Geni.com becomes evil

Just under three years ago I started researching genealogy as a hobby. My girlfriend suggested Geni.com, and I signed up without knowing much about it. I kind of liked it at first, and even paid for a year’s worth of Geni Pro rather than their free service.

Geni Logo

What Geni is trying to do is create one family tree for the entire world. I like that goal.

I don’t like how they’ve gone about it.

The way it worked when I joined was you entered people and information about them, and you became the manager of a profile for them. If you wished, you could merge that profile with a profile for the same person entered by another user. Then the two of you could collaborate on research about that person, jointly managing the profile. Any relative within 4 generations could be designated private, so that other users couldn’t see the information and it isn’t crawled by Google. This allows people to add close, living relatives to their family tree but keep their life details private.

Then a couple years ago, Geni changed policy. If the profile was for a person more than 4 generations back in time (i.e., your great grandparents or earlier in the tree), any Geni Pro user could edit them. This is a huge issue because there are a lot of really sloppy genealogists. I’ve no problem with sloppy research, but when it affects my research, I get cranky. I stopped using Geni for the most part, though I kept my account and periodically edited a profile or two.

Another aspect of Geni is that they have a class of users called curators. Curators are uber-users. They can manage popular profiles (e.g., Queen Elizabeth, Charlemagne) preventing sloppy genealogy work being done on them. They can approve merges made between abandoned profiles. Those are good things, mostly.

But recently, though I’m not sure when, Geni decided that curators should have unfettered access to private profiles. In other words, random genealogists have access to the private information about living people. Presumably the curators are now the unpaid customer service representatives. This is a huge problem!.

Also, those curators can approve merges and edits for private profiles. I had a first cousin entered, and so did someone else. A curator came along and saw that the information matched and merged the two profiles without the permission of either myself or the other person who had entered my cousin. So now that person can see a whole lot of private information I’ve entered where the 4 generations for both of us intersect. What does it matter, you’d think? They’re probably family. Except there was a divorce and I didn’t know the details. Now I can see some of that. And the other person can see similar pieces of information.

Allowing some random curator to decide on their own to make changes to private profiles, including merges, was the final straw. I sent an angry email to Geni and got back a really condescending response that I should ask the sloppy curator for help in fixing the mess that person caused. I replied back that I would do no such thing, that I wanted it back the way it was prior without me having to ask someone nicely. And then I got back another even more condescending response that I didn’t want to work on a collaborative site.

I never replied again. Had I, I would have pointed out that collaboration does not mean what that C.S.R. thought it meant. It does not mean making changes without telling other people affected. Working together means talking and discussing changes, none of which Geni’s designated curator did. Not to mention they shouldn’t have even been able to see private information in the first place.

I spent the next evening removing as much information as I could from Geni. I know they have logs of all the past information, so it’s futile if they decide to become even more evil than they already are. Rest assured Geni when you read this, if you restore that private information and/or make it available to anyone and I find out about it, I will sue. I don’t put it past them. The company has continually decided to make yet more information available to yet more people when people who entered that information did not expect it.

I will never put new information on Geni again. If you care about your family’s privacy, you won’t either.

Update: I saw that a lot of people visited this post from a curator forum discussion on Geni.com. That prompted me to go take a look at Geni’s privacy policy. And again I see they’ve updated it yet again to make previously private information public. Previously, up to four generations from yourself could be kept private. Now they keep private only information about living people. That would be fine if that’s how they started, but as I noted above, they keep changing it to reveal information that was previously private. Like I said: evil.

41 thoughts on “Geni.com becomes evil”

  1. My sister searched her name on Google and went mad to see not just her details but our whole families connections! I feel the same anger against GENI. What a STUPID STUPID STUPID SITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I am trying to locate a Mark Tae (Or something like that).
    I am trying to locate info on the Berrick – Westler – Berrick family
    I believe you are a relative of my wife, Joanie Pope.

  3. To safely sort out common things between affected persons would mean private conversation. However, not knowing the other person’s email, it only remains to send a message to the profile owner (you got to fill in the scrambled digits) and hope for a response. Having done this to three different persons, they not responding so far, I start wondering if someone is fiddling with the messages.

  4. I had the same experience you did. Even worse, pictures of my daughter I posted on Geni as private were suddenly made public and now when you google me you can see these private family pictures. I did not want everyone to see my private family pictures. I consider this to be one of the most outrageous violations of privacy I have ever experienced on the internet. Similar to Facebook when it changed its privacy policies without telling its clients. Silicon Valley is so arrogant now that it doesn’t care about anyone’s privacy except the company executives themselves who are quite careful about protecting their own rights while violating the privacy of their customers.

