Modern Software Experience



new site is nothing new

GenealogyWise is a new site, but it is nothing new. FamilyLink introduced it as FaceBook for genealogy, which is a rather grandiose description for this simple site. I’ll discuss why that description is less than accurate in a moment.

not original

When I heard about GenealogyWise, I immediately had to think of another site, which introduced itself as MySpace for genealogy; Ancestral Space, introduced just over a year ago. So, GenealogyWise isn’t an original idea.

AncestralSpace is a social site created with the ONEsite platform and GenealogyWise is just another ning-network. really is, they just added the domain on top of that.


Ning allows everyone to create a topic-specific social network site, and isn’t the first genealogy network on; there are several for very specific genealogy subjects, such as David Lifferth’s genealogy metrics. Just before I posted this article I received an email from Illya d’Addezio inviting me to the Live Roots Network for Genealogists he created on several months ago, for which he snagged up However, the one that really comes to mind is Paul Duxbury’s GenMates. GenealogyWise is GenMates, but owned by FamilyLink.

FamilyLink link

When I tried signing into GenMates some time ago there were some issues with the login process and I gave up on it. I tried again today, and explored the features of the site. When I had a look at the list of members, I could not help but spot a FamilyLink link; Jim Erickson, FamilyLink’s Vice President of marketing, joined GenMates on June 2. That observation did not exactly prevent the impression that GenealogyWise was inspired GenMates.

GenMates defines itself as Social Networking For Genealogists and Family Historians and GenealogyWise calls itself the genealogy social network.


Comparing a mere site to FaceBook does not make much sense. Even comparing all of to FaceBook makes little sense. There are many differences. There are of course the sheer size, popularity and mindshare that make FaceBook the better choice.

There is also an important technical difference; Ning merely offers ready-made web sites, FaceBook offers an already richly populated development platform. FaceBook offers many applications, ranging from serious to frivolous. It is the synergy between FaceBook’s own features and the many third-party applications that make its so attractive. The small selection of gadgets that ning offers looks poor in comparison.


Ancestral Space, GenMates and GenealogyWise all want to be your social genealogy network, but are all generic social sites without any genealogy features. They are merely sites that have genealogy as their topic.

FaceBook for genealogists

That’s the funny thing. These social sites do not offer any genealogical feature, just focus on genealogy as a a topic. A site like FaceBook does not focus on any topic, yet it does offer genealogy features. The article FaceBook Genealogy provides a quick overview of genealogy applications on FaceBook.
It is my impression that FaceBook itself does a good job of being FaceBook for genealogists.


In facts, even ignoring the FaceBook apps, even when merely considering FaceBook as forum to exchange message, FaceBook is superior to ning already.
The problem with is that it keeps sending me messages that someone left a commented on some subject, and those email alerts are just so much noise intended to lure to the site for every little thing. The all too common scenario where you bother to follow the link only to find whatever was posted is uninteresting to you is a continual source of disappointment over time wasted.

FaceBook avoids that disappointing scenario by sending the actual message along. FaceBook does not make me go and visit FaceBook just find out what was said. FaceBook does not just alert you that something was said, but alerts you to what was said and then includes a link in case you do want to see the message in context or respond to it.


That FamilyLink is apparently eager to sell the notion that GenealogyWise is FaceBook for genealogists is rather remarkable. After all, FamilyLink is not exactly the smallest contributor to my impression that FaceBook does a fine job of being FaceBook for genealogists.

Quite a few of the FaceBook genealogy application were created by or are currently owned by FamilyLink. FamilyLink has also created several genealogy groups and been quite active crimping members for these groups.

Up until now this introduction of GenealogyWise.ning, FamilyLink has seemed such a proponent of FaceBook as a platform for genealogy, that you might be forgiven for thinking that the Fami in FamilyLink stands for FaceBook Minded.

