Family Tree 2.0
January 16, 2007 11:00 PM   Subscribe

Geni. Family Tree 2.0. [via]
posted by muckster (24 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Beta, naturally.
Snark asid, I took this for a quick spin and it seems pretty cool. The geniology software my family was using isn't an option any more, for various reasons, so this fills a niche quite nicely.
I do have to wonder what the catch is, though.
posted by lekvar at 11:19 PM on January 16, 2007

I do have to wonder what the catch is, though.


The point of any site like this is to gather information now and figure out how to use it later. You do all the work for them, then they find a way to get at least one person in each family to buy a product based on your work. Downloadable software and data, fancy wall charts, family reunion service, birth/wedding/death announcements, birthday and anniversary reminders, advice on inheritable diseases, family blog/newsletter (with ads), etc.

The "See How It Works" information doesn't show an option for gay marriages, which is odd considering how often this is in the news and how easy it would be to add such an option. Blue marries pink, pink marries blue. But it's an online app, so they just need to add the option once at Geni's gigantic data center in an abandoned cyclotron beneath the Himalayas.
posted by pracowity at 11:58 PM on January 16, 2007

The family tree as social software - so obvious I just want to smack myself. There's a possibility for some interesting connections here: I've dozens of second cousins on my mother's side that I've never met. If one of them uploaded a few family members and discovered a connection with me . . . well then we'd really have something!

The catch? Well there's lots of room for email harvesting, but I suspect they'll try to drum up subscription fees in the fashion of Flickr.
posted by aladfar at 12:01 AM on January 17, 2007

I've seen this idea implemented about a half-dozen times already in the past couple of year. It's really nothing new.
posted by chasing at 12:07 AM on January 17, 2007

What other such public family-tree sites do you know of, chasing? (Or anyone else, for that matter?)

And for the record - according to genealogy, I'm approximately President Eisenhower's twelfth cousin, twice removed. And in an astonishing coincidence, both of my brothers are, too...
posted by DataPacRat at 12:37 AM on January 17, 2007

pracowity: Same-sex marriages are possible to enter. After selecting 'Add husband' (or 'Add wife'), when you're entering data, you can change the default sex. Blue is quite free to be married to blue, and pink to pink.
posted by DataPacRat at 1:04 AM on January 17, 2007

Thanks. So you signed up? Maybe post a quick review here?
posted by pracowity at 1:11 AM on January 17, 2007

Very cool. My mom knows more about my family than I do, so she'll have to handle aunts, uncles, parents, etc.

Yes, I signed up, and yes I like it.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 1:31 AM on January 17, 2007

It would make a great nepotism tool, too. "Honey... I mean, Ms. Jones, would you check Geni to see if there are any good candidates for that opening in sales?"
posted by pracowity at 1:49 AM on January 17, 2007

I joined up and built up what I can recall of my tree. It's quite fun and intuitive. They promise more features to come. Roped in the rest of the family to fill in the blanks! Other people doing stuff for my entertainment? Sweet... (getting struck off the christmas card list for publishing my family member's email addresses on the wild-wild-web, super-sweet!)
posted by dubious at 3:41 AM on January 17, 2007

Chasing - can you share URL's? I'd be interested to see what Geni is up against.

It looks pretty neat, very Flickr-y (right down to the Flash tree mapping tool from before Flickr went AJAX-only). They need to get some basic functions ironed out; it's not immediately obvious how to delete entries if you screw up and enter your brother as your father for example.

Also they'll have their work cut out for them to develop the site to cater for all family situations.. someone already mentioned gay marriages, but also marriage between cousins, adoptions, etc.
posted by scrm at 3:53 AM on January 17, 2007

Ah, there we go: According to Geni, President Eisenhower is my great great great great great grandfather's third cousin thrice removed. Which, I think, translates into my tenth cousin thrice removed.

And, since Eisenhower's grandson married Nixon's daughter, that also makes Nixon my great great great great great great great great great uncle's great great great great great great grandson's father-in-law.

