A Review – Geni.com

After a conversation at RootsTech with Grant Brunner, the Geni Community Evangelist, and having ended up there from a Google Alerts result, I decided to give Geni.com a try.

With the GEDCOM upload no longer available, I knew there was no way I was going to add all 3000 people from my tree to their web site. I started out with my ancestors. Adding them was pretty simple. I did sometimes click something and end up in a different view, but I could eventually find my way back. There were a few odd glitches along the way, like showing blank boxes where I’d filled in information, or trying to add parents to the top-most person in pedigree view.

Maiden Names, Not Married Names

I was a little disappointed at the site showing married names with maiden names in parentheses. I’m sure they expect a lot of amateurs to be using the site, so the default should have been to show maiden names to teach the proper way to do genealogy.

When I got to the top of one of my lines, I had a couple with no surnames. Geni found me one match for her and 100 for him, but wouldn’t let me see those alleged matches because I had a free account. For a site that wants to connect the entire world, it seems odd that they would limit that to the paying customers. I also wasn’t able to find those matches by searching. Clicking around in my account later, I found another way to see the “matches”, but then it said there were no matches found.

Let’s Merge… Or Not

Continuing back on another day, I decided to add just enough people to try to merge with another tree. I knew of at least three trees that I could merge with already, one added recently, so I headed out in that direction of the family. It didn’t take me long to hit a glitch.

Those cousins happen to come from a line where cousins married. So I added each of the couple under their parents and couldn’t find any way to join them. My only option was to add one of them a second time. I thought Geni might notice two identical people in my own tree, but it didn’t. I found an option to “resolve duplicates”, but that didn’t work. Eventually I tried the option “move this person” and that allowed me to double her up in the tree. Except, I wasn’t actually moving her, so that option is named badly, and minutes later I couldn’t remember why I even tried that option other than sheer curiosity.

I finally added the person who would connect our trees, and nothing showed. There is nowhere to put an alternate spelling for his surname, which changed after moving to the US. I tried searching for him with the alternate surname spelling, but when I finally entered the search information correctly, it told me I had to upgrade to Pro to see the match. When I searched just the surname, I found all kinds of entries from that cousin’s tree, including the person who matched my tree.

Sure, I could do the Pro trial, but then after 14 days, I won’t be able to do anything. Or I could ask Grant for the Pro access, which he offered during RootsTech. But I wanted to see what could be done with the site for free, especially to see what happens after someone’s Pro trial ends and they are stuck with the free account again. Apparently, Geni wants to create one large family tree of the entire world, but only in cooperation with its paying customers.

That last sentence wasn’t meant to be mean. Geni is a company and they obviously want to make money, so they have to charge for something. But if one of their goals is to merge everyone into one big tree, they should let us do that with the free accounts. I’m sure they can find plenty of other things to add to the paid accounts. Like maybe GEDCOM uploads.

No Pro Today

I finally clicked on the Pro free trial, which took me to a subscription page. Of course they want my credit card now, which I’m not giving them. So I clicked “cancel” and got an error page. Whoops.

Trying to find my cousin’s tree in the search again, it didn’t show me the list and instead gave me the Pro sign-up again. And then I tried it again and had the opportunity to sift through 16 pages of the surname. I found a few duplicates just on the search page — obviously people not using paid accounts to be able to merge them. I found the person from my tree on page 11 and couldn’t find anywhere to try to merge the two. I changed the spelling in my tree to match theirs exactly, and it still didn’t find the match. How often does Geni try to find matches? Wasn’t it immediate the first time I saw that? I checked that the merge-able person had a public profile, and still nothing.


I don’t think this is a web site for a serious genealogist to keep their genealogy. It is for connecting to other living cousins, if you have the Pro account.

For one thing, it doesn’t allow GEDCOM uploads anymore, and anyone already working on their genealogy is not going to want to re-enter everything again. They used to have an upload function; I tried it once long ago, but there were some glitches that time and I never tried again.

I don’t like the default setting of showing a woman’s married name. It also assumes she takes her husband’s name and that’s not always true.

Without upgrading to the Pro account, I was never able to merge, even when I altered my data to match someone else’s. There was no way for me to find someone in the Geni database and manually suggest a merge; I probably needed to upgrade to see the option, if there is one.

For those that do use the site, get the Pro account, and figure out how to merge, it is probably useful for finding more living relatives, since you’re likely to be merging your tree with someone’s tree that you’re related to. This was kind of what I was looking to do.

There were several trees that were merge-able when I searched for a single surname, so why weren’t they merged? I suspect there are a lot of orphan trees in their database, possibly people who never upgraded, or didn’t keep the paid account to continue working with it.

So I guess I’m going to leave my pedigree chart in their database, rather than delete the 50 people I entered, with the URLs of my own web sites in my profile, so if someone finds me in that database, they will be able to find me.

Disclaimer: As mentioned above, I was offered a Pro account from Geni during RootsTech, but I was not expecting to use the site and did not take it. Nor did I contact Grant and ask for it afterwards.

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