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Friends Reunited buys 1901 census website

Branching out: its family tree building site Genes Reunited will now offer access to official government records

Friends Reunited is building on the tremendous growth of its genealogy site Genes Reunited with the acquisition of The National Archives 1901 Census from science and technology company QinetiQ for £3.3 million.

Genes Reunited is the UK's largest ancestry site and works by connecting members with their extended family through the sharing of information. It enables users to graphically build their own family tree, explore their family history and connect with living relatives.

The site has grown dramatically since its launch in May 2003 and now has over 3.3 million members and 39 million names listed, with one name being added every second of every day. The addition of the 1901 Census will see official government records offered to Genes Reunited members for the first time giving them a unique insight into their ancestors' lives.

Michael Murphy, Chief Executive of Friends Reunited, said: "We found that as the site grew our members were discovering more and more links in their family trees and so their thirst for more detail on their ancestors grew too. Responding to their requests for government records, we looked at ways that we could add this service to effectively create a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to research their family tree."

Sarah Tyacke, Chief Executive of The National Archives, said: "QinetiQ has developed a great resource which, under the new management of Friends Reunited and Genes Reunited, will continue to deliver a first class service.

The National Archives online services are available to people around the globe and the partnership with Genes Reunited will highlight this international accessibility.

The huge task of digitising the original Census images and creating an index of over 32 million names, spanning almost 1.5 million pages with some 20 to 30 fields per name, was the result of a Public Finance Initiative contract between QinetiQ and The National Archives. The result is a snapshot of people in England and Wales in 1901 and is an invaluable resource for people searching their family roots.

Anyone trying to access the Census via The National Archive website is redirected through to the 1901 website. It is free to search the records, users only pay when they download images of the original census return or transcripts; it costs 75p to view an image or 50p for a transcript.

Since its launch on 2nd January 2002, the 1901 website has successfully handled over 120 million hits, processed over 12 million paid downloads and helped millions to research their family trees.

James Kirby, Director of Census Business at QinetiQ, said: "The success and phenomenal popularity of the site over the past couple of years speaks for itself but while QinetiQ is skilled at delivering managed businesses we don't have a broad consumer base, so it makes sense for Friends Reunited to now take this successful business on to the next level."

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Notes to the Editor - About Genes Reunited

Genes Reunited was launched in 2002 as a sister-site to the Internet phenomenon Friends Reunited. Since then it has grown to become the UK's largest genealogy website.

It marked a revolution in genealogy and ancestry by combining them with Internet social-networking. Members are able to build their family tree by posting it on the site and investigating which ancestors they share with other members. They can also search historical records such as census, birth, death, marriage and military records.

It currently has over 11 million members and over 750 million names listed. One new name is added to the site every single second.