Membership FAQ

In order to bring in some income (as compensation for the many thousands of hours worked and for my ongoing commitment to keep working on the database), we operate a Membership Scheme which controls viewing of our renowned Families Database. Some years ago I was advised by an American that the term ‘Membership Scheme’ has bad connotations for some people. I hope that the simplicity & fairness of our scheme will give you a good experience to counterbalance any bad experiences you may have had elsewhere.


One of the reasons why the lists of questions below and on associated pages are quite long is that, whenever I find that someone has a question that I feel I should have an answer to, I add it to a list. Some of the questions here and on other pages in this FAQs section are quite simple. That is because I have corresponded with some people who have confessed that this is the first site they have ever subscribed to and with others who have said that subscribing to this site is the first time they have ever entered into a transaction that is in a currency different from their own. If you are an experienced Internet user then you will find that there is nothing special about our Membership Scheme – with the possible exception that, amongst commercial sites, our way of allowing people to have a good (albeit rushed) look at our data for free is quite rare. Do you think we should give you longer before your viewing of the database is interrupted? We have been asked about that before so we have a question & answer on that (though that one is on Families Database FAQ).


Please note that this page is for questions about our Membership Scheme. If you are having a problem with the site, perhaps with completing a subscription, the Troubleshooting page should help. That is within our Support Section.

The benefits of Stirnet Membership are that:

1. you may view our Families Database without interruption throughout your period of membership; and

2. once you have become/been a Stirnet Member, you may benefit from The Stirnet Portal for ever after (subject to its Terms & Conditions).


Hence, your decision as to whether or not you want to become a Stirnet Member rests on how you value our Families Database and/or The Stirnet Portal.

For general questions about our Families Database, please see Families Database FAQ and the Genealogy lead page. For specific questions about the Families Database, please see About the database. For questions about obtaining and paying-for membership, please see below.

If you click on the Login/Register button you will enter the Registration & Subscription Process. If you entered the site through one of the thousands of data pages in our Families Database and then had your viewing of the page interrupted, you will probably have seen at least the first page of that process already. Hopefully, you will find that process simple to follow. After completion of the payment, you will be a Stirnet Member (for the period purchased).


If you think you may qualify for Free Membership, please see the notes under ‘FREE MEMBERSHIP’ on the lead Membership page. Please note that the criteria for obtaining Free Membership are quite tight, not least because we have such a large amount of data still to upload into the database that normally we only welcome contributions that are easy to use & will make a significant difference to the database OR that help us identify & correct errors which we have made or are presently perpetuating in the database.

Membership enables uninterrupted viewing of our Families Database for a set period. The standard membership/subscription periods we offer are 14 days (‘Fortnight’), 31 days (‘Month’), 93 days (‘Quarter’), and 365 days ‘(Year’). You are given opportunity within the Registration & Subscription process to select one of these periods or Free (or ‘Guest’) Status [No default is set so you have to select an option.] Membership is normally only for One-off periods but we also offer a Recurring Subscription for the Year Membership. [Default is One-off. To obtain a Recurring Membership you have to select that option.] See below for information on Costs, the difference between One-off and Recurring subscriptions, and use of Free/Guest Status.
The present subscription fees are £10 for 14 days of uninterrupted viewing, £15 for 31 days, £30 for £93 days, and £60 for 365 days. Stirnet does not have its own payment clearance system but instead uses PayPal as its Collection Agent (see below), offering payment by debit/credit card or PayPal account. Except for the 14-days period, we offer options to pay by bank transfer or £ cheque (see below).
Value Added Tax (‘VAT’) is a form of national sales tax. We do NOT at present have to apply VAT to our fees and so we do not do so. We do not expect to have to apply VAT within the next year or so but that may change so we reserve the right to change our fees to include VAT at any time without notice. In very rough terms, were VAT to apply to us it would be at 20% for fees within the European Union and at 0% for sales outside of the European Union.

Free Status (also known as ‘Guest Status’) was originally intended to permit non-Members to post Comments within Stirnet Histories. However, as reported on Histories FAQ, that part of the site is on longer being developed.


It is possible to use the Free Option if you intend to pay later for a subscription by Bank Transfer or Sterling Cheque. However, for that we recommend that you select what period you intend to pay for and then select Pay Later as the payment method on the Registration Form. That will make it easier and so quicker for us to activate the account once we have obtained confirmation that your payment has cleared.


As the only benefits from registering with Free Status are in circumstances in which the User will probably be contacted by us anyway, registration with such status does not lead to the User being sent an automated email.

