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Launching Geni's World Tree - A Retrospective

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Did you ever wonder how Geni got started and how we got all the way from there ... to here?

The aim of this project is to recreate a picture of those heady halcyon days of heart-stopping all-nighters by the original hyper-charged Geni Cast team, and members whose vision, indomitable confidence, collaboration and faith created our Big Tree whose labyrinthian vines, roots, and pedigreed branches have proliferated, poised to ultimately unite the whole world!

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Early Years Anecdotes

quote_start.gifEarly September 2007, I found Geni an infinitely vast virgin field of individual bean stalks reaching up to fertilize the ancient heavens. My debut into the baffling "Big Tree" maze evolved through an opportunistic merge of a venerable rabbinical ancestor into the amazingly rich complex tree of CRSJ a beautiful young, vivacious red headed, French genealogist. 'quote_end.gif

quote_start.gifMy spindly beanstalk had suddenly joined a bucolic lush forest of trees that was rapidly converging into the history making "World Family Tree". It was an eye opening, and philosophically transforming moment----suddenly it was possible to trace connections outside my immediate family, find links between all peoples---"Six Degrees of Separation" was a theory no more, but a true possibility. All mankind was indeed one big family!quote_end.gif-------MM

Some Early Big Tree Collaborators (2007 - 2009)

Amos, Mike Stangel, Noah Tutak, Margaret Verner, Scott Hibbard, Flemming Funch, Terry Jackson, Henn Sarv, David Kaleita, Bjørn Brox, Jesper Holm, Randy Stebbing, Pablo Benítez Barreto, Yigal Burstein, Jadranka S, Kris Stewart, Jenna, Daniel Loeb, Flip L, Erica Isabel Howton, Malka Mysels, Mauritz Preller, Peter Corbasson lll, Victar Mas, Shiri Cohen, Howie Kaye, João Simões Lopes Filho, Ernesto Álvarez Uriondo, Agnus Wood Salomon, Lars Söderström, Carlos Federico (Cantarito) Bunge Molina y Vedia, Maria E-Z, Shmuel Kam, K. Anderson, Anne M Berge, Martin Eriksen, CRJS, Gene 4, Pam Wilson, Geoffrey Trowbridge, Myrna Huthmacher, Beth Gern, Douglas Nimmo, Randy Schoenberg, Lúcia Pilla, Catherine E. Spiceland, Hatte Blejer, Ric Dickinson, Heather, Peter Trefilov, Ofir Friedman, Laszlo Farkas, Sharon, Robert Lockwood (RIP)

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rotating_world.gif History of the Geni World Family Tree

Geni pioneers, please feel free to add any anecdotes, and reflections of those early groundbreaking days.

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Geni Timeline

January 16, 2007 Geni Launches! (from Geni Blog, see also press release)

Hi and welcome to Geni, a new website with an ambitious goal: to create a family tree of the whole world!

You can start creating your family tree on our homepage through (what we hope is) a fun simple interface. It’s extremely fast to build your tree by clicking the yellow arrows in the direction you want to add new family members. As you’ll notice, there is no software download required, no lengthy signup process, and no fees.

There is another key advantage of Geni: When you add a relative, you can also enter his or her email address. In that case your relative will receive an email inviting him or her to join your tree. By clicking a link, your relative will be taken to the same family tree you’ve been working on, but re-centered from that relative’s point of view.

Your relative can then add other relatives, and so on. Your tree will continue to grow as relatives invite other relatives. Whereas conventional family trees show only your direct ancestors, your Geni tree includes siblings, spouses, cousins, aunts and uncles, and their families. The hope is to identify not just your common ancestors but all your living relatives and in-laws. This makes Geni different from the many great genealogy sites which already exist.

Once you’ve built your tree, you can create an individual profile which allows other relatives to learn more about you and stay in touch. Over time Geni plans to layer on additional family networking features like photo sharing so you can stay in touch with your family network.

We know that privacy is extremely important whenever family is concerned. So we’ve set a rule that the only people who can see your tree and your profile are the people in your tree. Over time, Geni will roll out more specific privacy settings so you can determine exactly who sees your information. We know this will only become more important as trees get larger.

Many other features are in the works and will be introduced in the coming months. For instance, we know you want to be able to print your tree in a high-quality way! And when separate trees start to overlap, we will want to give you the option of merging them....

