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Library's Genealogy Center gets ad boost

It's advertised on Web site tied to new NBC TV show.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - 10:35 am

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library, one of Fort Wayne's top tourist attractions, may get a boost from an NBC television series on the ancestry of celebrities.

“Who Do You Think You Are?” airs at 8 p.m. Friday on NBC affiliates, including WISE-TV, Channel 33, in Fort Wayne. The show follows celebrities, such as actress Susan Sarandon and football player Emmitt Smith, as they learn about the preceding generations of their families.

Fort Wayne's marketing connection with the show comes through Ancestry. com, a genealogical research company that is NBC's partner in developing the show, as well as a major sponsor.

The Fort Wayne Allen County Convention & Visitors Bureau is spending $5,000 to buy banner ads that will appear on Ancestry.com Web sites visited by people within a 12-state area in which most visitors to the Genealogy Center live. That $5,000 pays for 2 million impressions – instances of the ad popping up on a computer user's screen – said visitors bureau President and CEO Dan O'Connell.

“This is a small investment. If the show is successful, we will be successful,” he said.

Curt Wicher, manager of the Genealogy Center, said visits to the center have remained fairly steady during the economic downturn of the last two years.

“We are the perfect staycation … for the Great Lakes area, from Wisconsin to upstate New York,” Wicher said Tuesday. The Genealogy Center, the second-largest collection of genealogical information in the United States, received 92,800 visitors in 2009. He said visits in January and February have been up over corresponding months in 2009.

Traffic to the genealogy collection at the library peaked at about 105,000 in the mid-1990s, Wicher said. Although personal visits to the center have been between 90,000 and 100,000 for several years, the library is getting enormous traffic on its Web site. The parts of the Web site devoted to genealogy recorded 10 million hits last year, Wicher said.