By Dylan Staley
“Isn’t Genealogy Fun? The answer to one problem leads to two more.” – Anonymous
Genealogy, the study of one’s lines of descent or development, is often a tedious task: one must search through hundreds of documents; find certificates of birth, death, marriage, and divorce; and then compile all this information in something easy to read and understand.
That thing is usually a family tree.
Everyone knows what a family tree is. Think back to kindergarten, when your teacher had you draw a tree with your grandparents as the roots, your parents as the trunk, and you and your siblings as the branches of the tree.. It was fun, because you knew these people, and you knew how they were related (and because in kindergarten, family trees actually resembled their real-life counterparts). That’s because it didn’t seem like these people were in the witness protection program.
Tracing back you lineage farther than your great grandparents can prove difficult. By this point, those who actually know who you’re looking for will, ahem, have been put to pasture. It is then up to you to trace your lineage through the paper trail of certificates of birth and death, marriage and divorce, and even immigration records. It’s often too time consuming for the average hobbyist to research find and record all this information.
This is where using Web 2.0, the idea that the internet should be open and collaborative, comes into play. By using this ideology, building your family tree is as easy as asking someone who their mother was. Using a Web 2.0 service simulates having your family around you, and working together to fill out your family tree. As others are added, they become a part of the conversation, adding their input and helping to fill out their branch of the tree. The more people you add to the tree, the more information you have access to. At some point, you realize that you are not alone, and that your family is there to help you.
Geni is a web based family tree maker that is using the idea of Web 2.0 and collaboration to make finding your long lost relatives easier. Geni, built by some of the people that brought you PayPal, eGroups, eBay, and Tribe, allows you to work with your family members on building your family tree. So, you may not know your second great grandmother’s husband’s name, but your grandmother’s sister may know, and Geni provides the platform to allow this knowledge to travel the great distances that often separate families.
When you add someone to your tree on Geni, you can also choose to add their email address. Then, they will be able to collaborate on their side of the family tree. Just think, if all of your relatives were to map out their family trees up to their grandparents, your tree would grow exponentially.
Geni also allows you to create complete profiles on any of your family members, including dates of birth, death, marriage and divorce, and other important events; locations of birth and current residence; schools attended and more. Geni provides a simple to use interface that makes genealogy fun and simple (not to mention addictive).
Geni isn’t only about building your family tree with your family. It also provides ample methods to share other things with your relatives, such as important dates in your children’s lives, photos of the family reunion (that only half of them even bothered to R.S.V.P. for), and that video of your daughter taking her first steps. Geni provides the tools to share what’s important to you with your family, and discover just who exactly that is.
As you can see, there are numerous services designed to help you bring your family together to build a family tree. Sound off in the comments if you use one of these services and why, and any interesting discoveries you’ve made along the way.
See what others have said about Geni:
Lifehacker: Build your family tree with Geni
TechCrunch: Geni’s Quest Toward One World Family Tree
VentureBeat: Geni aims to build family tree for whole world
AppAppeal: Geni Review
CNET: Geni: Finally, Genealogy made easy