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Saraband Music

Genes Reunited


I've been a member of Genes Reunited for several years now. It is a UK subscription website with a cheap standard membership, but plenty of scope for discovering your relatives.

You can put your own family tree up on Genes Reunited. Some people just put a skeleton tree up; others put many thousands of names, usually by importing a gedcom. People can search the trees and make contact with each other via the website. Genes Reunited sends an email with a clickable link to your inbox so you can maintain privacy. Until you make contact, your site is only identified to others by your first name.

You can search all the trees on the site, and that's easily done. Only the surname is mandatory. It is useful to limit your search, which can be done by 0 - 50 years, and you can also specify a birth place. Once you have your list, you can make contact with anyone who looks like they have a similar interest in the family member you're searching for.

The Hot Matches service is both useful and sometimes annoying. Every couple of weeks you will get an email saying your hot matches are ready. Log in, and all of your contacts are listed, as well as new people who may have names that match yours. I've found many new relatives through this service, but there are hitches.

Firstly, there is no match on place names as they are not standardised throughout the trees. This means that if you have someone with a common name like William Smith, you are likely to get pages of matches on that name for people who were born at the same time in different areas. You have to get details of each match by clicking on it. Deleting a whole page of matches because you get frustrated may mean you lose a new connection that could be fruitful.

Then the matches jump around. At first you may see a nice big bunch of new matches. You click on them, and gradually work through the list. But nothing is there to tell you if the match you've found is someone you've already made contact with unless you go back to the original list. So, you could send an email introducing yourself to someone you've already contacted half a dozen times last year. And when you click back on the page, the entry you were looking at may have jumped to another page entirely. Yes, it is frustrating.

Genes reunited has fiddled a lot with this service to try to make it more efficient. Lately fewer hot matches notifications have been coming, so I'm not sure what is happening with this service.

But when hot matches work, they are great, so it is worth taking the time to painstakingly go through each match, deleting the ones which you're sure are wrong and narrowing it all down. Most people open their trees to you when you contact them, and a world of private information can open up. It's also worthwhile to remember to respect that information. Nothing is worse when you find your own data on someone else's website, sometimes mis-transcribed, or old mistakes which you had corrected being perpetuated.

Genes Reunited also gives you access to lots of census and other records with a more expensive Platinum subscription. But there's more free stuff too - chat boards, finding boards, tips and tricks and more.

For the price of a standard sub, Genes Reunited isn't perfect, but it is a really valuable tool for genealogists, and I've found hundreds of connections (as well as helped others) through this site. I'd recommend it as a great way of connecting with relatives.

Patrice Connelly
November 2010, updated August 2011

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