How To Upload A GEDCOM To Geni – And Avoid Pitfalls

Uploading a GEDCOM file to the Geni website is trickier than with other sites. You may have some extra work to do to ensure that the import of your family tree completes successfully.

It will save you time and headaches if you know about the challenges and pitfalls in advance. This article shows you what to expect!

If you have a GEDCOM of your entire family tree from another website, you may want to modify the file before uploading it to Geni. We’ll give you some tips on how to make changes for a smoother import.

Why The Geni GEDCOM Import Is Different

If you’ve uploaded a GEDCOM file to sites like Ancestry or MyHeritage, you probably found it a straightforward process. This is because your online tree is independent of any other tree on those websites.

Suppose that Mark and Mary are great-grandchildren of John Smith. If Mark and Mary each upload a GEDCOM to Ancestry, then their common ancestor resides happily in both trees.

GENI is very different. The goal of GENI is to collaborate and work towards a single World Family Tree where each person is represented only once.

If Geni accepted GEDCOMs in the same way as sites with independent trees, then John Smith would be duplicated in the World Tree. This breaks the overall goal of

Therefore Geni needs extra steps. Duplicated entries must be identified and merged into a single profile to avoid impacting the quality of the entire tree.

Historic Duplicate Problems

Geni released a beta GEDCOM import in 2007 and rolled out a full version in 2008.

But the number of duplicates grew too fast for Geni users to keep up with merging them. This was hurting the quality of the site. So removed the ability to import GEDCOM files in 2011.

Over the next eight years, the most requested feature by Geni users was…a GEDCOM import. So, Geni introduced a new Import feature in early 2019. But this time, they included

  • restrictions on the contents of your GEDCOM file
  • a processing step for automatic identification of duplicates

What Are The Restrictions On GEDCOM Imports to Geni?

These are the rules for importing GEDCOM files to

  • The home person must be either yourself or someone born after 1800.
  • The file must have less than 100,000 people.
  • Branches will be excluded if they have people born before 1600.

The third rule is the one you’re most likely to trip over.

If you have several branches in your GEDCOM, only the branch with pre-17th century people will be left behind. Others may load perfectly well, leaving you with a half-imported result.

This is one reason to modify a GEDCOM file before uploading it to

Modifying Your GEDCOM File Before Importing To Geni

You may wish to modify your GEDCOM to remove the early generation ancestors in order for the rest to run in.

But if you’re exporting a GEDCOM from Ancestry or MyHeritage, you can’t download sections of your online tree.

There are a number of free utilities that can open and edit GEDCOM files. You can then export to a new GEDCOM without the unwanted generations.

Ancestry Users

If you’re used to the Ancestry interface, then the free RootsMagic Essentials is a good option. Of course, if you have purchased Family Tree Maker then it will be your tool of choice.

Ancestry users don’t even need to export a GEDCOM from the online website.

You can use Family Tree Maker or RootsMagic Essentials to sync down to a local copy of your Ancestry tree. And then use the desktop software to export parts of your tree to GEDCOM.

MyHeritage Users

MyHeritage users may prefer to use its free desktop software, Family Tree Builder. You don’t need to download a GEDCOM from MyHeritage.

You can use Family Tree Builder to sync your online tree to a copy on your desktop. And then work within the software to export what you need to GEDCOM.

All Users

RootsMagic Essentials and MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder are two free options that will import GEDCOM files.

You can delete specific people within the software, or choose sections to export as a reduced GEDCOM file.

There are other free alternatives such as Gramps.

How To Start A GEDCOM Import To

The GEDCOM import to Geni is not as straightforward as with other genealogy websites.

There are extra steps to try to minimize adding duplicate profiles. And you have choices to make from the start as to how you run the import.

Check For Duplicates Before Importing Your GEDCOM

Before you import a GEDCOM into, it’s useful to search the World Tree to see if your ancestors are already represented.

This isn’t a necessary step, because the Importer will take you through a process of skipping or merging duplicates.

However, the website is not super-fast so reviewing and merging twenty profiles could be painful.