We hope you enjoy Geni!

David Sacks, CEO

January 18, 2007 Geni Blog Update

Thanks for bearing with us while we add more capacity and improvements. As requested, here’s an update on how we’re doing.

Last night we set up several more webservers, so Geni should be performing much better for you today. (There have been a few hiccups this morning, and we’re ironing those out now.) We’re also working to address your most pressing issues, based on the feedback we’ve received. For example, this morning we added support for accents and other non-Latin characters, which was one of the top early requests. Among the items we’re either evaluating or working on right now:

  • Importing family data
  • Adding unmarried partners
  • A better way to add same sex partners
  • Better support for adopted children
  • Merging duplicate family trees created independently by relatives in the same family
  • Better deletion features for the tree and list view
  • Support for people who show up in the tree more than once (multiple marriages between two families)
  • Printing family trees
  • International keyboard support

January 20, 2007 Same-Sex Marriages, Unmarried Partners, and Diverse Family Structures (Geni Blog)

A number of users have inquired whether Geni supports same-sex marriages, unmarried partners, or families which bring together children from previous relationships.

1. Geni trees do support same-sex marriages. When spouses are added, their default sex is the opposite of their partner. But this default can be changed by clicking "edit info". We are working on a simpler way to add a same-sex marriage.

2. While unmarried partners can be added to the tree, they do not have their own label as of now. We will introduce the "partner" designation shortly.

3. Geni trees do support families that include children from previous relationships. To add a half-sibling or step-sibling, we recommend that first you add all the parents, then add the siblings. Geni will prompt you to choose the parents for each sibling. If you added the sibling before the parents (so Geni assumed it was a full sibling), you can make the correction by clicking "edit info".

In summary, our goal is to make Geni flexible enough to accomodate many different kinds of families.

January 21, 2007 Tree Merging and Gedcom Importing (Geni Blog)

Many users have requested the ability to merge trees and import a Gedcom file. It is our intention to offer both these features. However, our timeframe is 2-3 months. Why so long? Tree merging requires us to give you the tools necessary to resolve conflicts and eliminate redundancies in trees; also greater privacy controls will accompany large trees.

Gedcom imports will follow afterwards as a special case of tree merging, where we give you the ability to merge a Gedcom tree with your existing Geni tree.

In the meantime, what should family members do when they have started multiple trees? You can work separately, expecting to unite the trees down the road. Or you can decide to work on just one tree for now, joining the other tree with a different email address.

Please know that we are working as fast as we can to keep up with growing traffic, fix the issues you’ve identified with the site, and layer on new and exciting features.

February 20, 2007 New Features & Fixes

Geni's first major release since we launched just over a month ago.

Family Tree

  • Easier removal of mistakenly-added family members, via the "x" icon
  • More arrows for adding parents of relatives
  • International keyboard layout support
  • A new Edit Info dialog box, with frequently edited data on first tab
  • A new field for display name on the Edit Info dialog
  • A new Partners tab on the Edit Info dialog, with fields for marriage dates, locations
  • A circa checkbox for birthdays and other dates on the Edit Info Dialog
  • A county field for marriages and other events
  • A new photo upload interface
  • Easier entry of same-sex marriages/partnerships
  • Better support for partners, not just spouses
  • Better support for long names
  • Increased size for the text used to display relatives’ names, as well the title of the family tree
  • Smarter display of "extra" people (placeholder nodes for parents and spouses)

Profile

  • A new profile editing system, with more room for all controls
  • Convenient in-place replies to comments on your profile
  • All the same new fields as described above for the Edit Info dialog box in the Family Tree
  • Support for multiple high schools/universities/etc.
  • Performance
  • Optimized complex requests, for faster display of the family tree and family list

March 2007 Geni Roadmap, new financing, Geni Help and Geni Forum introduced, GEDCOM export (alpha feature)

Geni announces that it has raised $10 million in additional financing from venture capital firm Charles River Ventures (CRV).

Geni’s roadmap:

  • FAQ’s
  • A Forum for users to discuss Geni issues
  • More privacy settings
  • A way to support various relationships (brothers marrying sisters, adoptions and more)
  • Printing and importing files
  • Support of other languages

A blog announcement on March 8: We are working to allow exporting to GEDCOM files and other family tree data. This is on our road map along with tree merging. Neither of these will be rolled out immediately as there are many considerations that must be incorporated in these features. For instance, tree merging requires us to give you the tools necessary to resolve conflicts and eliminate redundancies in trees; also greater privacy will accompany large trees.

