It’s not you, it’s me.

We’ve all heard that old break-up line. And nobody believes it.

Well, this time, I know it’s me.

It wasn’t perfect, but we were good together.

I joined Geni.com back in 2007, after what I thought was an extremely cool demonstration of their product at the SCGS Jamboree. The free t-shirts weren’t bad, either.

Note that this was back in the days when ALL accounts were free, and PRO user accounts were just a gleam in Geni’s eye.

I was excited about the possibilities. I had visions of an involved online family, the sharing of stories, photos, discussions, wild discourse…

Didn’t happen.

I’ll admit that I was disappointed, although not entirely surprised. A few family members gave Geni a whirl, but either tired of it, or found its constant emails and reminders of birthdays and anniversaries to be annoying. Those with security clearances had serious privacy concerns, especially when they discovered their personal information popping up in search engines (“public” profiles were the default).

So even though my family didn’t care for Geni.com, I hung around. Whenever I had time, I added newly-found ancestors, updated profiles, posted photos and discussions, hoping to engage someone…

To date, I have added 8,678 profiles.

8,678 profiles that I might just remove today. If I still can, that is.

Despite being tempted quite a few times, I have not yet signed on to become a Geni Pro user. I was given a free 1-year Geni Pro account at the SCGS Jamboree in June, but to be honest, I simply have not had a chance to give it a try. I didn’t want to “start the clock” until I knew I would have time to give it a fair trial.

The subtle announcement last week on the Geni blog, Geni Pro Just Got a Whole Lot Better, flew completely under my radar. I saw the post title a few times on Twitter, but in my distracted thinking, I took it to mean that Geni Pro just got a whole lot better… which had absolutely nothing to do with me, as a Geni freebie user.

Boy, was I wrong.

You’re don’t love me for who I am.

This morning, I ran into DearMYRTLE’s post, Geni.com didn’t ask my opinion. (Geni didn’t ask for my opinion, either, but I wouldn’t expect them to.)

Apparently, changes are a-comin’. And not in a good way. At least, not for us feebie freeloaders.

Today, we announce the release of new permissions that are designed to accelerate the growth and improve the quality of the world family tree. Geni Pro subscribers now have full permission to add on to, edit, and merge profiles in the historical parts of the tree. Non-Pros can no longer add new profiles to the historical tree or merge profiles. By making these permissions more consistent, we ensure that anyone who can add a new profile to the historical tree can immediately merge it with any existing duplicates. These changes will benefit all of us as the world family tree continues to get bigger and better.

With this release, there are a few changes to the way search works as well. All users will continue to be able to find their close relatives, profiles they added, and profiles they follow. A Pro subscription is now required to searching through the 110+ million profiles on Geni to find new relatives to add to your tree.

(Emphasis added.)

Unless I upgrade to PRO status, I can now only search among the profiles I’ve added. Why do I need Geni for that? I can already do that on RootsMagic, without leaving my own hard drive. If the point of Geni.com is collaboration, didn’t they just effectively take that away from me?

And how is this “historical tree” going to be any better than Ancestry.com’s old “World Family Tree,” or the one that Susie Enthusiasm posted after copying names and dates from Joe, who copied from Frank, who copied from Mary, who copied from Alice, and so on and so on… ?

For the rest of us (freebies),

View and edit permissions have not changed. You can continue to view your close relatives and the entire historical tree, and you can continue to edit your closer relatives and profiles that you’ve added.

Define “close relative?” Apparently this means that freebie users can only work on or add profiles up to their  3rd great-grandparents.

All users can continue to build a family tree of their close relatives for free, and invite their relatives to view and contribute to that tree.

I don’t need to build a tree of “close relatives.” I’ve been at this for 24 years. And see above for how my family felt about contributing to the Geni tree.

Pros do not have any additional privileges on private profiles.

Well, thank goodness for that. I’d hate to log in one day and find my birth date changed, or my kid put into a different family.

She means more to you than I do.

I’ll admit that some of these PRO users get on my nerves. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a request asking me to merge a profile or telling me that my data is all wrong. Ok, I don’t claim that everything I’ve posted on Geni.com has been vetted by the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard). Some of the information was “inherited,” meaning that I wound up with it via a stupid GEDCOM merge with someone else’s data, and I haven’t checked it out yet. After all, I don’t have a ton of time to investigate my husband’s uncle’s 3rd-cousin’s wife’s brother. So I apologize if I’ve done your ancestor wrong.

What really irks me – and this is not especially relevant to the current post, but I feel the need to express myself while I’m on a rant roll – are the folks who want to merge a profile, and tell me all about their genealogical “credentials” and why they are qualified to make this decision. One guy sent me a many-paragraph laundry list of his genealogical “experience,” which basically boiled down to… he’s merged a lot of profiles at Geni.com. Color me impressed.

Apparently the PROs were tired of people like me not responding to their requests for a merge, so Geni.com has now given them free reign to merge at will.

Our relationship has become about money, hasn’t it?

Apparently $ = genealogical quality now. By allowing PRO users to merge profiles, with no need to ask or consult, Geni is taking me and my 24 years of research out of the equation, and putting “quality” into the hands of people who pay.

Every company has the right to make a buck. I support that. However, I don’t feel that Geni.com is making a wise move by taking features away from free accounts. Unless I decide to pay, my data is now relegated to the whim of an unknown PRO user. I don’t like that. Wouldn’t it make more sense to entice me with fabulous PRO features that I will want to pay for, instead of taking away what I’ve already got?

And again, how will this move make Geni’s “historical tree” any more credible than what Susie Enthusiasm posted at Ancestry.com?

If you don’t love me anymore, just tell me.

Every relationship needs give and take. We can’t make it if you just take.

I was really on-board with Geni.com for 4 years, and happy to promote their product. But I sense that our relationship is about to change.

It’s not me, Geni. It’s you.

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Posts on this topic by other bloggers:

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings, “Geni Pro Just got a Whole Lot Better.” But what about Geni Free?
Tamura Jones, “Geni Changes”
DearMYRTLE, “Geni.com didn’t ask my opinion”
Diane Haddad at The Family Tree Insider, Geni Draws Fire For New User Permissions
Amy Coffin at We Tree, “Where Keggers and Social Genealogy Intersect
Thomas MacEntee at GeneaBloggers, GENI – STUCK ON STUPID
Leslie Ann at Ancestors Live Here, Geni. – OH NO YOU DIDN’T!

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal

Elizabeth is a professional genealogist, writer, and consultant. Likes: long walks in the cemetery, and the smell of old courthouse books. Dislikes: people who copy stuff off the internet without giving credit, and county clerks who can't tell the difference between Eastern and Pacific time zones. Secretly hopes her daughter will one day develop an interest in family history (but no luck so far).

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