Have you heard of Geni.com? It may be a lesser-known genealogy website, but it is packed with options for family historians that are looking for new and different ways to build their family tree. This Geni.com review will give you an overview of the website, its cost, and its unique features, so you can decide if this “world tree” building database will benefit your genealogy research.
What is Geni.com?
Geni.com describes itself as the “definitive online family tree.” As new individuals are added to the database, they become part of Geni’s “world family tree.” This collaborative tree format is similar to other shared family tree websites such as FamilySearch Family Tree and WikiTree.
Geni focuses on tree building and collaboration, and not on data aggregation- so the website does not contain any records databases. This means you cannot search for records within Geni and attach them to your tree as you can with Ancestry or MyHeritage. However, users can upload photos, videos, and digitized records to individuals in their tree. Users can also upload DNA test results from various test sites to compare and match to other users (we’ll talk more about this feature below).
Who owns Geni.com?
Geni was founded in 2006, and early on it became one of the biggest genealogy websites featuring a “world family tree” model. In 2012, the company was purchased by MyHeritage. Although the MyHeritage website remains separate from Geni at this time, MyHeritage users can access and match to Geni tree profiles, and Geni users can match to MyHeritage profiles. This data is integrated through MyHeritage’s “SmartMatches” feature. Geni users must have a MyHeritage subscription in order to access SmartMatch data, however.
Is Geni.com free?
Geni.com offers two options: a free “Basic” plan and a paid “Geni Pro” subscription plan. Let’s compare the features for each.
- Users can add unlimited profiles and merge duplicate profiles
- Users can view “relationship paths” (more on that below)
- Up to 1GB of photos, videos and documents can be uploaded
- Access to Tree Matches
- Unlimited media uploading
- “Enhanced Search” allows you to search over 100 million user profiles for matches
- Premium support access, including priority GEDCOM support when you export files
You can see that only Geni Pro users can access other members’ profiles to view and match data. But if you are only looking to build out your own family tree, and are not interested in matching other profiles through Geni, the free plan might fit your needs. Geni does offer Basic members a 14-day “risk-free” trial of Geni Pro. You will need to provide your credit card information when signing up for the trial. The Pro plan is $119.40 per year, and you can cancel or switch back to the Basic plan at any time.
How does Geni’s Family Tree compare to other genealogy websites?
As mentioned, Geni’s “world tree” model is similar to the shared tree formats at WikiTree, WeRelate, and FamilySearch’s FamilyTree. Family Search is by far the largest of these websites, with 1.2 billion individual profiles.
Like most other genealogy websites that allow family tree building, Geni allows you to import and export GEDCOM files, and it has a tool to help detect duplicate profiles. Other common features include the ability to upload media and data for individuals- and the ability to mark living individuals as “Private.” If no date of death is provided on a profile or it is not marked as “living,” Geni has a built-in process to determine if that person’s data should be hidden or shared on the world tree.
One major shortcoming for users may be the lack of a searchable records database. Geni Pro users can search other member’s tree profiles, but the only data available is media and vital statistics that have been uploaded by other users. This means that you may need to maintain a family tree on another genealogy website that does provide a searchable records database, if obtaining new records is one of your goals.
Geni Unique Features
Geni does have several unique features that set them apart from other genealogy websites.
Geni provides the ability to invite family members to add and update information in your tree, creating a family tree “social media” network. You can set permissions in your tree to determine who has access to view and/or edit profiles. You can also obtain a URL to send to friends and family, that allows them to view your tree, but not edit. You can even embed a “limited view” of your tree on social media sites like Facebook, or your own blog or family website.
Dedication to accuracy
Geni has a “curator program” of volunteers who assist with cleaning, organizing and correcting world tree data, a massive endeavor to make the Geni tree as accurate as possible. Curators have “special privileges” to access tree data, and must demonstrate “integrity” and a high work quality in order to be selected for this task.
This feature is available for free to all Geni users. Relationship Paths show how any two people are most closely related on the World Family Tree. The tool offers both blood relationships and in-law relationships results. The outcome may be as simple as “10th cousin once removed” or as complex as “second cousin 8 times removed’s husband’s fifth great nephew!”
Geni collaborated with FamilyTree DNA in 2016 to integrate DNA uploading and matching into the Geni website. If users have not yet tested their DNA, they can purchase discounted kits through MyHeritage.
Unique to other genealogy websites, Geni supports Y-DNA and mt-DNA data uploads directly from FamilyTree DNA- results can be transferred easily and securely. Geni also contains Y-DNA and mt-DNA data from Ysearch.org and mitosearch.org, which adds over 200,000 more DNA profiles to their database. Geni also accepts autosomal DNA uploads. DNA matching is linked to tree profiles and integrated into the World Family Tree.
SmartCopy is a browser extension that helps to compensate for Geni’s lack of a records database. SmartCopy Works with Geni.com to copy genealogical data from other online genealogy websites. The app will compare your Geni tree data to the copied data, and allow you to move new info into your Geni tree profiles. SmartCopy is supported by a dozen genealogy sites, including MyHeritage, Find A Grave, Ancestry, and FamilySearch.
Geni Projects group individuals together with a common theme. For example, current USA-based projects include victims and survivors of the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, Texas; fatalities of the 1918 influenza pandemic, and men who served in the 2nd Maine Volunteer Calvary Regiment during the Civil War. Projects are a great way to collaborate with others who share your interests or to find new information about ancestors who lived in a particular area or survived a particular event. There are Project Portals for other countries as well, including the UK, Finland, Canada, and Australia- providing opportunities to explore your ancestor’s immigrant roots.
Now that you have the rundown of Geni.com, you can consider creating a basic account or checking out the free trial, to see if it is worth your while!