June 12, 2007 Update on the largest trees

Almost three months have passed since we last gave a list of the largest Geni trees, so here is an update:

  1. 1 Tree: 13,227 profiles
  2. 2 Tree: 11,396 profiles
  3. 3 Tree: 7,546 profiles
  4. 10 Tree: 5,149 profiles
  5. 100 Tree: 1,685 profiles
  6. 200 Tree: 1,194 profiles

June 21, 2007 Introduced Geni Inbox to enable messaging between family members

June 23, 2007 New Feature – Search Outside Your Tree

We have added a new feature to Geni to help you find and connect with your family. You can now search for other Geni users and profiles outside your family tree. Simply search for a name using the same search box you already use you will now see two tabs – Search results ‘In Your Tree’ and ‘Outside Your Tree’.

July 2, 2007 5 Million Profiles in 5 Months

Today we announced that out users have created over 5 million profiles since our launch in mid-January just 5 months ago. With the combination of our growing index of names and our new ‘Search Outside Your Tree’ feature, we continue to work hard towards our goal of creating a Family Tree of the whole world.

August 2007 Release of Geni User Wiki

September 19, 2007 New Features – Group Messaging and More

Group Messaging

  • My Immediate Family – Your current spouse or partner and your parents, siblings, and children
  • My Family – Your third cousins and closer and their current partners and your current partner’s second cousins and closer and their current partners
  • My Friends – All of your Family Friends
  • Immediate Family of… – The person you select and their parents, siblings, and children
  • Descendants of… – The person you select and their direct descendants

Messaging users outside your tree

October 3, 2007 New Features – Faster Trees and Better Relationships

We have made some behind the scenes changes to the site that should improve performance for larger trees. Because of these optimizations we have been able to make the following enhancements:

  • Blood Relative Count – The User Stats on your profile now includes a count of your Blood Relatives and your Inlaws. These are also available in a list view.
  • Relationship Limitations – The limitations on cousin and grandparent relationship descriptions has been removed (the limit was third cousin twice removed and 30th great grandparent).
  • Step Relationships – Step relationships are listed as step only if you include them in your Immediate Family. If you remove them from your Immediate Family, the relationship is listed as the path from you to them.
  • Immediate Family – The Immediate Family of an unclaimed profile can be edited.
  • Partner Relationships – Selecting the correct partner description is easier. ‘Late Spouse’ has been removed from the partner descriptions (all partners and spouses are either current or ex) and we intelligently determine late, widow, and widower relationships.
  • List View – List view includes full relationships for every person listed.

October 31, 2007 10 Million and counting…

We are pleased to announce that there are now over 10 Million Profiles on Geni! These profiles were created by our 750,000 (and growing) users, who continue to build out their trees, invite family members, and document their family’s history on Geni.

Here is an update on the size of top 100 trees:

  1. 1 Tree: 19,696 profiles
  2. 2 Tree: 19,139 profiles
  3. 3 Tree: 18,340 profiles
  4. 10 Tree: 10,002 profiles
  5. 100 Tree: 3,545 profiles
  6. 200 Tree: 2,433 profiles

January 3 2008 New Features – Share Your Tree

Many of our users have asked for additional ways to share their Geni Tree with others. In addition to printing your tree and inviting your relatives to join your tree, there are now three new ways you can share your tree: GEDCOM Export: You can export your tree as a GEDCOM file.

April 2008: Geni staff started merging live trees on an on-demand basis, mostly Geni employees merging with cousins/whomever who had started their own trees

May 2008: Geni staff let the Geni Forum users know that staff could do merges with email approvals from both sides: see "Feature Preview: Tree Merging" announcement by CEO/President David Sacks on Geni Forum at http://forum.geni.com/topic.php?id=13701:

i'm pleased to say that merging is now available if you contact customer service. better yet, we are close to making the feature directly accessible on the website so you can do it yourself. the experience is really neat. here is the process:

first, you have to indicate that two nodes in different trees are in fact the same person. currently this can only be done via our admin tools. but in the near future, any user will be able to do this by sending a regular tree invite. when an invitation is accepted by a user in another tree, the merge process begins.

once a user is identified as being in two trees, their nodes are combined, and we will ask the user to identify and resolve any redundant nodes around them. actually, this feature already exists: "move this person" is an action in the tree that allows you to drag-and-drop duplicate nodes on top of each other, resulting in a flow where you can identify other duplicate nodes.

once nodes have been identified as duplicates, their profiles become linked, and the data can easily be merged into a single profile. in my case, both profiles had a ton of data (including photos, events, comments, etc), and the single merged profile didn’t lose any of it. credit for this goes to Mike, our lead engineer on merging, who is frequently on these boards answering questions or resolving bugs.

we will release this feature as soon as we finish the request system described above in step one. (in the meantime, customer service can do this step for you if you ask them.) I know we’ve been promising merging for a long time, but having just used it successfully, I can say that the end is in sight!

May 8, 2008 New Feature – GEDCOM Import

May 15, 2008: Geni user James Griffin requested to merge his imported GEDCOM with his existing tree -- that may have been the first time Geni merged a GEDCOM file/tree into another tree.

June 3, 2008: First profile merge between users

David Lee Kaleita and Scott Hibbard engaged in a "live tree-merge experiment" to merge duplicate profiles of their common ancestress http://www.geni.com/people/Elizabeth-Morrill/6000000000235241538. On June 2, David wrote to Scott, "Hi Scott. I've been expanding my tree of Morrills, and just reached my first Hibbard: Elizabeth Morrill (Hibbard) (b.1746 - d.1808), husband of Abel Morrill (b.1743 - d.1829). The profile in your forest is at: http://www.geni.com/profile/index/362799631050012845. The profile in my forest is at: http://www.geni.com/profile/index/6000000000235241538. Let me know if you are interested in an attempt at a tree merge. Sincerely, David Kaleita." The next day, Scott replied: "I sent my OK for Mike/Noah to merge with your hibbard profile, so I think they'll send you an email to make sure you're OK with it..." and soon after that, another message: "I just sent you an email with Keith's (Geni team) comments. It seem that if you email him back they can start the merge!" After the merge was completed, David replied "WOW!! 'You are connected to 16015 people on Geni.'" And the rest, as they say, was history.

July 23, 2008 Geni Blog announced New Feature – Tree Merging

When you invite someone to your tree who is already part of another tree on Geni, they can now choose to merge their profiles into one profile. Once these profiles have been merged, they can use Geni’s conflict resolution tools to merge any other nodes that were duplicated on each tree, creating one family tree that is more complete and accurate than the individual trees. Because Geni is a collaborative environment, everyone in your family benefits from this process.

Tree Merging When you add an email address to a profile (whether creating a new profile or editing an existing one) we check to see if that address is already used on another Geni tree. If it is, a merge request will be sent to the person asking if they would like the profiles to be merged. This invitation works just like the regular invitation process, only you will be bringing along the other profiles in the existing tree as well.

  • Tree merges are only initiated when someone on one tree invites someone on another tree to join their tree.
  • The person invited can choose whether or not to accept the invitation.
  • Trees are only merged when approved by someone in each tree.

Profile Merging Along with tree merging, we’ve made the following enhancements to profile merging:

  • The secondary profile is automatically deleted if none of the data conflicts with the main profile
  • Data conflicts are now presented in a table. You can individually select which value to keep, or skip a field to leave the data conflict for another time
  • The buttons for completing or undoing a pending merge have been renamed to describe more clearly what they do.
  • Previously you would have received a permission error if you tried to resolve a conflict in the tree (the yellow triangle icon) and you did not have permission to merge a nearby relative. Now you can enter the merge flow even though you can’t merge into profiles without the proper merge permission. You will see a padlock on any profile you don’t have permission to merge into.

Future plans:

  • Merge your GEDCOM file directly into your existing Geni tree.
  • Invite "disconnected" relatives. If you want to invite a relative to Geni, but don’t know exactly how you’re related to them, this feature will enable them to join the site and start building their tree. When you two finally bump into each other, we’ll merge the trees.
  • Automated merging and automated merge completion. Who wants to deal with 1,000 merge issues?
  • Matching by name. You mean you’re related to Charles de Gaulle too? Put ‘er there, cousin! Before we enable this we need to make sure that you can have 50,000 blood relatives without degrading performance.

