Genes Reunited was a very popular British genealogy website in the early 2000s that is now less well known. This article looks at what happened to Genes Reunited.
Who Owns Genes Reunited?
Genes Reunited was purchased in 2009 by a subsidiary of D.C. Thomson, a newspaper and comics publisher with headquarters in Scotland.
The previous owners were television network ITV, who purchased the website in 2005 from the three founders.
The three founders were Julie and Steve Pankhurst and their business partner Jason Porter.
You can read more about the story of how Genes Reunited came about in the later section that covers the history of the website.
What Happened To Genes Reunited?
Genes Reunited has gone through several ownership changes but the website still exists.
It’s easy to confuse the genealogy site with a different site that was branded as Friends Reunited. The Friends Reunited website was a social networking site aimed at British people connecting with old classmates.
Friends Reunited predated Facebook by four years and was initially very popular in the UK. Unlike Facebook, the site had various charges for services.
Over the years, Facebook and other free social networks gobbled up the customer of Friends Reunited. The website, along with its sister site Genes Reunited, was eventually purchased by D.C. Thomson.
Friends Reunited continued to operate until 2016. In January of that year, one of the original founders announced the closure of the site. Steve Pankhurst admitted that it could no longer compete with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Consternation and confusion for Genes Reunited users
The day that this closure was announced, a worried Genes Reunited user started a post on the genealogy forum. She titled the post as a question: “Genes Reunited closing”.
She asked if she would still be able to access her family tree when the site closed.
Other forum users reassured her that the closure wasn’t about Genes Reunited, but about the site with a similar name.
It’s an understandable mistake, more so because the two websites were part of the same stable.
However, the more knowledgeable members expressed concern about the future of Genes Reunited. They wondered if it would suffer the same site. However, the genealogy website is still going.
Is Genes Reunited closing down?
Genes Reunited is not closing down. Do not confuse it with the similarly named Friends Reunited, which closed down in January 2016.
Is Genes Reunited Still Active?
Genes Reunited is still operating as an active business. Customers can sign up for free membership and build a tree on the website.
There are also several paid subscription levels to access their record archives.
The website doesn’t report how many free or paid customers are using their services. However, we can get an idea of how active it is by looking at the user forum.
It’s not a good sign that the most recent thread in the official Announcements subforum was back in 2015. However, it would be a mistake to think that there aren’t active users on the site.
Some of the other subforums have threads created on the day that I wrote this article.
The most active threads are people looking for ancestors or trying to trace living relatives. There are knowledgeable forum regulars providing useful information and genealogy advice on these threads.
Quick History Of Genes Reunited
To understand how Genes Reunited came about, we need to go back several years before its creation.
This story starts in 1995 in the United States. That was the year that Classmates.com was launched.
Classmates.com was the original Facebook and was eventually put out of business by Zuckerberg’s behemoth.
But before its demise, Americans signed up to Classmates in droves to find old pals from school or college.
One of the big features of the site was access to digitized school yearbooks. Ancestry.com would eat that part of their lunch.
Meanwhile, a lady in London was musing on how to track down her old classmates. She explained to her husband that the American site wasn’t much use for British folk.
Julie and Steve Pankhurst decided to set up the British equivalent of Classmates.com. They roped in Jason Porter as a business partner, and the trio launched the Friends Reunited website in 2000.
By the following year, the site had 2.5 million members. This made it one of the biggest membership sites in the United Kingdom
They saw a need from members to put family trees online, so they spun off a new website called Genes Connected. Why “Connected” and not “Reunited”? I don’t know. But I do know that it would rebrand to the more familiar name.
The Friends Reunited portfolio of websites also expanded to include a dating site.
ITV buys an (eventual) lemon
ITV is one of the major television networks in the United Kingdom. In the early 2000s, the company was looking to diversify its income streams.
They purchased the Friends United suite of websites in 2005 for a handsome sum.
I’ve seen various figures mentioned, but I’ll go with the number cited by rivals BBC (the other major UK television network). This article reports that ITV paid £120m (that was $208 at the time).
The package included Genes Reunited, a dating website, and other smaller sites.
Four years later, they sold the sites to the current owners for £25m. That’s a colossal loss, any which way you look at it.
More about the current owners, D.C. Thomson
D.C. Thomson also own the brands Find My Past and the British Newspaper Archive.
I’ve written more about the Scottish publishing company in these articles:
Is Genes Reunited The Same As Find My Past?
Both are owned by the same company, D.C. Thomson, but they are run as separate operations.