a statement. "AOL members have shown an interest in tracing their family history, and this relationship with genealogy leader Ancestry.com gives our members access to the most comprehensive and valuable family history information available online."

@Ventures, the venture capital arm of Internet investment company CMGI, holds more than 30 percent of Ancestry.com. It led Ancestry.com's first round of financing in December 1998, and participated in its second round.