Geni.com — a flawed site

I was doing an internet search for Growden / Growdon families, on which I’m doing a one-name study in the hope of being able to link the different branches together.

I came across a reference to a Nancy Growden, in a family tree on a site called Geni.com.

I wanted to contact the person who posted the tree, but the only way I could do that was by actually becoming a member of Geni.com. It seemed easy enough to join, and looked quite interesting so I thought I might as well join and see what it was like.

But I had let myself in for a frustrating couple of days.

The registration asked me to upload a GEDCOM file, so I did.

It then asked me to identify myself on the GEDCOM file I had just uploaded by choosing my name from a list.

The choices on the list were the wrong person, or an undefined person.

But by the time it had finally assimilated the GEDCOM file it had me as the wrong person — my wife’s 5-great grandfather, born in 1640. Then began a frustrating search through help and faq files to find out how to correct this. But since I couldn’t find myself on the tree I had just uploaded, there wouldn’t be much point in trying to correct it anyway.

Eventually I decided to delete the entire thing, and try again, registering from scratch, uploading the GEDCOM file again, and waiting a few hours for it to be assimilated.

But the same thing happened, only this time it identified me as my second cousin once removed.

I decided to waste no more time on it, and delete the account for the second time.

But then I saw the message saying that I could ask for assistance in correcting the problem.

Well, I tried that, and then came the real kicker. In order to ask for help to find out how to correct the errors their clunky and faulty program had made, I would need to sign up for a “premium” account at $9.95 a month. Now that sounds like a scam. Offer someone something free, but broken. Then when they discover it’s broken and are about to toss it, offer to fix it if they agree to pay an exorbitant monthly fee! There’s chutzpah for you!

If I try something free, and it works well, and I use it a lot, I’ll consider paying for it. That’s the shareware principle. I’ve done that with two genealogy programs I use all the time — Family History System and Legacy. I used the free version of each for a couple of years, and decided I was going to go on using them, so I sent the money. But that was after I had used them and was satisfied that they worked well.

But when, like Geni.com, they ask money for something that I’ve discovered works badly from the get-go, thanks but no thanks!

And if they’ve tried one scam, maybe they’ll try two — I hope that when I closed my account they deleted my GEDCOM file and the information they imported from it into their database, but perhaps they are the kind of unscrupulous people who will keep that information and then try to sell it to someone else.

About these ads

36 Responses

  1. Hi Steve, sorry to hear about your experience with Geni. I wanted to correct something and offer some help in getting you back on Geni. Customer support is absolutely free and does not require a paid Pro subscription. Our Pro users do get priority service on their help requests, but we provide assistance to all of our users.

    If you are interested in some help giving Geni another tree, please send me an email at the address I provided here. I’d really like to find out why we had issues with your GEDCOM. Thanks!

    -Noah

    • Hi Noah,

      You appear to be from Geni.com. I am a Pro subscriber and I have now for maore than a week tried in vain to get a respone from your help desk.
      By mistake and as we were both not sufficiently au fait with Geni a fellow researcher and I got our not related trees entangled. He is now my “brother” and there is no way we can un-merge or split our tress without either party loosing valuable data. It is more than a little disapointing that the much advertised hel desk does not bother to reply. I also wrote to the subscriber dept. they replied (automatic) that someone from help desk would contact me. Never happened.
      I hope that at long last you will gget me the service I am actually paying for. Please reply to my email: henrik@lwis-guttermann.dk

      • Hi Henrik,

        I tried contacting you via the email address you provided but it bounced back to me. Here is what I wrote:

        Yes, I am from Geni.com. Our customer service queue has been longer than usual recently. We just added additional customer service staff this week to help alleviate this issue. We expect the queue to return to normal very soon. If you can give me the ticket number that was in the auto-reply email you received I’ll make sure you get a response soon.

    • URGENT* I need help to delete anything with my parents me and my stepfather from this site.

    • Hey Noah , if you are really from Geni.com then I am sorry to tell you but no one ever responds from customer service , the take and send a ticket thing is a joke… Also it tells you right on the website the ticket thing is for pro and premium accounts only… I have several trees on Geni.com but if some changes aren’t made soon I and probbaly alot of other folks will be taking out bussiness elsewhere!

  2. The objection I have with geni is, the fee is too exorbitant! Come on, I introduced a hundred family members – and you are going to collect hundreds of $ from them all? How fair is that! Keep it affordable guys. Maybe some of us could shell out 10 bucks a year and it will pool into your kitty. Coz if you dont, then you get no more people from us, and many will start flying away to your competitors

  3. I want to thank you so much for posting this information. Because you listed the other two decent websites, I was able to find my GRANDPA’S birth certificate, something I have been looking for for a while!!! I am so excited. He has been gone since 1964 and I miss him still, so much. Found it on Family Search. Thank you, thank you!! And best of luck in all your searches!

  4. I have used Geni.com for several years until I didcovered they do not keep it private and is searchable via search engines.

