Sunday, January 21, 2007

What about

When the site was announced last week, I admit to being underwhelmed and negative initially. Dick Eastman blogged about it, but only really shared the press release. There were some comments about how the site would not accept GEDCOMs, would have only hearsay evidence, was too slow, etc. Tim Agazio blogged about his experiences inputting data and thought he liked the concept and that it might work out OK, but perhaps it was not for real genealogy buffs.

Other comments have noted that it is intended to be a "social networking" site not unlike MySpace and other sites, and not a genealogy site.

After visiting the site and reading some of the information, and watching the short "How it works" presentation, appears to be a "family networking" site that is comparable to the, where family members have a private web site to share stories, photos, family trees, birthdays, etc.

But isn't exactly MyFamily - the heart of it is really the family member personal data input by the people in the family. Geni says that they will keep all personal data private, and that is probably the key question in everybody's minds, or it should be.

Some of you are probably wondering what Geni looks like and how it works. Here's what their Help web page says:
Geni is a website that allows families to collaboratively build their family tree. Family members can then use the tree to learn more about each other, share knowledge about common ancestors and relatives, and stay in touch with each other.

Their About Us page says:

Geni is a unique approach to solving the problem of genealogy, which is the question of how everyone is related. Geni lets you create a family tree through our fun simple interface.

When you add a relative's email address, he or she will be invited to join your tree. That relative can then add other relatives, and so on. Your tree will continue to grow as relatives invite other relatives.

Each family member has a profile which can be viewed by clicking their name in the tree. This helps family members learn more about each other and stay in touch.

Family members can also share information and work together to build profiles for common ancestors.

Geni is a private network. Only the people in your tree can see your tree and your profile. Geni will not share your personal information with third parties.

If you put email addresses of your family into the database, then those people get an invitation to join and enter their family data, and over time many people in an extended family group might share information - like photos, biographies, letters, family Bible transcriptions, etc. The kicker here is that only the family members in a group can see the information - nobody else can see it unless they are invited by a group member. And it is free.

Thinking about it, I realized this is not a bad thing - if Geni can get family members to learn about their extended family, and perhaps become interested in family history, then it's probably a good thing.

Obviously, the promoters of Geni think it will be successful - they will sell advertising and much of it will probably be genealogy-related - software, subscriptions, societies, etc. My guess is that the target market is the 18 to 25 age group - the ones really into technology, blogging, IMing, web cams, personal pages and the like. They may bring their parents and grandparents into it as a family effort, and that will probably be all to the good - intergenerational communication.

There may be a payoff for genealogy societies here - some of these people who sign up, enter data, are intrigued by the family connections, photos or documents, and enjoy their family group may become interested in genealogy research and join local societies.

I haven't decided to sign up yet - I thought I'd wait to be invited by someone. All of my extended family knows that I pursue genealogy and family history, so I'm waiting to see if anybody else starts something. How about you - have you signed up yet? If so, why? If not, why not?


Anonymous said...

I did sign up. I put in my dad's info. But then I couldn't bear to put in details about me or my (living) mother. I guess I've had too many years of training about not putting the information of living people anywhere onto the internet (even though, of course, it's everywhere) that I couldn't quite bear to go through with it. Besides, I couldn't think of anyone to email who would be excited about it. They're asking for a lot of personal data and therefore a great deal of personal trust.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure you only have to put in the personal data that you want to. Other than needing to input an email address to create a tree, I don't think any information is required to use the site.

JP said...


There is another new social family network at Please give it a try. We are under control of the strict European privacy laws!