October 9, 2008 Enhanced Privacy, Search, and Events

Privacy. Geni protects the privacy of your information by restricting who can see your profile. By default, only your Family Group and your Family’s Family can see your profile. No one outside these groups can see your profile. If you want your profile to be publicly visible, you can change your search settings.

Search results are now divided between profiles “Connected to You” and “Not Connected to You”:

December 19, 2008 New Pro Feature: Enhanced Relationship Paths

Geni Pro members can discover their exact relationship to any blood relative on Geni with new Enhanced Relationship Paths. For less than $5 a month Geni Pro members enjoy these benefits:

  • Enhanced Relationship Paths – Discover your exact relationship to any blood relative on Geni.
  • Forest GEDCOM Exports – Export your family tree and all connected trees into a single GEDCOM file (up to 100,000 total individual and family records).
  • Priority Support – Geni Pro users receive faster response from a dedicated Priority Support queue.
  • Geni Pro Badge – Identify yourself as a Geni Pro to family members and genealogists. Your Pro Badge is visible on your profile and in your family tree

February 5, 2009 New Features: Increased Privacy on Geni

Privacy online is very important, especially for children. We've made a couple of enhancements to improve your family's privacy on Geni:

Child Privacy New Child Privacy settings give you control over the profiles you manage for those under 13 years of age. You can restrict the viewing and editing of their profile. Profiles for those under 13 are never included in search results, and only their relatives and their inlaws can find their profiles from the tree.

Family Group Your Family Group consists of the relatives that you want to stay in touch with. This is the group that you will share news, photo albums, and birthdays with. We've reduced the default Family Group from your 5th cousins and closer to your 3rd cousins and closer.

March 27, 2009 Geni Pro Accounts Now Available!

Geni users have added a wealth of information about 50 million of their relatives. Pro account features give users a fundamentally new way to access and view this information. Advanced Search enables Pro users to target their research and discover new branches of their family tree. Tree Statistics gives users a fascinating new way to learn about their family history. For less than $5 a month you also get enhanced relationship pathways, priority customer service, and more!

Pro Account benefits include:

  • Tree Statistics: Comprehensive statistics for insight into your family history
  • Advanced Search: Search over 50 million profiles by immediate family, location, date and more
  • Enhanced Relationship Paths: Discover your exact relationship to any blood relative on Geni.
  • Forest GEDCOM Exports, Pro Badge, Priority Support and more!

Pro subscriptions are available now for $50 annually or $4.95 when billed monthly.

April 2009 Profile Hot Matches, Matches on New Profiles

April 30, 2009 New Pro Feature: Collaborators Geni is designed to help users collaborate with each other on building a shared family tree. When you find a profile that you'd like to collaborate on, you can send the manager a request to collaborate. If the manager accepts your request, you will be able to:

  • View and edit the unclaimed profiles they manage
  • Merge duplicate profiles together
  • Correct relationships in the tree

May 2009 Tree Hot Match and Search Enhancements

June 12, 2009 Merging & Collaboration Enhancements Confirm match from similar profiles A few weeks ago we added the ability to merge profiles directly from the hot matches list. This option was only available when you managed or were collaborating with the manager of both profiles. Now you can merge directly from the hot matches list as long as you have edit permission on one of the similar profiles. If you only have permission to edit one profile, a request will be sent to the other manager to complete the merge.

Personal messages when requesting to collaborate You can now add a personal message to collaboration requests. Use this message to explain why you are sending the request, what profiles or branches of your tree you have in common, or just to introduce yourself!

Hot matches in list views Hot matches now appear in all list views. Underneath the name of any profile with matches you will see the number of similar profiles and a link to view them.

Merge Issues list Your merge issues list now includes profiles managed by your collaborators. This will help you find additional merge issues that you can resolve. The most relevant merge issues will appear first in the list.

Introducing Shared Profiles A shared profile is a profile where:

  • Anyone can find and view the full profile
  • The profile’s family and the manager’s family and collaborators can edit the profile

July 8, 2009 New Feature: Hot Matches List September 11, 2009 New Enhancements: Sharing & Merging

Merging The View Profiles link for pending merges in your merge issues list now uses the new side-by-side format. This allows for faster merging with better verification to help you get through those mere issue quicker.

Sharing Shared profiles are historical and famous profiles that anyone can find and view. Your family and collaborators can edit any profile you share. Sharing a profile helps the Geni community find and merge around common ancestors.