    I also dont get any help from them and it is very difficult to delete accounts.

    I am starting my own family history server as I dont trust anyone with my info. Anyone interested to know how easy starting a FH server please leave a reply.

    • I’m interested in finding out how easy it is to start an FH server. Thanks.

      • my email is topica(at)cpoa.net and the URL is cpoa.net/familyhistory.
        It’s been up for more than a month and I am very happy with it. The
        software is $30 and you need a server (rent one for a few dollars a
        month). The software tech support is excellent. I can help, too. If you
        dont have a server I can help with that, too.

      • From people who’ve done it, I gather it is fairly easy using software like PhpGedView, which can be downloaded here. But I haven’t done it, so this is not the best place to ask. But I’m sure you’ll find most of the information you need on those sites.

  5. Hi Steve,
    My experience with Geni has been entirely contrary to yours. I have recorded over 9,500 profiles on Geni over three years, and successfully invited over 270 fellow family members to join. I have had only two or three problems in that entire period, each of my own making, and each was resolved satisfactorily within 24 hours by the Geni.com Help desk. During this period, I have had countless breakthroughs via the discovery of other family members independently active on Geni, a substantial portion of which would have been impossible by any other means. I don’t know how you guys value your time, but if I spend 3 hours a week on my tree, totalling 150 hours each year, then $60 a year for my GenPro account for access to family tree software that is free of corruption and back-ups is a tremendous bargain.

    • I am with you, Adam!

      Even at the exchange rate of the $ with Indian Rupee being nearly 40, I still find it worth the while!

      Go, Geni, Go Go GO~!

      Ra.

      PS. My only grouse, destructive relatives can cry havoc at your work by letting lose the delete-dog!

    • By profiles do you mean family members you added to your tree?

      Thanks, Sandy

  6. I would not touch Geni with a ten-foot barge pole even if wearing rubber gloves. Despite what they might tell you it is not secure nor is it private.

    What Geni do not openly warn their users is that they have a mission to create one family tree for the whole world. So they have a team of Curators scuttling around behind the scenes joining trees together, often without the consent of the owners.

    Worse yet at least one of these Curators is actually telling lies to users and is creating mirrors of tree structures and merging these with existing trees thereby gaining management rights over those same trees. And she continues to do so despite repeated requests and demands that she cease.

    Check out these Curators. They are listed as managing 100,000 profiles. That’s only because anything over that 100,000 is not displayed. They in fact manage millions of profiles (yes millions).

    Your data is not safe on Geni. If you upload a GED file the only way to delete it is to go in and manually delete every individual profile. You can upload a GED file containing 5,000 profiles. That might take you 30 seconds but it will probably take you two months to go and delete it person by person.

    Use Geni at your risk

    • I echo what Kiwi just said. This behind the scenes mucking about by volunteer curators has got to stop. I like the idea of “one world tree” but that should not affect family trees – but should be a separate and distinct area of Geni that utlizes the information in the family trees but does NOT merge into them. Geni is crazy and chaotic now… and I speak from experience. Last night my tree grew to over 6000 people from a unapproved merge by a curator. It caused all sorts of duplicates and relationship problems in my tree. So, I just deleted the incommon ancestor and disconnected from the world tree. For now, I’ll just enter profiles that can be set to private and watch the grand experiment from afar.

    • Thank you for the warning about Geni. I only joined Geni tonight and had posted 4 family members. After reading your warning about Geni, I went in and manually deleted the 4 members I posted in Geni. Am so glad I only had to delete 4 members instead of something like 400…. or more.

  7. I haven’t had any issues with Geni yet…but I have periodically backed up my stuff my downloading a GEDCOM so I have it to upload elsewhere in case something does get out of whack…..I think the Geni interface is extremely easy to use and have enjoyed it for more than a year now. That said…I do have some concern that my tree will be merged without permission, but, that is why I use the backup feature.

  8. Í do not mind the data being public because after all it is basically just names which is available in telephone directories anyway. But what I mind is that I cannot connect two profiles I have myself created if for example my mother’s sister is married to my father’s cousin. They appear in two places, as duplicates and to merge them I have to pay. I think this is unfair.
    Also it is almost impossible to delete a profile if it has got duplicated by mistake.

  9. geni.org: a location to share ones tree. issues include losing control over ones entries due to multiple managers, being required to have a pro account to do most things, inability of non-pro users to see full trees, inability to accept gecom updates (no gedcom accepted now), etc. i feel that im back in 2000 with a dial-up modem. i am a pro geni user and will probably not renew.

    active users of geni will soon become tired of this site as they are not really user friendly for researchers. I can’t even see sites of other cousins due to access issues.

    it is worth noting that ancestry is considered to be the #1 site for genealogy and you can submit a tree to them indirectly through rootsweb as ancestry catalogs all rootsweb submissions.