If you normally pay in a currency other than pounds stirling, the collection agent (PayPal – see next question below) will sort that out for you, crediting our account with them with the fee in Pounds and charging your card or account in your local currency. If you have not before transacted business in a currency other than your own (and your currency is not Pounds Sterling), there is no reason for you to fear doing so (millions of cross-border transactions are carried out every day so the systems for effecting them are very well established & proven) but we recommend that you do at least find out roughly what our subscription fees would be in your local currency before you subscribe. The exchange rates between different currencies change over time so we cannot tell you exactly how much that will be. However, our Subscription fee history page gives some historic clues and provides links to web sites which can show you what exchange rates may apply at the moment.


We have noticed from our own experience of paying through PayPal that using American Express can lead to exchange rate anomalies when the charge appears on your statement. We think that this is because Amex & PayPal operate the account between them in US Dollars so that, if your account with American Express is not operated in that currency, there could be a double conversion, once between PayPal & American Express and again between American Express & your account with them. This problem appears not to arise with payments using MasterCard or Visa but, if the currency in which you operate is not one that has a proven record of being used for international transactions over the Internet, we cannot guarantee that it will not.

PayPal is probably the world’s leading player in ‘ordinary’ online retail settlements. Using a collection agent means that we do not have to develop & maintain secure payment systems. For more information about PayPal and our use of collection agents, see Collection agent – PayPal.

Stirnet does not have its own payment clearance system, which is why we use PayPal (see above), so we cannot take payment directly by debit/credit card. However, it is normally possible to pay us by debit/credit card using PayPal without setting-up an ongoing PayPal account. For more information on that, see Collection agent – PayPal.


It is normally possible to pay us by Bank Transfer (from anywhere) or Cheque (but only if it is in Pounds Sterling and is drawn on a UK bank). For more information on these options, see Payments by bank transfer or £ cheque. Note that subscriptions by cheque can lead to delay, not least if I happen to be away from my normal address, and always involve an administration charge (£2) to cover the additional time & effort it will take for me to bank the cheque and monitor its clearance through our bank account..

All you need to do is Log-in (using the ‘Login/Register’ link at the top right of the page) and then you will see that that ‘Login/Register’ link will change to ‘Hi yourusername’. Click on that link and you will be offered the choice between opening your Account page (by clicking on ‘Account’) and logging-out (by clicking on ‘Logout’). [See also the question below on ‘How do I renew my subscription (or pay for a first one if I have previously just registered)?’]
You will see this only if you have started but not completed the purchase of a subscription. Showing an expiry date for such a situation was something built into the system we purchased and is, we admit, a bit misleading. The ‘Expires’ date will be reset when we have confirmed that your payment has cleared, and your account has been activated, so that you obtain the full period you paid for. [See also the question below on ‘Why does ‘My Account’ show one or more ‘Pending’ or old inactive subscriptions?’]

One-off subscriptions expire at the end of the current subscription period. You will not be charged for any more subscriptions unless & until you specifically instruct another payment. You may pay for One-off subscriptions EITHER through PayPal using either a debit/card account or your PayPal account OR by Bank Transfer OR by Sterling Cheque (if drawn on a UK bank).


Recurring subscriptions will be renewed automatically at the end of the current subscription period with a new subscription for the same length of period. Payment for a Recurring subscription can be done only if you have a PayPal account as you have to instruct them to set up the subscription as a recurring one. [It is not possible to pay for a Recurring subscription by Bank Transfer or Cheque.] PayPal will act as your paying agent and, at the renewal date, they will charge your account with them automatically with the relevant fee and then credit that amount (less their collection fee) to our account with them. They will tell both you and us that they have done so. Your membership with Stirnet should then continue without interruption as you pass from the expired period into the new one.

The default setting for subscriptions is one-off (non-recurring). To obtain a Recurring subscription, on the relevant page (step 1) of the Registration & Subscription Process you have to specifically select the Recurring option. To process a Recurring subscription you will need an account with PayPal, effectively appointing them to act as your Paying Agent, authorising them to process subscriptions on your behalf until you tell them to stop. Please note that you can no longer set-up a Recurring Mandate for any period of less than a year.


A. If you do not already have an account with PayPal and want a Recurring subscription, you will have to set up an account with PayPal (see note below).

B. Our system will advise PayPal’s system that you wish to set up a Recurring subscription but you will have to confirm to them that that is what you want and that you are instructing them to make payments on your behalf until you tell them to stop.

C. We understand that PayPal process thousands of Recurring subscriptions every day and that they process these in batches throughout the day. They notify both you and us firstly when they have accepted the instruction and secondly when they have completed their processing of that instruction. When we receive the first notification, our system will activate your Stirnet Membership but, following standard practice, will do so initially for only 24 hours. When we receive the second notification, our system will complete its processing of your subscription.