(And I'm not even an American.)
posted by DataPacRat at 4:12 AM on January 17, 2007

From the FAQ:
How will you make money?

We plan to introduce advertising. In addition, we may add premium services in the future for which we charge fees. However, the basic Geni service will always be free.
posted by pracowity at 6:24 AM on January 17, 2007

[this is good]
posted by designbot at 7:47 AM on January 17, 2007

The point of any site like this is to gather information now and figure out how to use it later

That's a load of sweeping FUD. True, has turned providing genealogical services into a moneymaker by touting unique datasets and charging high monthly fees, but there has always been a large "free" genealogical community as well.


And this is a thoroughly unnecessary slur. The LDS site is a tremendous free resource that I've used a gazillion times and never once been hit up for money or proselytization. Most of the information there comes from big databases, not the general public.

As for those competitors, there's MyHeritage and Amiglia as well as last year's JotSpot FamilySite. CogMap has also been suggested though it's more of a general tool. For family-based social networking:

Since January, nearly a dozen family-networking portals have launched in test version, including,,,,, Jotspot Family Site,, and Even Martha Stewart plans to introduce a similar social network for women to swap recipes and advice.

The rule of thumb in Web 2.0 is that your idea is probably not new or unique. Now, these Geni guys have Valley connections, so they may have a leg up on somebody in Wisconsin or what not.
posted by dhartung at 8:07 AM on January 17, 2007

Pretty cool. I've used various GEDCOM-based solutions, but never go very far because they were such a pain in the ass for me to use, let alone people like my parents, who know more actual info than I do. Anyone care to comment on this vs. other web-based services from a usability standpoint?
posted by mkultra at 8:38 AM on January 17, 2007

I'm surprised that no one has touched on the creepy-as-hell privacy concerns this raises. ... aren't we the same group that hates grocery-store "value cards"?
posted by silusGROK at 8:47 AM on January 17, 2007

I was just going to mention GEDCOM. I don't see a way to import/export.
posted by robot at 12:12 PM on January 17, 2007

SilusGROK, if you check the privacy terms on the site, they're pretty straightforward and seem on the up and up.

This is a pretty neat app, and I'm sorry I didn't think of it myself.
posted by Zinger at 3:30 PM on January 17, 2007

Still use phpGedview here, under apache, that way everyone can be working on it at the same time without synchronising headaches. Nor tied to one platform/format.
posted by lundman at 7:13 PM on January 17, 2007

I am having a blast on this site. I always wanted to do a family tree but found the logistics of it confusing on paper.
posted by thekilgore at 8:27 AM on January 18, 2007

I'm having fun with this, but it's silly of me to play with it. I have a cousin who has done all of our genealogy stuff. Still, I think I'll forward it to my mum.
posted by deborah at 2:52 PM on January 18, 2007

It is terrible for actual genealogy. Fun to play with, but just terrible. You can't enter middle names in the first entry box, so you have to go in and re-edit everything. Once you've gone several generations back from the starting point, it should automatically mark people as not living. The "maiden name" box is stupid -- women should be listed by their maiden names, generally. (Otherwise, you go to fill in their fathers' names and the app automatically fills in the married surname.) No place for sources. (Is there any record of who made which changes? My stuff is sourced but if a family member comes in and changes stuff around, will I be able to see easily what and who?) Editing birth order is slow and annoying. And no GEDCOM import, which is probably good for Geni since I have thousands of names in mine to slow down their site even more.

TNG is much better but doesn't have all the Flash bells and whistles.
posted by litlnemo at 4:10 PM on January 18, 2007

I emailed them asking about the ability to export the information and a week later they responded with:

"Thank you for contacting Geni. We are working on a way for you to print / download your tree. This feature will be forthcoming. We apologize for the delay. Thanks for using Geni!

-The Geni Family"

posted by blueberry at 11:32 PM on February 13, 2007

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