Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mundia -- yet another flawed family history site

With the recent addition of another 8 generations to our Ellwood family tree, all sorts of possibilities opened up. People we had been in touch with before, but had sadly concluded were not related, might prove to be related after all. So we set about looking on the Web for other family history researchers who could possibly be related. One of the sites that came up was

This is a site where people can have their family tree online, either uploading a GEDCOM file or by adding people one by one. One advantage is that it seems to give access to all the trees for those who can't afford to subscribe to

There we found lots of people with Ellwoods in their tree.

That was exciting, but the excitement didn't last long.

The site is clunky and awkward to navigate, and when you look for a family (Ellwood, in our case) it shows a list of trees, and then another list, but with nothing to distinguish one from another. You can't look at the first one on the list, then go back and look at the second, and so on. No, you have to repeat the search over, and perhaps end up looking at the same tree you looked at previously, without realising it. On most of the screens there is no identifying information to show who created the tree. But it does encourage you to copy and paste people from that tree to your own, without any indication of the source. We quickly discovered that a lot of people had done just that, sometimes, apparently with entire trees -- when you are shown three trees with 10247 members, one beginsd to get just a little bit suspicious. There were lots of inaccuracies. People had joined one family to another with improbable or wrong connections, and others had copied the errors wholesale, and the site seems to encourage this.

It does warn you that it is a beta site, and so they do ask for feedback from users. Here is the feedback I sent them

The whole experience of Mundia is a bit like feeling one's way in the dark, and very frustrating.

You are directed (in the dark) to a group of objects. You can feel them, and chose one and turn on the light to look at it, but when you put it back on the shelf the light goes off again, and there is no way you can know whether you have picked up the same object, or one of the others. There is no way of comparing two objects to know which is the original or which is the copy.

The objects are "trees". You enter a person to search for, and are shown a list of "trees" with that person. About five of them have exactly 10542 people in them. So which is the original and which are the copies? There's no point in contacting the owner if they have just copied everything from somewhere else. There is no identifying information in the list to show which is which, so once you put a "tree" back on the shelf the light goes off, and you might pick up the same one five times.

The "home" page for each user is singularly uninformative. There's nothing to say which families you are interested in and how you connect to them. There isn't even a list of links to web pages where the person can give more details. The whole thing seems to be designed to encourage bad "copy and paste" genealogy.

As a bare minimum of improvements I suggest the following:

  1. On the user profile, allow an explanation of the main familties being researched, or that the person links to, and a space for a link to the person's web page or blog.
  2. When a list of "trees" is shown, provide enough identifying information so that you can know whether you have already looked at it -- even the owner's user name.
  3. Provide an easy way of GEDCOM import and export, with the export clearly showing which "tree" the information came from in the source tag.

Even more concerning, however, is the terms of service, which include the following:

For each item of content that you post, you grant to us and our affiliates a world-wide, royalty free, fully paid-up, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, transferable, and fully sublicensable (including to other Website users) license, without additional consideration to you or any third party, to: (i) reproduce, distribute, make available, transmit, communicate to the public, perform and display (publicly or otherwise), edit, modify, adapt, create derivative works from and otherwise use such content, in any format or media now known or later developed; (ii) exercise all trademark, publicity and other proprietary rights with regard to such content; (iii) use your name, photograph, portrait, picture, voice, likeness and biographical information as provided by you in connection with your content for the Service, in each case, in connection with your content. For example, after your registration or subscription has ended, we may continue to use and display any content that you previously posted, and other users may continue may access, change, edit, add to, subtract from or otherwise amend such content. If you do not want to grant us the rights set out in these Terms of Use, please do not post any content on the Website.

and then this

Once you upload content to the Website, it may become accessible by all persons accessing the Website or any websites in the Website Group. Other Website users may be able to copy, download, store, edit, change or delete certain content that you post. You agree that other users may access your family tree and may add to, subtract from or otherwise amend your family tree (including information and other content you include in your family tree).

And certain aspects of their privacy policy are also cause for concern:

We may use the personal information you provide:
  • to an Affiliate or other third party in the event of any reorganization, merger, sale, joint venture, assignment, transfer or other disposition of all or any portion of our business, assets or stock (including, without limitation, in connection with any bankruptcy or similar proceedings); or
  • as we believe to be appropriate: (a) under applicable law or regulations (including laws outside your country of residence);

I do not believe it to be in the interests of genealogical and family history reasearch to encourage "cut and paste" genealogy, without reference to the source of the information. The site appears to be designed in such a way as to "lock people in", and make it difficult to communicate with fellow researchers other than through the site itself. Their privacy policy makes your personal information freely available to their affiliates for marketing and promotional purposes, but not to your fellow researchers to facilitate collaborative research.

In many such sites the commercial interests of making a profit appear to override the need to make them useful to researchers. This will tend to drive away serious genealogy researchers. I, for one, will not put any content there, nor will I invite any members of my family to join it until they have made the minimum improvements I have sugested above. But I get the impression that they won't make those improvements, and they don't care. The target market is people who think that they can find their "family tree" on line and so just about any tree will do. Quantity takes precedence over quality, because quantity makes more money.

I thought and MyHeritage were bad, but this one takes the cake!

And other genealogical bloggers, who discovered the site earlier than I did, also seem to have doubts about it:
For a more positive evaluation of these sites see:

One of the positive points some people mention is that on these sites you can "create your family tree for free". But a far better way to do it, and equally "free" is to download a free genealogy program like Legacy and do it on your own computer, and get it right before making your own boo-boos public and spreading them like genealogiy viruses on line.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out the flaws of mundia. I am pleased i read your notes before looking at Mundia, which i will now avoid, kdxxx

Anonymous said...

I have always been weary of other people's "research". Whenever I find a "link" I am always looking for verification and if I find none, I don't take it as the truth. I would rather keep researching until I find the proof myself. It took me 15 years to finally prove that the information I had on one line of my family was in fact correct when I had a chat with my second cousin on that line a few months ago! My Motto: Check, check, check and then if still in doubt, don't add! MCVZ

Anonymous said...

Mundia is owned by and 'steals' the data from subscribers and re-posts it on Mundia, which is why they have so many 'trees'. To my knowledge, they do not openly disclose this to their paying subscribers.

Anonymous said...

I actually joined Mundia and for the past month or so have been totally unable to access my account - suddenly was unable to get the tree to open up and then NO ACCESS whatsoever - changed passwords - used facebook log in - it seems as if I have been blocked from this site for some reason - very suspicious ! I shall avoid this site from now on.

Gambo Man said...

There's something unethical about selling someone else's hard work and we as genealogists should know that Ancestry, My heritage, Mondia,etc are all guilty of that. A sheep in sheeps clothing is still a sheep. I have 40 years in this hobby and I give my notes freely to those who need it. Seeing my hard work online on these sites for sale creates a terrible kind of headache. My 50,000 names will stay in my own database and not online to be sold to anyone but to be shared with friends and family that need to know.