Who Owns Fold3?

You may have noted among your ancestor hints that from time to time you will get ones directing you to a site called Fold3. Based on the content of these hints it is pretty evident they are records connected to military service.

In this post we will take a closer look at Fold3 and discuss its history, importance and just who owns the site. It probably will not come as much of a surprise but the story behind the site itself may be enlightening.

What Is Fold3?

Quite simply Fold3 is an online archive of military records including stories, photos and personal documents of the individuals who served in various conflicts. It was through this site that I discovered that my great grandfather Arthur Jones died in France in 1917.

Arthur was a private of the Shropshire infantry in the first battalion and was killed in action. His widow Lucy received from his pay 9 pounds 11 shillings. Throughout his service he earned the 1914-15 Star medal, British war medal and the Victory medal.

It is information such as I discovered for my great grandfather that can be found on Fold3.

History of Fold3

The roots of Fold3 may surprise you as essentially the company dates back to 1994. Originally named Automated Systems it sold services to digitize company logs for trucking companies and health care providers.

This would be the business model until the arrival of Russell Wilding as Chief Operating Officer in 1998. A former tax specialist, Wilding arrived with a slash and burn mentality and quickly sold all assets and essentially started over.

A $3 million investment helped bring on board digitizing specialists and Wilding soon rebranded Automated Systems under the new name iArchives. Their new focus was digitizing microfilm and they quickly won a contract to digitize the archives of the University of Utah.

A contract with a regional newspaper to digitize their archives followed suit before eventually in 2006 the boat really came in when they won the contract to digitize the U.S. National Archives. One of the selling points that helped them win the contract was that unlike their competitors they were not seeking to have permanent exclusive access to the content.

They only asked that they have a license to publish the content to their website. This website became known as Footnote.com and focused mainly on military records. Early on the indexes on the site were free which set them apart from their competitors. You did have to pay a fee to see the actual record however.

Realizing the need for genealogy experts in this new business Wilding poached a few top level Ancestry staff including Roger Bell and Gordon Atkinson. Just 4 years later however in 2010 Ancestry would buy iArchive bringing back many of their former employees into the fold.

Wilding decided not to continue on under the new Ancestry ownership and would ultimately end up as Chief Content Officer for MyHeritage.

Who Owns Fold3?

Well as mentioned, in 2010 Ancestry purchased iArchive and they still own the company although they consider Fold3 to be an independent site which is under their business portfolio umbrella. In 2011 Ancestry renamed Footnote.com to Fold3

This new name pertained to the practice of folding the American flag with 13 folds. The first fold was for life, the second for belief in eternal life and the important third fold symbolizes the veterans who served their country. This then appears to be a very poignant renaming given the site's content.

What Records Does Fold3 Have?

The records on Fold3 are largely from the U.S. although there are some from the UK, Canada, Australia and even New Zealand. As of June 2022 the site claims to have 585,988,725 records on their site, a frankly dizzying archive.

These include records from the following conflicts:

  • American Civil War Confederate and Union
  • US Revolutionary War
  • Mexican-American War
  • Spanish-American War
  • Vietnam War
  • War of 1812
  • World War I
  • World War II

There are other conflicts as well including a small collection from the Napoleonic Wars, The Boxer Rebellion and other global military actions.

Record types include photos, newspapers, unit histories, directories and various military personal documents. It is a very comprehensive archive and could potentially hold information about your ancestors who saw military service.


The military archive site Fold3 originated in the late 90s and by 2006 started to become the site we know today. It was quickly bought up by the genealogy giant that is Ancestry and remains an arm of the company today.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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