Interview with Laura McLean

Posted February 15, 2011 by Geni | No Comment

Today, we sit down with Laura McLean. She’s been a Geni user for years, so we have a lot to gain from her thoughts.

How has documentation affected the way you use Geni? Now that more content is sourced, is it easier to tell what needs to be merged?

I’m still exploring the documentation feature. I think it’s off to a good start, but there’s a long road ahead before it reaches its full potential. Right now, I think the community could use a little more guidance on how to use it. I have, for instance, seen lots of non-primary sources, such as undocumented family trees hosted on other websites, listed as sources for profiles on Geni. This gives information the air of legitimacy, when in fact the data may be just as unreliable as information attached to profiles with no documentation at all. I think guidelines for what is and is not acceptable to be used as a source would be very helpful.

What profiles and projects are close to your heart? Why do you find them so interesting?

My most loved profiles are the ones I’ve been able to contribute to with documents from my own family. My grandmother, who passed away almost two years ago, kept all kinds of newspaper clippings and photos that have been invaluable in piecing together dates and stories and putting faces to names. Perhaps my favorite profile is my great-grandfather, Fred Elrod–I have pictures of him from age 6 all the way up through age 58!

I’m fascinated in a different way with my third-great-grandfather Daniel McLean, who came to Tennessee from North Carolina. He’s the most frustrating person I’ve ever worked on. Since I carry his last name, I’d really love to know where he came from, but I feel like I’ve exhausted all my leads. Still, the resources available to internet genealogists are getting better all the time, so I still have hope for him.

Are there any interesting genealogy finds you’d like to share with our readers? How far back has Geni helped you trace your lineage?

As with most North Americans of European descent, I can trace my lineage back to many European monarchs, and those lines go back several centuries. But honestly, I was more excited to find a connection recently with the Powhatan tribe, through a sister of Matoaka (known as Pocahontas). I have also been doing very interesting work lately on my ancestors in the Hardeman family of Tennessee and Texas, who turned out to have lots of interesting connections, including an entire branch of the family who emigrated to Brazil after the Civil War and who still have descendants there today.

If you could add one feature to Geni, what would it be? Why do you believe it would be important to users?

I think the most important feature Geni could work on would be its help section. Right now it is very difficult to use and often out of date and not that helpful. Geni is growing at a very rapid pace and adding new features all the time. The help section needs to keep pace with that so that new users aren’t left confused and disenchanted. The last thing Geni needs is more people abandoning their accounts after creating trees full of zombies! A good help section could alleviate some of that.

What does Geni offer you that no other tool does? Do you collaborate with your close family? How did they react to using Geni?

I love using Geni because it does exactly what it says on the package. It’s a collaborative genealogy without making you jump through hoops to collaborate, which can’t be said of other sites I’ve used. The community here is wonderful, and I feel like the other users I work with are really dedicated to building the most complete and accurate tree they can. It’s a little thing, but I also love being able to easily see how I’m related to other profiles on the tree. That particular feature has made my life much easier when talking to family members about my tree!

None of my close family is as interested in genealogy as I am, and they are content to pass information along to me rather than joining Geni themselves. (This arrangement works well for me since I’m a bit of a control freak about my data!) I have found many distant cousins through Geni, however, and I treasure every such connection I find.

Many thanks to Laura for giving us some insight into her experience with Geni.