MyHeritage or Geni?  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , ,

This is not a family history post. Just a little bit of techno-genea-babble.

So the news is out today that MyHeritage has bought Kindo and wants to become the "FaceBook of Families". So here's my short take on all this.

When I started my family tree, I found a free online application through a link at the Diaspora Museum. It was very basic, but it was enough for me to start from scratch. Then, a short while later, I ran into MyHeritage. I liked it because it had Hebrew support (at the time I thought it would help me translate Hebrew and Yiddish names to English, which it can't, so that feature was useless on my non-Hebrew computer), it looked like it had a lot of bells and whistles (I was a real newbie, so I had no idea what to even look for at that point), it had a consolidated research section and it was free. After I downloaded the free application and started playing with it I found out that it had a few limitations, with the biggest one being no ability to merge GEDCOM files.

I also found their cool website tree feature, their automated matching tool and Megadex search. But this is where things started to go downhill. I wanted to wipe out my tree and start fresh because I had so much new information to add. Since I couldn't merge files I started using RootsMagic. My thought was to create a consolidated GEDCOM and then upload it to MyHeritage. But then I found out that the free web tree can only have 1000 people in it. And I couldn't delete my original tree! I tried contacting support several times, but nobody ever got back to me. So I just stopped using the site altogether.

And then I found Geni and loaded my entire GEDCOM into it (with over 9000 people at this point). And I invited everyone to participate. And they did. So at this point, switching back to MyHeritage is just plain not going to happen. I also found a bunch of relatives on Geni and we were able to easily merge our trees.

I looked at the MyHeritage site again today after a long break and found a "delete tree" button that actually worked. I also saw that their fancy photo matching feature is only available to Gold and Platinum accounts, so I guess I won't be using that any time soon. What I did instead is create a new tree that has about 900+ people in it and is based on descendants of 6 generations of my daughter's ancestors. This will allow me to do some free matching as well as do some research on the MyHeritage site. When I'm done with these 900 I will delete the tree and load additional people to research and try to match.

I understand that MyHeritage has to have a business model and I wonder how many of their 25 million members are actually active or have a tree that is larger than 1000 people (most trees I see have only three people in them, I'm not even kidding). If the revenue from larger sites is not substantial and there are other free tools out there like Geni, I suggest MyHeritage find other business models instead of their current one. Buying other companies and spending money on R&D without a revenue stream is a great way to go broke.

I will still use MyHeritage and I am sad to not be able to support and Israeli start-up, but there are better free tools out there. For now.

UPDATE: I just thought of a couple of other things. First, I mentioned how bad the support sucked at MyHeritage when I was trying to delete my tree. On the opposite side of the spectrum I have to commend Geni support for being quick to respond. They didn't solve the problem, but at least they got back to me. Which brings me to two interesting problems I found and one suggestion:

1) If you try to send too many messages, they will not get delivered. Instead they will get stuck in some mysterious queue and not get unstuck until someone from support does it manually. This happened when I ran a search for some surnames and tried to contact multiple people. And it happened more than once. At least support fixed it right away. They also told me to send less messages or send them slower. Hmmm.... Interesting answer.
2) Merging trees is not as easy as you might think. If someone has a tree already and you send them an invite to join your tree the trees will merge. Then you can go about sorting out the discrepancies and deciding what information stays. But what happens if you want to merge things by yourself? Let's say you just added a huge GEDCOM to your tree, how does that work? Well, you need to create a second account, give it some other e-mail that is not in use at Geni, load your GEDCOM and invite yourself to merge. Kind of roundabout, but it works. I tried it.
3) If they could add a chat function between online users, that would be awesome.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 12:31 PM and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

5 comments

Abba-Dad,

First, we want to say thank you for writing this blog post. You point out a lot of great features that Geni offers for free, in which other sites charge for.

