Monday, September 22, 2008

Family Trees and Social Networks out the wazoo (?)

I got the press release from MyHeritage about the acquisition of Kindo, an England based social networking site, while I was watching my Chargers win their first game of the year. So I didn't break the news, but it got me thinking (that's dangerous sometimes - note to self: no rants tonight, Randy).

As I watch the family tree and social network announcements roll in, I'm struck by how many websites of this type there are, and the fact that some providers have more than one social network and/or family tree site. For instance, MyHeritage now has their own plus Kindo; has WebTree and FamilyHistoryLink, plus two Facebook applications; Ancestry has at least four family tree databases of their own. Then there are the other family tree and social network sites, some of which I listed here back in March. Since then, ItsOurTree and FamilyBuilder have sprouted up, and I know that I missed several in my earlier post, like GeneaNet and GenesReunited.

There are really two different elements at work in this maze of family tree and network websites, as I see it:

1) Family tree oriented sites that permit searches of user-submitted family trees on their site. These sites want GEDCOM uploads, and sometimes permit researchers other than the owner to add or edit information. In general, these sites do not provide information about living people if they can help it.

2) Family network sites where family members solicit other family members to join the network and share information, stories, photographs and media about their immediate families. Some of these sites permit a GEDCOM upload, but require the owner's permission to make the information public.

Where is all of this going over the next year or two? Will there be a consolidation of these different types of family tree and/or family network web sites? Will each major genealogy database company have their own (or two, or more?). Will there be more new family network startups? I think the answer to all of these questions is YES!

What do I want in a family tree and/or family network site? I would prefer a combined family tree network web site that:

a) Allows me to upload GEDCOM files of my research, and allow me to replace them on a regular basis as I add data to my database. I really like the wiki feature at, but am not sure how added information can be saved when replacing the base family tree data.

b) Allows me to make my historical data public so that it is searchable by all other researchers, in hopes of connecting with others with family information.

c) Allows me to make living persons in my family tree available only to persons that are invited into the website by me and my trusted relatives. Ideally, the website would flag as "public" persons with a death date or older than, say, 100 years old. The rest of the individuals would be "private" unless somebody (the actual person?) made them "public."

d) On the family tree side, I want to be able to see charts (pedigree, family groups, descendants, bow-tie, etc), reports (ahnentafel, Register, NGSQ - limited to 5 or 6 generations) and lists (ahnentafel, descendants, locality summaries, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) from a pick list and one box for the information to include.

e) On the family network side, I want any of my relatives to be able to easily contact one another via email, and to make it easy for them to upload pictures, stories and media.

I didn't put in that wish list some sort of "all-the-world's family tree" because I doubt that there will ever be such a tree - mainly because of conflicts over the lack of, or accuracy of, historical and family data. I continue to think that the "Mother of All Genealogy Databases" is a pipe dream.

Maybe the wish list above is pie-in-the-sky because of bandwidth or cost issues, but I think that websites that offer "something for both sides" will be a winner in the end. So far, many of these family tree and family network sites are free to the user, but some have a GEDCOM size limitation. My opinion is that a family tree or family networking site that charges the owner or the users to start it, run it and use it is not a winning business model.

Frankly, I'm still not sure what the financial reward for any of these free-to-use web sites is - how will they make money to at least support the costs of the programming, maintenance and the site servers? The things that come to mind are database website advertising, quality family history books and photo albums, etc. I'm sure others have more imagination than I do.

What do you think?

What websites combine the best features of a family tree site and a family network site?

Do family network sites really "work" once the initial enthusiasm has worn off?

What is your favorite family tree and/or family network site, and why?


Jean-Yves said...

GeneaNet offers all of those features and much more!

I must say that GeneaNet not as friendly as some other genealogy websites but it's the most complete online software for genealogists.

familytwigs said...

Most of the sites will simply fade into the sunset. That's a good thing. The strong, good ones will survive. Geneanet has been around a long time. I don't like it. I want to smack people when I've tried to find my way around it for a while. It used to only take the Euro for the upgrade, but I don't know if that is still true.
I know where my Hoosier wazoo is but just where is a West Coast wazoo located? 8^)

Thomas MacEntee said...

I am hoping that all of these sites do some consolidating and some just whither and die within the next two years.

Many of the sites I visit seem to simply mimic each other without "adding value." Others are just half-baked like the new Footnote Pages - it is frustrating not to have a GEDCOM upload feature. I am having serious doubts as to renewing my Footnote subscription since I can seem to find much value and much of the research available overlaps my other subscriptions.

Abba-Dad said...

I just posted about the same thing. I completely agree with you that charging users to host their family data is not going to work. I think they will all end up consolidating somehow.

I think MyHeritage is a terrific tool. If you use the offline application then it will synch up to the web tree automatically, so you don't have to worry about uploading GEDCOM or doing a manual synch. And it does everything else you mentioned you would like. But if you go over 1000 people in your tree you need to pay and that's just not going to happen, right?

I loved the post title. Made me think of this: