Fold3 operates as an independent company with its own website and membership rates.
However, it is part of the Ancestry.com portfolio of websites and archives. Ancestry didn’t establish Fold3 as a new archive, they acquired it by buying and renaming an existing business.
This article reviews the current ownership structure. Then we’ll take a quick look at the history of Fold3.
Who Owns Fold3?
Fold3 is owned by Ancestry.com who acquired the website in 2010. Ancestry purchased the company behind it, iArchives, for about $27 million. They rebranded the military archive from its previous name of Footnote.com.
Ancestry used Fold3 technology to build their newspaper archive, Newspapers.com. However, Fold3 and Newspapers.com are operated as separate brands and divisions within the corporate giant.
Several of the executives in Fold3 had left Ancestry.com to work for the new genealogy venture in 2006 and 2007. Some of them returned to take positions in Ancestry when their company was acquired.
For example, Gordon Atkinson returned to take the position of Director of Marketing for Fold3. However, Russell Wilding, the CEO and founder of the original website, moved on after the acquisition.
If you want to learn more about Wilding and the original site, check out the history section in this article.
Does Ancestry Membership Include Fold3?
Ancestry operates Fold3 as a separate company and website. So, you shouldn’t assume that your Ancestry.com membership will have access to Fold3. It depends on your level of membership.
Only the highest level of Ancestry membership gives access to the Fold3 archive. This level is called “All Access”, and it also gives access to Ancestry record archives and a basic Newspapers.com subscription.
What Records Does Fold3 Have?
Fold3 is a military archive with records from major national and global conflicts going back to the U.S. Civil War and the War Of 1812.
The archive isn’t restricted to military service records. The diverse collections include
- pension records
- naturalization records
- missing airmen reports
- medal of honor lists
- casualty records
- war photographs
- war testimonies and stories
What Does Fold3 Have That Ancestry Doesn’t?
You will usually find index records on Ancestry that point to Fold3 for the source record.
These military images and documents aren’t available on Ancestry. Instead, you’ll need to access the Fold3 website to view or download the full image.
There are still some U.S. military collections that are available on the Ancestry website. These include draft registrations and some pension records from the Civil War.
Does Fold3 Have UK Records?
Fold3 has been adding UK military records to the archive.
For example, the World War II archives are divided into U.S. records, Canadian records, and records from the United Kingdom.
The search features allow you to restrict by location, including the United Kingdom. This will let you browse collections including:
- British army lists
- UK prisoner of war records from World War II
- WWII commando gallantry awards, including Victoria Crosses
What Does Fold3 Mean?
Fold3 is named after the third fold made when folding the U.S. flag.
Military etiquette determines that the flag is folded thirteen times in total. The first fold symbolizes life. The second fold affirms the belief in eternal life.
The third fold recognizes the veterans who served their country.
Now you can probably understand why the third fold was chosen as the name to represent the military archive. The collections contain the records of military veterans.
How Russell Wilding Founded Fold3
In 1994, a company in Utah named Automated Solutions started selling services to digitize company logs. Their clients included truckers and healthcare providers.
Russell Wilding joined this company in 1998 as the Chief Operating Officer.
Wilding had moved to Utah from Silicon Valley, where he had worked as a tax specialist for Ernst & Young. He had transferred to the accountancy giant’s Utah offices but was looking for a business opportunity.
Automated Solutions had raised $3 million from investors and had hired several digitizing specialists.
But Wilding wasn’t impressed with the company he joined. And he took a fairly cutthroat approach, as he recounted in an interview with a local newspaper.
“In the end, I fired all the employees, sold all the assets, and started over.”Russell Wilding interview with MormonEntrepeneur.net (no longer online)
Launch of iArchives
Wilding rebranded the company as iArchives with a focus on digitizing microfilm. The new company won a contract with the University of Utah, and that set them on their way.
They got into digitizing newspaper archives through a contract with a regional newspaper.
But the renamed company really got going when they struck a deal with the U.S. National Archives in 2006.
Unlike other companies, iArchives didn’t look for permanent exclusive access. The deal was that they would digitize parts of the massive government archive in return for a license to publish the content on a new website.
That new website would be called Footnote.com.
Launch of Footnote.com
The Footnote.com website was launched in late 2006. The website focused on historical U.S. military records.
Unlike some rivals, the indexes on Footnote.com were available for free from the start. Customers could browse and search for names without payment. The underlying images could be downloaded for a fee.
Wilding hired a bunch of Ancestry executives to ensure the success of this new genealogy venture.
They included Roger Bell who had been in charge of product development at Ancestry since 2002.
Gordon Atkinson was another executive who moved to Footnote.com after three years working for Ancestry.com.
And that’s just to name a few! The ex-Ancestry cohort referred to their former employers as the “mothership”.
When Ancestry purchased iArchives in 2010, many of the executives “returned to the mothership”. In other words, they took up employment again with Ancestry.com.
Russell Wilding’s departure
Wilding had never worked for Ancestry.com, and he didn’t join some of his employees who took offers from the Utah genealogy giant.
Wilding actually went to work for one of Ancestry’s up-and-coming rivals. In 2012, he joined MyHeritage as Chief Content Officer.