When FamilyLink was still called WorldVitalRecords they created a website called They changed their name to FamilyLink and the website changed its domain name to FamilyHistoryLink, so that the domain could be used for the corporate site. However, the corporate site was soon relegated to the subdomain, and is now showing the Internet variant of the We’re Related application.

Internet and FaceBook

Geni brought its Geni app to FaceBook and FamilyLink brought its We’re Related app to the Internet at However, but unless you are already logged into FaceBook, The home pages displays a big FaceBook Connect button. FamilyLink clearly thinks that FaceBook is the place to be.


Meanwhile, FamilyLink seems to be neglecting the original, now at In the audio sample on its home page, Paul Allen calls it a social network for family history.

FamilyHistoryLink seems to be just what FamilyLink needs to compete with; a free genealogy site on the Internet, where you can build a tree and socialise with other users, complete with GEDCOM import and export functionality. Yet FamilyLink seems to avoid promoting it.

The Previous Generation

Browsing around the FamilyHistoryLink site, I noticed that it looks very similar to TNG, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding. It seems to be based on a previous version of TNG; the Advanced GEDCOM upload page shows the line The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, v.6.1.0.

That does not just indicate that FamilyLink has deed been neglecting the FamilyHistoryLink site, but also for how long. TNG version 6.2 was released on 2008 January 19 and version 7 was released on 2008 July 2, more than a year ago already.

We’re Related?

The article How Geni’s beat We’re Related made a strong case that the We’re Related applications would grow a lot faster if FamilyLink restored its GEDCOM capability. Right now, it just isn’t a complete.

It is also fairly obvious that FamilyLink would do well to somehow combine, merge or migrate some of its services to reduce overlap and to present just a few strong products and services. That would make a much better impression than the current collection of incomplete, neglected and disconnected ones.

I think that just ending the hassle of all the different login credentials for all their different sites would be a much appreciated step forward already.

The introduction of GenealogyWise does not reduce the number of sites, does not merge or combine anything. It increases the numbers of sites, it requires yet another login, and only adds to the general disconnectedness of the various FamilyLink sites and services.

GenealogyWise does not offer any unique or compelling features either. It seems just another we-too genealogy forum.

master plan

Perhaps there is an incredibly awesome master plan behind the creation of GenealogyWise on Perhaps I would appreciate the brilliance of that plan if only I knew about it, but right now, FamilyLink’s creation of yet another site for genealogists does not seem to make much sense.

FaceBook for genealogists

Apart from the grandiose terminology it uses for their site, FamilyLink’s enthusiasm of FaceBook as a platform for genealogy does not seem to be waning at all.

I still do not really like FaceBook, but I do believe FamilyLink will find it hard to disagree with me when I note that FaceBook is the FaceBook for genealogist site.


2009-07-10 Twitter

The GenealogyWise site was introduced through a tweet:

2009-07-07 23:27 genseek, the genealogy social network, is hiring 15 people to help launch the site. Email for details.

Although Paul Allen is well aware of the reach of twitter, FamilyLink is still taking the remarkably disingenuous position that GenealogyWise has not been introduced yet. It would be so much cooler to claim that tweet is the introduction, because, well, it is.

Another reason to highlight this tweet is that there is some talk about FamilyLink paying some bloggers to add some content to their site. That FamilyLink is paying some bloggers is obviously not a secret.
Neither the list of bloggers on FamilyLink’s payroll nor their remuneration has been disclosed.

2009-07-11 blogging

Soon after the introductory tweet, Randy Seaver posted about GenealogyWise on his Genea-Musing blog, and a remarkable number of blog posts followed, with a variety of opinions on the matter. I’ve collected links to a bunch of these below.

2009-07-15 press release

Yesterday, FamilyLink disappointed with an old-fashioned PR announcement that does not acknowledge their original tweet. That the press release calls their we-too ning network innovative is just their usual hyperbole, but the claim that GenealogyWise allows users to share family trees is interesting. At the time of the PR release, there was no family tree functionality.

2009-07-15 FamilyHistoryLink abandoned

Today, WorldVitalRecords (FamilyLink is still having trouble deciding whether to use its old or new name) send out a news mail titled GenealogyWise is replacing FamilyHistoryLink. More about this in FamilyLink abandoning FamilyLink.

2009-07-15 paying for activity

GenealogyWise started by paying a few bloggers to create some content. It is now offering prizes for members who are most active (most friends, most posts, most photos, etcetera). Terry Thornton was the first to respond to this on the GenealogyWise forum itself.
I believe any prizes should be for quality, not quantity. Besides, paying people to be active on your platform does not exactly exude confidence in the value of your platform.

2009-07-16 contest withdrawn

Paul Allen tweeted that there are New Rules for the $8000 GenealogyWise Contest now, and linked to the GenealogyWise post.
GenealogyWise was not accessible at that time, but the new rules were also posted to the WorldVitalRecords blog.

After initiating a discussion about the new rules, GenealogyWise decided to pull the contest. The GenealogyWise announcement of the new rules as well and the WorldVitalRecords blog post about it were both deleted.

2009-07-16 GenealogyWise GoDaddy

Visiting GenealogyWise brought up a GoDaddy page which informed you that This Web page is parked FREE, courtesy of

GenealogyWise GoDaddy

I discovered that FamilyLink had updated the GenealogyWise DNS record. Paul Allen has confirmed this. The DNS issue was been fixed, and after a while the correction had propagated to all DNS servers.

2009-07-16 censorship

When GenealogyWise was accessible again, Terry Thorton’s forum post GW IS RUNNING A NUMBERS GAME --- and It is SHAMEFUL! was missing. FamilyLink had deleted not just their own original announcement, but also Thornton’s forum post and the many concurring reactions it had received.

Terry posted IS GW CENSORING ITS MEMBERSHIP? as both a GenealogyWise blog post and forum topic. After several comments from $familylink, and deletion of a comment made by Bruce Buzbee, Terry deleted his profile and all remaining content with it.
GenealogyWise started a forum discussion Help us determine the level of censorship at GenealogyWise.
Terry’s blog post My Short Tenure at GenealogyWise explains why he left GenealogyWise.

2009-07-17 public apology

In a comment on his own blog post, Terry suggests that FamilyLink should donate monies in excess of the now cancelled contest to the Itawamba Historical Society and the same amount to another non-profit genealogical group of their own choice. In a later comment, and his own blog post Apology to Terry Thornton, Paul Allen pledges $801 to the Itawamba Historical Society and the same amount to Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.

2009-07-19 blogs removed

Terry Thornton has removed all his blogspot blogs, a dozen blogs in total.

2011-04-23 links to FamilyHistoryLink & WorldVitalRecords blog posts

The FamilyHistoryLink domain is defunct. The broken link has been removed.

The WorldVitalRecords blog posts New Rules for GenealogyWise Contest and GenealogyWise post New Rules for the $800 GenealogyWise Contest were deleted years ago. Removed the broken links.

Terry Thornton's blog post My Short Tenure at GenealogyWise was deleted years ago, and does not appear to be in the Web Archive. The broken link has been removed

2011-04-23 links to GenealogyWise posts

The GenealogyWise 2009-07-15: Win $800 in Contests on GenealogyWise and Terry Thornton's GenealogyWise forum: Terry Thornton 2009-07-15: GW IS RUNNING A NUMBERS GAME --- and It is SHAMEFUL! reaction to that were both deleted years ago. The broken links have been removed.

The links to Terry Thornton's GenealogyWise blog and forum posts, both titled IS GW CENSORING ITS MEMBERSHIP? have been removed for the same reason.


The and subdomains are no more. The broken links have been removed.

2012-07-01: Genealogy Reviews Online

Tim Agazio has deleted GenealogyWise - Here We Go Again. The link has been removed.


genealogy fora


GenealogyWise blog posts

GenealogyWise paying

GenealogyWise censorship