Personally, I didn’t have any duplicates on my import and the process took minutes. Keith Riggle reviewed the process with a larger GEDCOM file that produced about twelve duplicates. It didn’t sound like fun.

If you use desktop software to eliminate a few people from your GEDCOM file, you may find the import less frustrating. I described some options in the previous section.

Are You A First-Time User?

If you are signing up for the first time with, then you can import a GEDCOM on the account set-up page.

This will create a new branch on the Geni website where your account is identified as the home person.

Are You Extending The Lines Of People You Added Or Manage?

If you are extending a line of a person you already added to Geni, then you should launch the import from that tree profile.

This requires edit permissions – which you should have if you created the person in the first place.

You can import the GEDCOM from the Tree Profile page. The option is under the Actions menu.

Are You Importing A Branch That Isn’t Already on

You’ve searched for everyone in your GEDCOM and they are nowhere to be found. This means you are creating a new branch on the site. Well done!

Expand the Research menu and choose the “Create a Branch” menu item.

You have to enter one person manually in order to import the GEDCOM that represents that person.

There is a check-box at the bottom of the page that will bring you to the Import process when you save the new person.

Working With The Geni GEDCOM Importer

The Geni Importer scans your file and breaks the contents into one or more branches.

If you have more than five generations, then the file will need several rounds to process completely.

If your collateral lines have more than three generations of descendants, then this will be a multiple-round affair.

You are probably going to have to get involved with each batch. So that might determine whether you upload large or smaller GEDCOMs.

If you have a simpler GEDCOM file, then everything can happen in one phase.

Checking for Duplicates

The Geni Importer checks each person in your GEDCOM for existing matches on the site. If there aren’t any, you have no work to do. You’ll get an email to say that the import is complete.

If the Importer finds matches in a branch, then it pauses the import of that branch and sends you a notification by email of the problem. You will also see the match(es) in the Dashboard.

Resolving Duplicates

You have to take action for each match. If you agree that the match is valid, you can choose to merge with the Geni profile. No further profiles from that branch will be imported.

If you reject the match, the Importer will continue – unless it doesn’t believe you!

Let’s say that the names match but the dates are out by a generation.

The Importer will probably create the profile and continue.

If you reject a match where every detail is aligned, then the Importer would have to create a duplicate to continue. It will not do so.

Troubleshooting the Geni GEDCOM Import

If you’re surprised to see only half your GEDCOM in your tree, then the Importer is probably waiting for you to resolve a match.

Some branches have loaded without needing your input, but it’s stopped on a potential duplicate profile.

You can see the progress on the GEDCOM dashboard. Expand the Research menu and choose the “GEDCOM” menu item to get to the dashboard page.

If the import stops with an error message, your GEDCOM file may have issues. Check out our review on two free tools to validate GEDCOM files.

Where Did My Sources Go?

Geni puts sources into the About section of the tree profile.

Deleting Your Family Tree From Geni

Because Geni is a collaborative tree, it’s not always easy to delete what you’ve added. If you’re not clear on this, you should read our full article on using the Geni World Family Tree.

Our guide on how to delete your family tree from Geni goes through the steps and pitfalls you may encounter.

GEDCOM To Spreadsheet Conversion!

Would you like to convert your GEDCOM to a spreadsheet with every person in your family tree?

Check out our conversion service for the full range of features at a low price.

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Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

3 thoughts on “How To Upload A GEDCOM To Geni – And Avoid Pitfalls”

  1. Thanks Margaret for this. I have been a basic member on Geni for some years but never added much as it was all too hard! Now with DNA matches I think it’s important to have something there. I followed your instructions and imported several small branches to the tree successfully – thank you! My 4th GEDcom is problematic. It keeps only adding one profile – the one already in the tree. I did the GEDcom again just in case it was a problem, but the same result. IS there a list of common problems somewhere – I tried the Geni site but this issue isn’t there. The community has not responded and as a basic member I can’t raise a ticket! Would love to be able to get the rest of my tree on.


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