D. PayPal will charge your account with the subscription price at the beginning of your first subscription period.

E. At the end of the subscription period, in accordance with the Recurring Mandate you have given them, PayPal will automatically:

– charge your PayPal account the then-current price of the same subscription package;

– credit those funds to our account with them; and

– tell us that they have done so. Our system will automatically setup/renew your subscription for the selected subscription period.
F. Should PayPal not be able to make the payment, perhaps because you fund your account with them using a bank card and that card has expired:
– PayPal will advise us of that fact and our system will not renew your subscription.
– If you subsequently fund PayPal to enable them to make the payment, they will advise us of that fact. Our system should then activate your membership and we will check that it does so. Such membership activation will have the same expiry date as would have applied had the renewal been processed without the delay.


At any time during the subscription period, you may instruct PayPal to cancel the Recurring Mandate you have given them and your subscription should not be renewed. PayPal should then advise us of that cancellation. Remember that, when it comes to paying for your subscriptions, PayPal are acting as your Paying Agent, not ours. [PayPal will never tell us any of your payment details.] When you want to cancel the renewal, you must amend the payment instructions within your PayPal Account. We cannot do that for you but it should be easy for you to do. Please remember that, as reported on the Terms of use page (in the section on ‘Cancellation, Accessibility and Refund’), should you cancel a subscription at any time, our general rule is that “No refund of all or any part of a Membership Fee will be made except at our discretion in exceptional cases.”


Note for those who do not have an account with PayPal.

– Setting-up an account with PayPal is usually very easy. A basic point to remember is that, as far as we are aware, they do not offer credit facilities so they need to have a confirmed means of recovering funds from you before they will transfer funds to anyone else (such as Stirnet). As far as we know, most PayPal account-holders either maintain a balance in their PayPal account sufficient to cover their likely needs OR provide PayPal with their debit or credit card details OR provide PayPal with their bank details.

– Setting up an account with PayPal can often be done right away but, if there is any delay, you may have to exit the Registration & Subscription Process and return when you have completed setting up your PayPal account. If that applies, you may wish to consider purchasing a one-off subscription with Stirnet now and wait for it to expire before you purchase a Recurring subscription.

– For more information on PayPal, see Collection agent – PayPal.

In point C in ‘Can you tell me more about Recurring subscriptions?’ just above, we report that we are notified by PayPal firstly when they have received your instruction to set up a Recurring subscription and secondly when they have processed that instruction. Also reported there is: “When we receive the first notification, our system will activate your Stirnet Membership but, following standard practice, will do so initially for only 24 hours. When we receive the second notification, our system will complete its processing of your subscription.” The 2-step enables you to obtain the benefits of Membership without delay, even before PayPal have completed their procedures, but reduces our exposure to the risk that something goes wrong with PayPal’s procedures. Please note that we did not specify that this should happen. It was built-in to ‘the membership system plug-in’ that we bought as its standard way of dealing with Recurring subscriptions.

Login and enter your Account. If you do not have a current subscription then (unless you have paid for one by Bank Transfer/Cheque and that has not yet cleared) you should see, to the right of SUBSCRIPTIONS, the following: “+ ADD NEW SUBSCRIPTION”. Click on that and you will be able to select a subscription package. You will then be transferred to a page titled REGISTER but, as you have already registered, all you need to do is confirm whether or not you will pay by PayPal or by Bank Transfer/Cheque.

– If you choose to pay by PayPal then, as soon as you have completed the payment, you will be treated as a Member and so be able to view the Families Database without interruption.

– If you choose to pay by Bank Transfer or (Sterling) Cheque then that fact will be noted but you will have to wait until we have confirmed that your payment has cleared before you will be treated as a Member and so be able to view the Families Database without interruption.

Generally speaking: No. Our systems do not allow that at present (though that may change in the future). If it is important for you to extend a current membership period before it expires, perhaps because you are going to be travelling away from home for a while, you may wish to consider sending us a payment by Bank Transfer (see above) and arranging with us to use the funds to extend your current membership. We are normally able to process extensions manually, when needed, but please note that there may be times when we are not able to do so.

No. Setting-up a Recurring subscription involves both you advising us that you intend to do so (so that our system can set you up for this) and you instructing PayPal to make regular payments to us. We cannot instruct PayPal to make payments on your behalf whilst PayPal cannot instruct us to accept you as a subscriber. However, all you need to do is wait for your One-off subscription to expire and then set up a new subscription, this time to be Recurring.
Yes. All you have to do is instruct PayPal not to renew your subscription when the current period expires.