  10. I recently came across geni.com as well and I was quite shocked to discover details (full names, birthdays etc.) about myself, my family and so on. The site lists someone entirely unknown to me as the administrator for this information. Despite what Noah said above, trying to enter a ticket into their system redirects to the payment page (unless it’s an issue in my browser).

    I did get a ticket in once. They basically suggested I create a profile on the site to remove the information that shouldn’t be there in the first place. I sent a follow-up question which was never answered and the ticket was closed.

    Sharing such information is a bad idea at this day and age in any case (phishing, anyone?) but it’s even worse when it’s without my consent. And it seems the information is stuck there permanently, seeing I cannot get a hold of this supposed “administrator” of my profile.

  11. I would like to see a class action lawsuit to shut Geni.com down for violating our privacy.

    • Ditto. What started out as a great service has gotten way out of control. They don’t care about the founding members’ rights or privacy. All they care about is their own mission and dollar signs. For shame!

    • Has anyone looked into this? A class action lawsuit? Perhaps a law is being broken by Geni allowing the tracable names of minors (children) to be freely avaliable|?

  12. I am in on the class action lawsuit. (if needed).

    First of all – I don’t want my information on that site, secondly you can’t get in contact with the “support”-team. I mailed them several times.

    Secondly – Why can’t people understand that this information could be dangerous..?

  13. I’ve just read all these comments. If I don’t select geni.com, can anyone suggest something else that is reasonably easy to use and doesn’t cost a fortune?

    • You might like to have a look at TribalPages. I have my family tree there and for up to 2 Mb it is free. It retained the integrity of uploaded data (which was the biggest problem I had with Geni.com, and is also a problem with some other sites, like Ancestry.com). If you pay a fee you can upload bigger trees. It lets you keep control of your data, and I am very happy with it.

  14. I want to express my disappointment with Geni. I too paid for the subscription and after experiencing multiple problems, could get no reply from the help desk, AFTER giving them my charge card. I cancelled within the two week period and ask for my money refunded.

    To date, no refund and no acknowlegement.Sorry, but this looks like a fancy scam. Buyer beware!

  15. I had a Geni. basic account for 2 years ,Things were okay until they got greedy,The managers and curators wern’t very freindly to deal with. To them the basic members were just little people in the way.

  16. yes Geni must be a Hoax-to tell you sign up is free
    Then open a VERY hig-cost signup form.
    If you can lie you can also…….
    we all know.

  17. When i searched for my name on Google, it came up at Geni with my biological parents as my parents. Someone had created an account and put my biological parents there, and that is searchable on internet. I have tried to contact the person who started the account in my name and tried to contact Geni but got no reply. I am adopted and I do not want my biological parents to be found on the internet in this way, this is very private information. WHAT can I do about this? I feel very bad because of this!

    /Anne

    • I tried looking up information on Geni.com at Whois.net to see information on the owners of Geni.com. Usually Whois. will have contact info. But not this time.
      I did find out Geni is owned by MyHeritage.com. I couldn’t find any contact info on Myheritage either, other than what they have on their website.
      The following is from Wikipedia

      MyHeritage is a family-oriented social network service and genealogy website. It allows members to create their own family websites, share pictures and videos, organize family events, create family trees, and search for ancestors.[1][2] With over 75 million users, MyHeritage is one of the largest sites in the social networking and genealogy field.

      In 2003, CEO Gilad Japhet and a team of genealogy enthusiasts founded MyHeritage in Japhet’s living room in the moshav of Bnei Atarot, just outside Tel Aviv, Israel.

      Main article: Geni.com
      In November 2012, Geni was acquired by MyHeritage.[33] Geni is a genealogy and social networking website with the goal of creating a family tree of the world.[34][35] While family profiles are private,[36] Geni’s mission is to create a shared family tree of common ancestors. By combining research into a single tree that users work on together, users can focus on verifying information and on new avenues of research, rather than spending time duplicating research that others have already done. Over 98.6 million profiles were created on Geni by over 5.8 million users as of December 2010.[37][38]

      Below from Whois.net

      [Querying whois.verisign-grs.com]
      [whois.verisign-grs.com]
      Whois Server Version 2.0
      Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered
      with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
      for detailed information.
      Domain Name: GENI.COM
      Registrar: GODADDY.COM, LLC
      Whois Server: whois.godaddy.com
      Referral URL: http://registrar.godaddy.com

      Hope this helps somehow in trying to contact Geni. Maybe contact Go Daddy and have them help in trying to Contact Geni another way besides the contact info at Geni.com.

      • I did find a physical address if you want to contact through mail.
        Customer Support
        Geni.com
        1337 Third Street, Third Floor
        Santa Monica, CA 90401 USA

        • Just checked Better Business Bureau in Santa Monica for Geni.com. They are not listed as a BBB accredited business. So, no contact info there either….

          • Hello,

            Oh, thank you so much for helping to find information about Geni and where I can turn to! I am really greatful and will contact them to get answer from them! @–}—

            Best regards,
            Anne

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: