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Ancestry.com files for IPO

Genealogy site hopes to raise around $75 million with its initial public offering. Launched on the Web in 1997, the site now has almost 1 million paying customers.

Popular genealogy site Ancestry.com is going public, hoping to raise around $75 million, according to its SEC filing for an initial public offering submitted Monday.

As a genealogy site, Ancestry.com enables people to research their family history to find out who their ancestors were and how their family tree blossomed. The company started life in 1983 as a book publisher and then jumped online in 1997.

Ancestry.com is run by a firm previously known as The Generations Network, which changed its own name in early July to Ancestry.com to capitalize on the brand name. The majority of the company is owned by Spectrum Equity Investors, a communications business that paid around $300 million in 2007 for a 67 percent stake. Underwriters for the IPO are Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

With almost 1 million customers, Ancestry.com relies on paying subscribers rather than advertising to bring in the cash.

Profits have risen steadily over the past couple of years. For the first six months of 2009, Ancestry.com took in earnings of $8.18 million on sales of $99.9 million, according to its SEC filing. Those results compare with earnings of $1.24 million on sales of $87.4 million for the first six months of 2008.

Ancestry.com's foray into the public arena comes at a time when funding from venture capitalists to start-ups and IPOs is down. The company is hoping its past growth and success will help it buck the trend.

Clarification, Wednesday 5:07 a.m. PDT: The headline on this story has been changed from the original to avoid confusion.