  5. Agree completely with the above. Even items marked PRIVATE in the entry, as well as Geni “private” setting have been tampered with. I just finished removing all entries going back to 1600s & forward

  6. Thanks for these posts and the “heads up.” With Family Tree Maker closing out after 2016, I am looking for an alternative. After reading your experience with Geni Pro, it is no longer on the possibilities list. Thanks again.

    1. Hello G. Murray. Have you even through about doing your genealogy research and dna through FamilyTreeDNA.com or Ancestry.com?

    1. Oh really? Perhaps you’d like to enlighten me on what I don’t know about Geni. What about my post is incorrect? Do curators always check with existing profile managers before merging? Was I wrong about curators being able to see details of private profiles? Am I incorrect about Geni making private profiles into public ones?

      I’m dying to know where I am wrong. (Note, if your comment is a drive-by comment and you do not respond, I will delete the links from it.)

    2. Randy, so you are a deceiver and a liar, that doesn’t surprise me one bit from Geni.com in the lamp employees like you. King Rat and all of the other people who have had extremely and painful experiences with Geni, which by the way, doesn’t magically appear in thin air and grant wishes, have every right to post bad pubic reviews everywhere on the internet to warn people to beware of and to stay away from Geni.com and federal criminals like you. Geni.com and Randy, I hope that you all enjoy your in federal prison. To King Rat and others, I do whatever you must and immediately start and file a class action lawsuit against Geni.com. King Rat, I support all of you guys.

      1. I’m in a good place. I’ve no intention of filing any lawsuit, and I’ve already responded to Randy. When he commented here and wrote his articles all he succeeded at doing was bringing more SEO juice and visitors to this post (which was years old at that point). So no need to get too angry at him here.

    3. @Randy Schoenberg

      I think you are a Geni employee. Because I’ve lived online for over 15 years & I have yet to see a worse site or bigger thieves.

      I started Geni before there were curators. Once I merged with distant kin who are adding Jesus to their tree I knew it was time to go. Geni is not a professional research site like Ancestry or better yet Family Search which is free. It’s not even a tree site like Tribal Pages. Geni is a joke. And whereas most if not all of these other sites have a big delete button Geni does not.

      The only way to delete people is the same way you added them – one by one. And that’s only if you haven’t merged them with someone or invited them & they accepted the invite only to never come back again. The only thing you can do with those people is remove their name & private info & leave their profile blank.

      Well I deleted maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the tree I added before they banned me from my own tree. That left what I added & hadn’t merged yet with no manager. So they transferred everything to a total stranger who is no relation. And now somebody’s stolen info & pics I posted at Find A Grave & put it back on Geni.

      I can’t believe nobody’s shut ’em down yet. I’ve reported them to the Federal Trade Commission. And I would really like to get a class action lawsuit going with somebody.

  7. You call the curators (I am one) “random genealogists.” What makes us random? We are vetted by the other curators and Geni staff before becoming curators. Everyone, even curators, makes mistakes, but you don’t identify any. The goal is one person/one profile, which requires the merge of duplicate entries. You don’t like it, for reasons that make no sense to anyone (you saw a 4th cousin’s divorce you didn’t know about). You call the curator “sloppy” but don’t give any details. You refused to work with the curator to resolve any concerns. You vandalized the tree by deleting profiles. Basically, you are not with the program and don’t believe in a shared, collaborative, public World Family Tree. You threaten to sue, even though there is no basis for a lawsuit. All silliness. Let people judge for themselves whether the Geni tree is worthwhile. You don’t have to work on it if you don’t feel comfortable with it. But it’s not right to scare people off, especially since Geni’s World Family Tree is objectively the best thing happening in genealogy at the moment.

    1. None of the objective facts I posted are wrong. You disagree with my characterizations as “sloppy” and “random” and think I had an obligation to “work with” someone who didn’t work with me. Fuck that.

      It’s totally right for me to scare people off. I had an expectation that private profiles were private and would stay private.

      What I find most amusing is that you come storming into a three year old post on a piddly personal blog complaining that I’m not being fair to a multi-million dollar company. First, that’s a great way to get the post more attention. This post has averaged less than one hit a day during that entire time. But it’s now jumped up to over 4 a day! Thanks! Second, myheritage.com can take it.

      So you can take your don’t-you-dare-post-complaints-to-the-internet somewhere else.

