Genes Reunited runs on a simple premise: If you build a family tree (for free) on its shared network where members can view and search names, you might come across someone else who shares your same ancestors.
If you have ancestors and maybe even living relatives you didn’t know about from England and Wales, Genes Reunited can help.
To help you find specific answers and fill in the missing gaps about your family’s history (such as where your ancestors came from), Genes Reunited offers a vast database of historical records to search and add to your tree.
I’m going to be completely honest with you – accessing records on Genes Reunited costs money, which is really important if you want to grow your family tree. The good news is there are a few payment options offering some flexibility. However, my top recommendation for a family tree builder for British and Irish ancestry is FindMyPast. Its premium plans are cheaper and it has more records.
I’ll share my experience using Genes Reunited, so keep reading if you want to know the great (and not so great) aspects of building your family tree on its website. Then you’ll have enough information to decide if you want to make Genes Reunited the home for your family tree.
It doesn’t cost you a dime to take Genes Reunited for a spin. You can register for free on its website using your email address. And in case you’re worried about privacy, Genes Reunited promises to never share your email address with other members or third-parties. Here’s what you can do as a free member:
- Build a family tree online and add as many relatives as you want
- Search for family members (by name) on its People Finder (you get one free record view)
- Upload photos and documents to your Keepsafe (either what you find on the website or scanned from your own collection) where you can edit, share, and pin files to relations on your family tree
- Reply to messages other members send you
- Import GEDCOM files
Signing up is easy and it only took me a minute to fill out the necessary fields before receiving access to my profile. You just need to provide a few details about yourself (such as your name, gender, year of birth, etc.) and create a password.
Genealogy is a lot of work, particularly when you’re trying to get started, so I really appreciated the easy setup process and being able to dive in right away.
5 Standout Features of Genes Reunited
1. Pay Per View Credits Let You Access Records If You Don’t Want to Subscribe
If you’re not sure about subscribing to Genes Reunited at first but still want to take advantage of its enormous database of records, you can buy credits. You can redeem credits to view records or send messages to other members. It’s a great alternative if you know what family history gaps you need to fill but want to avoid a long term commitment.
There is a catch, however – credits expire (as does your access to records bought with credits after 30 days). Plus, the amount you pay for credits can add up fast. Thankfully, there’s a list on the website that shows you how much records cost before you purchase your credits.
2. Access Over 550 Million English and Welsh Historical Records (Platinum Subscription)
With a Genes Reunited Platinum subscription, you gain access to a wealth of records that can provide answers about your English and Welsh ancestors. You’ll be able to peruse birth, marriage, and deaths recorded from 1837 to 2004, Victorian census records (including Scotland), and the 1911 census where you might even stumble across documents containing your ancestor’s handwriting.
3. Find Members Who Share Names on Your Tree With Hot Matches
Genes Reunited has a system that runs in the background and compares the names on your tree with other members’ trees. When there’s a match, you receive a message in your profile and have an opportunity to contact the member. A Super Hot Match occurs when the name, year of birth, and parents of a relation match up across two trees.
There are two downsides to this feature, however. The Genes Reunited development team triggers the system to look for Hot Matches intermittently and it only checks up to 50 names (at random) on your tree at a time.
4. Free eBook Serves as the Perfect Welcome Package
New to genealogy research or simply want to know about how Genes Reunited works? There’s a very handy eBook (in PDF format) that gives a rundown of its website, features, and tips on getting started. What really stands are general pointers related to genealogy research, such as how to interview your family and stay organized while gathering information.
5. Genes Extras (With Subscription)
There’s no shame in offering deals to loyal customers, even if those offerings have nothing to do with genealogy. Reserved for subscribers only, Genes Extras gives you exclusive offers and discounts to help you save money on memorable experiences. At the time I checked, members could get hotel offers and discounts on afternoon tea for two (Yes, please!).
Growing Your Tree Is a Breeze – But It Takes Longer Than It Should
A free membership is all you need to build the rough framework of your family tree. But if you want to access records and pin them to your tree – you know, make it look beautiful and something to be proud of – you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription or buy credits.
You can add names to your family tree one at a time or, if you need help, you can use the Quick Family Finder to trace your family lineage. In theory, this feature helps you locate your birth record first, then works backward in history to find your ancestors. Unfortunately, when my colleague tested this, it didn’t work. Yes, she’s British and has a birth certificate and so on, but it just kept throwing up an error.
You can also search for names on other members’ family trees (Genes Reunited has a whopping 236 million names). If you don’t know the person’s exact date of birth, you can enter the approximate year, then use the plus/minus drop-down to broaden your search by plus or minus up to 50 years from the approximate date you entered to broaden your search.
Unfortunately, I never got used to navigating my family tree. One of the hang-ups I have is that sometimes – not always – when I select a name, a small window appears in the center of my tree telling me to “Please Wait” while four progress bars load. Fortunately,it’s quick and the window only flashes for a brief second before it vanishes from the screen, but it took me out of my train of thought whenever I shuffled through names.
