Every successful genealogist has benefited from the research work of others. This information-sharing concept is the thinking behind OneGreatFamily.com, an online tree research tool that links families and histories together based on user input. While the concept of tree collaboration has merit, the execution on OneGreatFamily.com is out of date and difficult to use. Many other genealogy platforms offer far better tools and underlying data.
OneGreatFamily bills itself as the “world’s largest online family tree.” It boasts an impressive 247.9 million individuals in its database. This wealth of information comes from users who either uploaded information from a GEDCOM file or manually input data on their relatives. However, this pool of data is of little use if you cannot find any matches to your family tree. It’s good to test the waters by doing some surname searches to see potential matches.
We found no matches in the database for our immediate family surnames. The site suggests you input at least 18 individuals to start in order for the site’s active-matching feature to become effective. What the system lacks, however, is ability to pull information from census records, ship registries, directories and the like. It relies only on the collective input of its members.
To test the search function at OneGreatFamily, we started with no tree and began to build one by searching for relatives in the database. Unfortunately, we found no matches in several generations of maternal and paternal relatives. This situation greatly limits the usefulness of this tool We also ran a search on a famous person, former U.S. president Harry S. Truman. This time, the results were very rich. Truman’s family tree was expansive, stretching back to his relatives in the 14th century. Truman’s tree is an example of the merits of the OneGreatFamily platform. The tree is a culmination of the work of many people.
Duplicates are eliminated by the system and what remains is a master tree, owned by all who contributed to it. It’s almost like a Wikipedia-style family tree. Overall, search results depend on whether members have input information on any given individual. Results will vary widely by user. The site displays biographical information on living individuals, including birth dates. It should protect data on living individuals.
This is where OneGreatFamily suffers, compared to the market leaders in online genealogy. The user interface appears stuck in the past by at least a decade. First, the site’s Genealogy Browser works only on the Windows operating system.
Mac users are out of luck. We found very little functionality on OneGreatFamily using an iMac, but the browser features worked fine on Windows 10. This greatly limits the site’s appeal. If you access the site using a Mac, a warning graphic appears on the page suggesting you use Windows and the Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft has discontinued Internet Explorer, a fact that seems to have escaped the folks at OneGreatFamily.
OneGreatFamily uses desktop software to power its Genealogy Browser. After running a number of searches, we wanted to dig deeper and see individuals’ biographical profiles on the system. The OneGreatFamily system kept switching from the web site to the desktop software. The handoff was time consuming; not seamless.
OneGreatFamily explains that “current web site technologies are far too limited to create the kind of functionality we’ve built into Genealogy Browser.” Five minutes on Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com quickly debunks this explanation. User interface need to keep pace with industry best practices. OneGreatFamily’s system is clunky and not easy to use.
The OneGreatFamily.com platform’s features and extras also suffer from a bit of time warp The tutorial videos look like narrated PowerPoint presentations. They convey good information, but the look and feel are decidedly out of date.
The freshest content in the newsletter archive is from 2010. The genealogy learning center has articles covering a variety of topics, but the articles are short with no illustration. The site generates a “Family Dashboard” with various information about the member’s tree, including prevalence of various first names, most common surnames, a list of birth locations, etc.
The family tree view features a light bulb icon (similar to Ancestry.com’s leaf) to indicate potential matches. Members can start a tree by uploading a GEDCOM from genealogy software or another family history web site.
There are subscription plan for just about every type of researcher. The $14.95 monthly plan offers the most flexibility but is the highest cost per unit. The best value is the annual plan at $79.95. A quarterly plan costs $29.95.
Members can earn free months by referring friends and family. A seven-day free trial is also an option, but it requires providing credit card information. This is necessary, the website says, to prevent a small percentage of users from “gaming the system.” Watch for discounts, as the site sometimes offers 33% off deals for monthly, quarterly and annual plans.
Be aware if you choose the free trial that there have been many complaints lodged against OneGreatFamily over billing practices. The Utah Better Business Bureau upgraded OneGreatFamily’s grade from ‘F’ to ‘A’ because the company has improved responses to customer complaints.
When you sign up, the confirmation email might misstate the length of your free trial. Our confirmation stated the free trial would last a month, but the “My Account” section on the web site had the correct seven-day period. There are step-by-step details on the site about how to cancel the free trial without being charged.
Family historians enjoy spending time in the past. But they don’t want their research tools to be stuck in the past. OneGreatFamily.com is an interesting concept, offering shared family trees and user collaboration. However, its site design, tools, interface and content seem like they are more suited to 2007 than 2017.