    2. Hello, I only recently joined geni.com (today is March 17, 2018). I didn’t know much about this company, but today I found this site, by Googling “who owns Geni.com”. I already learned that myheritage.com recently bought out Geni.com. I find this Geni site incompatible with entering data via my Smartphone, yet myheritage.com is easy to use. I, too, am concerned about the “inappropriate” merging of my family’s info, with anyone else’s data. This system is fraught with errors, and possibly identity theft!
      But you are welcome to see my “Allen Family Tree” on myheritage.com! — Ruth Patricia Allen

  8. how excited I got when 3 postcards from my aunt were translated from German to English… finally took time to look up LOEFFLERS I had a postmark that said Cremnitz Saxony 1902-03 Richard Emil Loeffler came to Ellis island and never spoke about the town he came from .They wanted him to be BORDER Patrol but for where? my Mom never knew . They were Americans now. Life had to be bad????? He is the only sibling that there is no information on . I have most of the dates. He came alone then his wife and 4 or 5 children came to Dover N.J one of them may have died on the trip over to America . My mothers Fathers family tree. Margaret Lorraine Loeffler never knew anything she thought they came from Austria. I cant remember the mans name who did the family tree. I could not believe that sooooo many relatives may be living. He had 12 or so siblings!!!! Am I doing something wrong by being on this website? My mother was the Last LOEFFLER left .No one else to carry on the name she was an only child,

    1. You can do whatever you want on Geni for all I care. Using Geni doesn’t make you wrong. It’s what the owners of Geni are doing that is wrong.

      1. Amen to that. Maybe it’s the policy of letting anyone tamper with a profile if they feel so inclined, but I’m finding that a relationship path way that was good and consistent two weeks ago, often goes haywire, with a profile suddenly changed and with a direct descendant suddenly not a direct descendent, but a multiple cousin to somebody else. This happens after the established pathway reaches about the 20th plus generation. It seems to be a matter of someone confusing similar names, then sustituting the wrong – or possibly an invented – profile for the correct, legitimate one. My interest has been in tracing a direct descent 20+ generations back.
        At present, that’s now impossible with geni.
        an deliberately invented –

  9. ok so I have no clue who you are….now its almost May…my heritage keeps things private.. ? I was a little shocked to see what popped up when I typed a name I had been researching….Geni was my first website

  10. I also complained about the privacy settings being ignored. I had a curator actively sabotaging my tree but since that curator had placed me on a curator watch list BEFORE this, I got crap every time I fixed the errors (didn’t matter that I cited sources right on the profiles). I even got told by customer service at the time that if I didnt like it I should stay out of the curator’s tree… except that the only connection this curator had to my ancestors and children was a marriage to my ex. I systematically pointed out the violations in TOS. Geni responded by changing the wording of their TOS, banning me and then addresssing some of the privacy issues that they had flat out told me were not a problem… they even penalized curators who stood up for me. If you are concerned with a tree that accurately reflects your ancestry, I suggest working elsewhere or at the very minimum backing up your work elsewhere before sharing it on Geni. Might I suggest Wikitree as a more user friendly collaboration site.

    1. I’ve used WikiTree and interacted with the founder a bit and found it to be *mostly* okay.

      I’ve generally given up on collaborative sites because I don’t have the spoons to deal with poor genealogical sourcing. Too much “Hey I found something on the internet that says this” without good evaluation of that and other sources that have differing information. It’s all done in good faith, but I just don’t have the energy to educate people.

      The WikiTree people seem to have their hearts in the right place though, and I occasionally contribute there. But my main database and research will not be a collaborative site.

  11. I too, added thousands of profiles to Geni in the beginning, as I had a very well researched 1000 page tree already researched and with excellent sourcing that was worked on for 20 years by others in my family. My family lines are very well known historically and therefore much of the research had been done by many historians for a couple hundred years. My horrible experience with Geni began with an inexperienced, and obviously uneducated, curator who was given “carte blanche” to enter incorrect information from other incorrect “family genealogy” sites. I use as many original sources as possible when creating a profile, i.e. official vital records, the original family genealogy texts, historical documents, etc. This curator simply would not correct the mistakes, no matter how much solid material was submitted, throwing off a huge population of English aristocracy and millions of people who are descended from them! It ended up taking 4 years, and still facts are not completely correct. A few curators are great, but many, like the one that was very unfortunately related to some of my lines simply did not do her work carefully and she curates a HUGE number of my family profiles. You can tell they do not get second sources, or third for that matter on very high profile people in history, let alone others who are more obscure. They do not have knowledge of history, which is very helpful when researching more difficult profiles. I have also seen horrible “ganging” without proper community moderation of people who bring forth excellent research, but are not part of the curator group “click” and very abusive language used in many “discussions”. They copy genealogies by rote from other websites instead of researching a reliable source, and there are many, for the information. This is incredibly frustrating, and obviously leads to a lot of bad info on Geni that gets replicated again over and over on the web. The curators support their “buddies” and ignore the regular users issues. Many of the “My Heritage” or “matches” entries are copies of the inaccurate information so it’s creating another huge problem……..I think the idea is good, but until Geni.com who is making vast profits, starts paying professional genealogical staff to curate, staff who have real qualifications, it will always be an unreliable mess. I also, after discussing this with CSR’s, was cut off and given the boot for awhile, my profile deleted, all my research gone that I had volunteered to share, instead of them professionally resolving the issues. I too was shocked to see my immediate family photos that were private turn up on My Heritage. They are really screwing the customers by not running this company properly and frankly, they appear not to care one bit.