The short answer is “No”. The following is part of the ‘Cancellation, Accessibility and Refund’ section within Terms of use, which everyone must have agreed to before they subscribed: “No refund of all or any part of a Membership Fee will be made except at our discretion in exceptional cases. Members will be deemed to have had adequate & sufficient opportunity to obtain, before they applied for Membership, such assurance as they required or may require that this site contained information which was likely to be of interest to them and that they are/were able to receive & operate this site in a way that is/was acceptable to them. Stirnet is not able to provide such assurance and accepts no obligation to do so.However, we accept that people make mistakes and we do not want to be inflexible as long as we protect ourselves from people abusing our trust or causing us too much administrative inconvenience. The compromise we sometimes offer (but accept no obligation to) is that, if we receive an application to reduce a 3- or 12- month subscription to a 1- or 3-month subscription and we receive that application within 5 days of the beginning of that period, then we might reduce that subscription period and refund the difference between the relevant subscription fees.

You can login and see your Account as long as you have your Username and Password. Once there you may change your name (if you really need to!), E-mail address & Password. However, you may not change your Username. The program we use to support our Membership System follows the WordPress standard of identifying users primarily through their Username. It is fixed. If you really want to change your Username then you may ask us to cancel your existing account and start a new one for you.

If you have forgotten your Password but remember either your Username or email address, you can use the ‘Forgotten Username or Password?’ facility on the Login page to obtain an email from us that will provide you with a link to a special page in the site where you may set a new Password.


If you have forgotten your Username but remember your email address, you can use the ‘Forgotten Username or Password?’ facility on the Login page to obtain the email just mentioned above as that will identify your Username. You may but need not then change your Password.


If you have forgotten your email address but remember both your Username & Password, then just login and you will see the email address in Your Account.


If you have forgotten your Username, Password and email address, you will have to contact us directly and ask us to help you.


Both the ‘Created’ and the ‘Expires’ date are shown using the standard programming format of year-month-date.


If you have just bought a Recurring subscription and it is showing just one day, see the question on that issue above.


If you have registered an account with us and have recorded that you are paying for a subscription by Bank Transfer of Sterling Cheque which has yet to clear, your Account Profile will show Created and Expires dates according to the dates you created the account and the expected Expiry date had you completed payment on that date. When we have confirmed clearance of the payment we will start the subscription as from that date (or whatever other date we have agreed with you) and set the Expiry date as appropriate.


Registered Users who were Members when this site was relaunched on 6th March 2014 may see either that date (or the day before) or the date of the start of their previous subscription as their ‘Created’ date. On 6th March 2014, as mentioned on Launch of the site, the ‘Expires’ date for those Members was set to be the expiry date of their then-current subscriptions plus 2-3 days.


Stirnet is a British company. Our system reports time according to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). If you subscribed shortly before or after midnight either from a country other than the UK or from within the UK during BST (British Summer Time), it is possible that the day you did so will be recorded differently in our system than you expected.


Depending on location & time of year: Australia is 8-13 hours ahead of the UK; the USA are 5-10 hours behind the UK.

Our Registration & Subscription System (‘our System’) presumes that, if you use it to indicate that you intend to subscribe for Membership, you do in fact intend to subscribe.
– If you have submitted (through our System) input that indicates that you intend to pay by Bank Transfer or Sterling Cheque, there will be a period between your making that submission and our confirming that the payment has been received & cleared. During that period, the transaction will be shown in our System as ‘Pending’. When we have confirmed that payment has cleared, we will change the transaction status from ‘Pending’ to ‘Complete’ and thereby activate your account with us. For more information on this, see Payments by bank transfer or £ cheque.
– If you subscribe through PayPal, our System will be told by PayPal whether or not your payment has cleared with them. If your account with PayPal is set up to pay by bank transfer, using what PayPal term an ‘eCheque’, our System will initially be instructed by PayPal that the payment has not been completed so the transaction will be shown in our System as ‘Pending’. PayPal will advise our System when payment has cleared and our System will then automatically change the transaction status from ‘Pending’ to ‘Complete’ and so activate your account with us. For more information on eCheques, see ‘How does settlement through PayPal work?’ on PayPal FAQ.


I know that some people click on buttons ‘to see what happens’ but that can leave traces. If you advise our System that you intend to pay for a subscription (whether by Bank Transfer or Sterling Cheque or through PayPal) but do not complete the payment, our System will be left waiting for confirmation that payment has cleared and so may continue to show the transaction as ‘Pending’ even though you have in fact cancelled or aborted it. We may (or may not) delete such records from our System from time to time. If you would like us to remove one or more such cancelled transactions from your account, simply Contact us and ask us to do so. Don’t be shy to ask for this.


Our System keeps a record of old payments & subscriptions and reports them to people under MyAccount. If Your Account accumulates many such transactions and you would like us to clear them out, feel free to Contact us and ask us to do so. Again, don’t be shy to ask for this.

I know of quite a few people (and there are probably others) who have introduced their friends & family to the site. I operate a Referral Policy that may encourage you to do so also.