Also, we were able to look into the issue you were having when sending messages. After Geni users send more than 5 messages to someone who is not in their Tree, we queue them. At that point, a member from the Geni Team will go through the queue and make sure that the messages are not spam. This is our way to prohibit more than 5 spam messages being sent, before we catch it. The Geni user experience is important to us and this is one way that we assure a positive experience for our users. On the flip side, if you send more than 5 messages the additional messages will not be sent until we check and release them from the queue. We usually check these every day, but we will work on being even quicker to check and release non spam messages.

Also, we are working on an enhancement that will enable you to import a GEDCOM file to an existing Tree. With this enhancement you will no longer have to create another account to merge your trees. We will also have a feature that surfaces matches between your tree and other trees in the Geni Database. Without a matching feature our Geni users have already merged their individual trees with others by manually searching. Since our recent release of the tree merging feature our largest tree is already well over 900,000 Profiles. Stay tuned for these additional enhancements that will enable you to take your research to the next level.

Once again, we wanted to thank you for featuring Geni in this blog post and shedding light on some of the great features that Geni offers. If you have any questions feel free to contact us at help@geni.com We get back to every request within 24 hours unless it's a weekend.

Thank you,

-Keith-
The Geni Team

September 24, 2008 at 2:41 PM

Thanks for the response Keith. I signed up to the Geni Forum and started posting there with some suggestions as well.

I didn't know that the limit was 5 messages, but that makes sense. I did notice that on MyHeritage when you start to send too many messages they ask you to do word verification (with something like CAPCHA) to make sure you're human.

I am a big advocate of Geni and as I have said I have everyone in my family on it now. They are starting to use some of the birthday and anniversary reminders to send messages to each other, which is great. Now if I can only get them to start loading photos, videos and stories....

Thanks again for the comment and keep up the good work!

September 24, 2008 at 3:20 PM
Alon  

Shalom,

We'd love to have you use MyHeritage some more, for example, with your entire tree, instead of cutting it every time into smaller bits.

In the hope that you will send us some product feedback as you go, and I'm sure you have a lot of valuable feedback to provide, I'd be very happy to upgrade your MyHeritage site to the maximum level for free.
Please drop me an email at alon at myheritage dot com, and include the details of your family site, and you'll be upgraded right away.

Please note that all face recognition features on MyHeritage are free no matter what site you have (we'll correct the page on that).

Many users prefer MyHeritage because of its massive adoption, support for languages,
smart matching of family trees, face recognition and automatic tagging, client as well as web solution, genealogy search engine, and many more.
I'm sorry that you found our support lacking and we're working hard to improve this.

To see what the photo tagging functionality can do for you, please take a look at the new video on the MyHeritage blog.

Regards,
Alon

September 24, 2008 at 7:25 PM
Lester  

I have three questions/coments:

1) I'm having trouble generating a chart on MyHeritage. The PDF that is generated comes out blank. This started after I was using MyHeritage for some time. In the beginning I was able to generate PDF tree charts and now all I get is the blank PDFs.
2) I paid to update my MyHeritage to Premium. I was debited the amount on my credit card, but I don't know anything else about my payment. How long does my subscription run? What does it offer? Who do I contact for information. Will an attempt be made to charge my account after the yearly subscription period for another year?
3) I started a free Family Tree Builder account with a family tree because that was the only way I could generate a family tree chart. But I have done all my updating in MyHeritage (where I can't generate charts) so how do I get my information from my MyHeritage account to my Family Tree Builder account. I can generate a Gedcom from FTB but not from MyHeritage.Am I missing somethilng? Is it really impossible to generate a Gedcom FROM MyHeritage?
Please SOS. I need help.
Phone number? Email address? I sent a message top MyHeritage and got not reply.

February 7, 2009 at 5:57 PM

Lester,

I would love to help you out more. Please send me an e-mail to adekel(at)bellsouth(dot)net.

I am not sure what the issue is with the PDF reports. They work fine for me. Have you updated to the latest version of FTB3?

I also had to contact support to make sure my FTB and online account were linked, but they took care of it very quickly. I think MyHeritage support has an online chat option during working hours in Israel, where the company is based.

Shoot me an e-mail and I will see what else I can help with.

February 8, 2009 at 10:38 AM

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