  12. I have read almost entirely negative comments about this site, and I believe them. I have documents tracing my ancestry back to the Mayflower (like some other 50 million Americans), but when I started researching a different line I found I was descended from French aristocracy and, further back, Scandinavian kings and queens going all the way back to 100 and 200 ad. Huh? As exciting as this sounds, I knew it couldn’t possibly be true but rather the result of fantasy on someone’s (or many people’s) part. Clearly the site is haphazardly curated, and I’m dismayed to find out about the abusive and obdurate nature of some of the “curators.” If you tell people their information will remain private you don’t get to change that midstream. People have valid reasons for not wanting access granted to the general public, and it’s their right to keep such info private. I was considering using the site, but now that I’ve learned about their slipshod methodologies, aggressive tactics, and profit-seeking priorities, I’ll give them a pass.

    1. Bro, you should start getting things ready and hire professional lawyers, attorneys, prosecutors and judges and immediately right now file and to bring a class action lawsuit against Geni and go after those evil corrupted Geni federal criminals in the court of law, all of the way up to the US Supreme court . Even though I associated myself with Geni personally, there is a evil woman by the name of Vanessa, who claims that she is my father’s daughter and my half sister, but she isn’t in anyway related to my father, to me or to our family at all, she’s not even adopted by my family, much less my father. Anyways, I met this woman when I went up to Colorado to visit my father after he wasn’t in my life for over 30 years, and this so called woman was pure evil in every single way towards me. Anyways, Vanessa has been doing the genealogy research of my father’s family tree for over 10 years on Geni.com, even though I don’t know rather she knows any truth about what is really like or not, but the funny thing is Vanessa is just as pure evil as everyone who work for Geni.com is, even Geni in the lamp itself. But I’m extremely worried about what Vanessa is doing to my father’s family and even me on Geni, because Vanessa is exposing private info about us through Geni.com.

  13. Couldn’t agree more they are evil.
    They claim to be impartial in disputes but they anything but.
    They will always side with pro members and in fact arbitrarily removed me as a manager from a profile as a result of a pro member’s irrational unsubstantiated complaint.

    They have now suspended me for a week due to my making my complaints be heard.

    If u could I would remove all my information from the site and if anyone can guide me I would appreciate it. I wish to quit the site irrevocably.

    The worlds genealogy belongs to the public and not to Geni.

    1. @Joseph

      If you get back in – quietly start deleted everybody who hasn’t been merged & who didn’t accept their invite. The ones who did accept their invite can delete their own profile. But if for some reason they can’t you can at least remove their name & other personal info leaving their profile blank.

      You used to be able to delete people you merged too but only after deleting everything else because once you do delete someone you’ve merged the co-manager will be notified & if they complain you’ll be banned.

      Once you’ve been banned for good you’ll no longer be listed as manager of the people you’ve added & it’ll be transferred to a stranger. So delete or remove all you can before then.

  14. Goodness, here I am contemplating signing up and everyone signing out: I’ve been wanting to join one of the gene sites for years and I always get to this stage , but it’s always the reviews that remind me why I don’t
    If you go into the terms and conditions of the site it’s tells you how to do it. Was reading it last night as I contemplated signing up.
    Question I thought +61 was the dial suffix for Australia then why is it down for phone correspondents to America if you have a problem
    . P.s. I’m Aussie

  15. Yes apparently I’m related to The Duke of Somerset and even Princess Diana like this:Diana, Princess of Wales is your second great uncle’s brother’s wife’s husband’s mother’s husband’s sister’s husband’s brother’s wife’s aunt’s partner’s great nephew’s wife’s great nephew’s ex-wife???