I wish that was the only problem I had while navigating my tree, but alas, there’s one other thing that bothers me. Your family tree does not display all of the names you’ve added at all times, thus forcing you to select certain names if you want to get to others.
Here’s an example of what I’m referring to: After adding my aunts and uncles, whenever I select my name, it only shows me my parents, spouses, siblings, and children. It will not, however, show me my uncles and aunts (or cousins for that matter) unless I click on one of my parents. When I select one of my parents, my family tree shifts up to reveal more branches on my tree (while hiding others). I never quite got used to it.
It may just be my personal preference, but I wish my tree always showed all of my relations and – in instances where there are too many names on the screen – gave me the freedom to scroll up and down or left and right to view branches, similar to what MyHeritage offers. In the end, it didn’t frustrate me enough to stop me from building my tree, but it probably cost me more time.
You already know what a free membership gets you, but what sorts of benefits does a subscription to Genes Reunited unlock?
There are two monthly subscription plans to choose from: Standard and Platinum. A Standard membership gives you more access to the Genes Reunited community. You can view other members’ trees, contact others who share your ancestors, and participate in the community by posting on any of the website’s 11 message boards. Without a membership, you can only view posts on the message board (so you won’t be able to post anything).
Here’s the fine print: The Standard subscription won’t give you access to records. You do, however, receive 50 credits when you sign up for a Standard subscription. It’s up to you whether you want to use those credits to access records or to send messages to other members.
A Platinum subscription gives you everything a Standard membership offers plus access to records (but without the 50 credits). If you commit to paying for one month of the Platinum membership, it’s more than three times the amount of Standard for one month.
With a Standard membership, there are three payment plans to choose from (with greater savings the more months you commit to):
- 1 month
- 6 months
- 12 months
Platinum, on the other hand, only offers two payment plans:
- 1 month
- 12 months
Here’s something important to keep in mind: if you choose 6 months (for Standard) or 12 months (Standard or Platinum), you’ll reap huge savings.
Here’s an example to put things into perspective: If you commit to a 12 month Platinum plan, the month-to-month amount you pay is almost as cheap as what you would pay if you commit to just 1 month of Standard. The savings are extraordinary considering how many more features you get with Platinum.
So how does Genes Reunited’s pricing compare to other popular family tree services? Findmypast has three different monthly plans that each offer greater levels of access to records the higher up you go. Unlike Genes Reunited’s Standard membership, the starting Findmypast plan actually gives you access to records such as British and Irish censuses.
Plus, if you sign up for Findmypast’s free membership plan, you can access free-to-view records such as 1881 census records (for England, Wales, and Scotland), Irish parish records, and British military records. Genes Reunited, on the other hand, does not give you free access to any records.
Is Genes Reunited worth the cost? If you have the budget for the Platinum subscription, you have a much higher likelihood of finding answers to your UK family history. The Standard membership seems harder to justify since it won’t give you access to records.
The Help Center Does What It Promises but There’s Only One Way to Contact Support
If you don’t know how to use Genes Reunited and need guidance, there’s a help center on its website. This section of the site is a great place for beginners to start since it contains frequently asked questions and a link to download your free eBook.
Should you encounter any technical problems and have questions that extend beyond the help center, you can always escalate it up to the support team. Unfortunately there’s only one way to contact the support team: Email. You can send the support team an email directly or fill out a contact form on its website.
After reading the eBook and FAQs page, I had a few questions I wanted to clarify about the size limits of my family tree and Keepsafe. Plus, I stumbled on a blog post (on its website) claiming that Genes Reunited will contact you if other members search the same names as you, so I thought I would reach out for more information.
I received a prompt reply that addressed my questions and made me feel squared away for the most part. The only part I still don’t exactly understand is the last point about how Genes Reunited contacts you if others search the same names. It seems like a really useful feature though, and I’m still interested in learning more about it.
It’s too bad Genes Reunited doesn’t offer more contact methods at this time, especially since it can take two business days (or more) for its team to respond to emails.
A Great Platform to Build Your First Family Tree on (That Can Leave You Wanting More)
Where are you at in your genealogy research? If you’ve never made a family tree before, Genes Reunited ticks off all the boxes you could want in a service when first embarking on your genealogy journey (assuming you have British ancestors): It’s free, offers a very quick setup process, is easy to use, and has a fully loaded help center with resources to orient you to this new (and often intimidating) world.
If you already made a tree in the past using another program and still have missing gaps in your family history, I’d think long and hard about whether the Platinum membership is in your budget. It’s the only way you can access records on Genes Reunited (and it isn’t cheap).
While you do benefit from sharing your tree with other members who can potentially put you in touch with a living relative, there aren’t many more reasons (outside of the records) to subscribe.
For established tree builders with British ancestry, before you sign up for a Platinum membership with Genes Reunited, make sure you check out Findmypast. It’s less expensive than Genes Reunited and offers more options for accessing its records across three different subscription options.