Mocavo Raises $1 Million To Build Its Ancestry-Centric Search Engine

Looking to fill in the blanks on your family tree? A startup called Mocavo might be just what you’re looking for. The service is setting out to become a search engine that’s highly optimized for ancestry-related purposes — type in the name of a relative, and it’ll do its best to surface content from the web’s troves of genealogy data, some of which has been difficult to search through before now.

The startup, which was part of the TechStars Boulder program this past summer, has just raised a $1 million round from David Cohen (through Bullet Time Ventures), Dave McClure (500 Startups), David Bonderman, Walt Winshall, David Calone, Dave Carlson, Troy Henikoff, and other angels.

Founder Cliff Shaw says that Mocavo is setting out to make genealogy “open, social, and automated”. He explains that while there are existing services that use proprietary data sources,  few take advantage of the abundance of information that’s freely available on the web — information that Google often passes over, because genealogical information is neither fresh nor popular (he says Google only indexes less than 5% of this content).

Mocavo has created a whitelist of these genealogy sites, and it’s constantly scanning them for new data (you can sign up to receive an update for certain names, if you’d like). So far the site has around 5.8 billion names in its index.

The service launched in March, and is currently seeing more than 1 million page views per month, and 100,000 unique visitors. It also has very high engagement stats, with 17 minutes spent on the site, on average. While the site is currently focused exclusively on search, down the line it will integrate social features, like a family tree builder.

Shaw has a long history with ancestry-related companies — he founded his first genealogy site, Genforum, when he was 18. He sold it when he was 19, when it had some 60 million monthly pageviews. His other companies include Pearl Street Software and BackupMyTree, both of which were acquired as well.

Oh, and one caveat: my initial instinct was to try a vanity search on Mocavo, which didn’t have great results. Shaw says that because this is a genealogy search engine, you’ll have much better luck searching for people who are deceased.