Tuesday, December 30, 2008

“Digging up” some long lost relatives (Geni.com)

Well, I'm late again. This is NOT going to become a habit! (If you know me, you know that's likely going to be a lie)

I wanted to write this week about a discovery I made (alright, I was pointed to this by @TS_Elliott on Twitter). I've always had an interest in genealogy, but never had the time or ability to do it justice. That's where this discovery (alright already! She already got credit. Leave me alone!) comes in.

Check out www.Geni.com. Geni is a combination genealogy website and social networking site. Let me give you an example of how this works out by talking about my experience.

Like I said already, @TS_Elliott pointed me to this site from Twitter because we may be related (I guess she used to be a Stratton in a previous life J). So, I went to the site, started an account, and started putting my family tree in by having Geni search my Gmail account. OK, this looks familiar; sort of like Facebook or Linkedin. Same concept. Then I built the relationships of the people I added (my brothers and sisters and my dad), filled in the holes, then sent out invites to all the family emails I had. That's when the magic happened.

The next day I got an email from Geni. One of my brothers had connected with Geni and updated lots of information.

I need to make a small break here and add some information, because I'm starting to sound like a bad son and brother. I'm from a BIG family. Huge by today's standards. Five brothers, two sisters (ok, three if you count Jackie; and most of us do because she lived with us all but the first 5 ½ or so years. Sometimes sharing life experiences is thicker than blood). AND both my parents came from big families. And most of their brothers and sisters had big families. So you see where I'm going with this. As an example, when I went to my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, I had cousins come up and introduce themselves to me. Yeah, it's a big family. So, that said, it's hard for us to keep up with each other, especially since we're scattered to the four winds in the US.


OK, where was I? Oh, yeah. One of my brothers had connected with Geni and updated lots of information. I was never the organized one, so I was happy about that part. Then I started getting more emails. My daughters and my wife connected and updated their info. My mother-in-law got on and updated her family information. My daughters' in-laws got on and updated their information. My sisters got on and updated their information. Then the real magic happened. My nephew got on to Geni.

I have since learned that Shawn has been doing genealogy research on our family tree for a few years or so. He had many many generations of information in another program on his computer, but couldn't share it with anyone, and was sort of floating alone in a sea of names and birthdates. One of the many benefits of Geni is the ability to import GEDCOM formatted information into the website. GEDCOM is short for GEnealogical Data COMmunication, and is a standard for transferring genealogical information from one program to another. This is one standard in my life that has come in useful!

Geni also has some other neat features, like a Google Map of where people in your tree were born (not very interesting if you never left your home town, but interesting for some of us "far flung" folks). You can also connect your tree to other trees if you can find a link point. That's where trees start getting big. Also, each tree has "Awards " (in World of Warcraft terms they would be Achievements). I started my tree on December 18th. I've added over 200 names to the tree (Shawn added over 1000!), invited 14 people, and uploaded 5 photos. Cool stats if you're into stats (and I am).

So, to top this all off, I'm now connected to 1,347 people on Geni (and I just got an email from them saying my tree is growing!). I'm learning things about my family I remember hearing about but was too young to care about (like being a descendent of Christopher Martin who signed the Mayflower Compact and died in Plymouth Colony on January 18th, 1621 (exactly 342 years before I was born). Also that the Crocker family line was descended from English Gentry, the Cole family line descended from the Norse invasion of England, and lots of other fun facts!

Geni.com is a really cool website, with features that make it fun, educational, and a great way to keep in touch with your family (especially if it's as huge as mine is). I highly recommend it. Check it out.


Tucker said...

Oh No! I think we might be related!

Phil Stratton said...

Aren't we all related if you go back far enough?

TS Elliott said...

Funny Blog here!!! I still have to figure out exactly where our trees connect and how to attach them - I will go there and search for you and see what happens!!! lol

@TS_Elliott (Stratton)