  16. I’ve had very bad experiences with Geni. One of the curators, Randy Schoenberg, randomly decided to copy my entire tree, included private information, and add that to his tree. I asked him to remove it, but he refused. His explanation? That I hadn’t asked him NOT to copy my data. There’s no appeal and no way to get help with this gross violation of privacy.

    To say nothing of the fact that just copying stranger’s tree is sloppy genealogy. Seems that in addition to being manipulative and dishonest, Randy is also a “fantasy genealogist,” paying little attention to facts.

    1. We need a group lawsuit. They’ve stolen my info & pics & refuse to delete them. I’ve contacted multiple Gov’t sites & they’re not doing squat. I can’t afford attorney alone. Let’s all join up.

  17. Hi, Philip,
    Could you do me a favor and delete my comment above? I’m working on resolving this, and I will rewrite my comment later when I see if it gets resolved or not. I would really appreciate it. Thank you so much. And thank you for this site. It is helpful!!

      1. Did you guys know that once somebody has put a person on Wiki Tree, that the person cannot be deleted? Even by the person who added them?

        Read this. It fits so well with what you were describing, Philip, about Wiki Tree wanting to own everyone’s personal information.
        https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Deletion_FAQ#Why_is_there_no_.22delete.22_button_on_profiles.3F

        A complete stranger copied my father, my aunts, my grandparents, and so forth, from my Ancestry tree onto Wiki Tree. Now I find out they can never be deleted! Neither I nor anyone in my family has ever put one of our family members on Wikitree, and nor did we have any interest in doing so or give anyone else permission to do so. I discovered my father (!!!) on Wikitree by accident. I don’t want him there, and now he can never be removed!!!???!!! Same for my grandfather, aunts, great grandfather, great great grandmother, and ggg grandmother. Also the person put the wrong parents for my ggg grandmother on the tree, because he took a look at my painstakingly researched tree on Ancestry and decided he didn’t agree. (This person is a very bad researcher but spends massive amounts of time copying other people’s trees based on an extremely distant DNA match.)

        I was already angry enough that this person had added my family and is stubbornly ignoring my requests to make me the manager of their profiles. When I wrote to an administrator, he finally “allowed” me to be part of the “trusted group” for my own father! (Instead of allowing me to manage their profiles.) I’m not part of a trusted group decided upon by that man! I am my father’s daughter!!!
        But now I find out that if someone puts my family on Wiki Tree, even the person who added them cannot removed the person.

        Does anybody know if there is anyone starting a class action suit against Wiki Tree? I am looking into local lawyers simply to get Wiki Tree to require that profiles must be handed over to their family members to manage, as Find-a-Grave requires. But even better would be a large class-action suit against all the grave infringements perpetrated upon millions of people by Wiki Tree.

  18. I have read the above with interest and concern. I am from the UK. Mette Pedersdatter Jernsjegg Baden is my 9th gt grandmother. I thought from my research through Geni I
    was related to Agnes Haakonsdatter, dtr. of King Haakon V
    of Norway. Geni and other sites have contradictory sites
    Re Mettes gt grandma, Ulvhilde Henriksdatter Friis. Who do
    you believe.? I am concerned with the truth, otherwise have
    wasted a lot of time. signed Frustrated from England.

  19. My family had a similar nightmare with a paid “curator” flat out STEALING years, upon YEARS of hard in person research. They traveled across the country, going into archives/ churches/ court houses/ private museums/ city records/so much more, spending days at a time on a single location to get accurate information.

    Then in comes this woman who paid, truthfully *paid to steal original research*, and had no verifiable connections to us, screwing up multiple entries and changing the way more than 300 new entries appeared to be “created” by her, locking out my family. My Mom and sister both tried to get her to let go of the tree and stop damaging entries, to which she replied “sorry, but I paid for this, so no” and then Geni backed her claim of ownership despite all the evidence, including the original entry dates predating her joining by years, and refused to allow access, let alone removal of any of the research that was stolen.

    JUST STAY AWAY FROM GENI! They are crooks and thieves and fraudulent trash who will sell your research to whomever pays their price, and make public your information in retaliation for filing complaints, even for minors like my sister was at the time! They’re just lucky we have never had the means to sue. (And for any a**hole who tries to say “how could they do research and be poor”, it’s called fundraising and careful saving and camping instead of using hotels to save money, plus gas was cheaper at that point. The project was supposed to be part of a scholarship application that Geni effectively ruined.)

    1. Thanks for the warning. Though I didn’t see this until after I discovered I couldn’t delete my tree.

      what a scam website

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