Anytime you add a new profile to the tree you now have the option to make it a shared profile. When you add a profile outside of your maximum family group (your default family group plus inlaws connected through ex's) it will be shared by default. You can uncheck the Share This Profile setting if you don't want to share that profile.

You can also share all of the profiles you've previously added outside of your maximum family group in one click. Look for the Share Profiles button on your manage profiles settings page.

This will only share profiles that you manage This will not share the profile of anyone who has joined Geni or been invited to Geni This will not affect any close relatives (fourth cousins and closer) You can not undo this bulk change, but you can individually unshare profiles

October 15, 2009 Merging Enhancements

Improved Pending Merge Interface Pending profile merges now use the newer side by side format. Multiple pending merges will all appear at the bottom of the merge page so you can quickly resolve multiple merges. When you act on one pending merge the next one will automatically load for review. Use the carousel of pending merges at the bottom to jump ahead to a specific pair.

Better Conflict Permissions The Tree Conflict icon now only appears when you have permission to resolve the conflict. On the conflict resolution page you can now initiate a merge on any profile that is not private.

More Enhancements Profile names will now display the collaborator icon when you have collaboration rights to the profile. This is helpful when you are collaborating with an editor but not the profile manager.

Managers no longer lose editor rights when they transfer management of a profile. The name of the manager that will retain management rights appears in bold on side by side merging pages.

November 13, 2009 Improved matching algorithm

December 16, 2009 New Geni profile design

New Feature: Public Discussions Geni is designed to be a collaborative genealogy tool, enabling users to work together to build out their family trees. Today we're releasing a new feature, Public Discussions, to help you find and communicate with other users. Because anyone can view and participate in Public Discussions, you can easily tap into the combined knowledge of millions of Geni users around the world.

Announcing Geni Labs (with Language Translation)


February 2010 Introduced Documents (February 5th) In this release, we provided Geni users the ability to upload source documents to the site. We support many formats, and we provide a free and easy way for you to upload historical documents and tag your appropriate family members and ancestors in those document.

April 2010 Introduced Sources An extension of documents, sources allows you to cite a document as a specific source for a genealogical event. Sources are a vital part of genealogy, and we will be making significant enhancements to this feature in 2011.

Updated privacy on Geni.com: Private vs. Public Profiles We recently updated the way privacy works on Geni. Under the new system, profiles you've added — out to your third great grandparents and fourth cousins — have become private profiles. Private profiles are profiles that only your family and friends can view. They are not included in our public search index, and only your family can edit them. For most users, this provides greater privacy for their close relatives.

May 24, 2010' Merging Enhancements The following merging enhancements were released today:

Merging private profiles The privacy of private profiles is very important to us. We realize that many of our users are not comfortable revealing private information about their close relatives to the larger Geni community. These enhancements are designed to make it easier to merge private profiles without violating anyone’s privacy.

When requesting a merge on a private profile, you now have the option to send the merge request to any of the profile’s close relatives or the managers’ family group that are also in your family group. This is designed to help work around less responsive profile managers.

You can also opt to include a family group request when sending a merge on a private profile. If the manager accepts, you will have permission to merge any of the surrounding profiles they manage.

We’ve also made it easier to contact the manager of private profiles before you request a merge. When you have view permissions on a profile, you can now click through to any profile in their immediate family. This means, for example, if a public profile has a private profile in its immediate family, you will be able to click through to that private profile to contact the manager, send a management request, etc.

Also, you can now contact the manager of a private profile in the tree through its more menu. Finally, in the conflict resolution window, you can mouse-over a private profile to see the manager’s name and click through to their profile.

Resolving merge requests These enhancements are for our users who receive large numbers of merge requests.

If you are working with a collaborator that you trust, you can choose to automatically accept all merge requests from them. Click the Auto-accept Requests link next to each trusted collaborator’s name on your collaborator settings page.

Next time they request that you complete the merge, it will be completed immediately without any action on your part. You will still see a record of these merges in your requests history folder.

Reviewing merge requests is faster now too. First, use the new request type filter on your requests inbox to view only your merge requests.

You’ll notice a column of checkbox to the left of your merge requests. Select all of the requests that you’d like to review (or use the select all checkbox) and then click the Compare Profiles button at the bottom of the page. This will walk you through the entire series of merges – you can approve or reject each one – and then take you back to your list of merge requests. This makes reviewing merge requests much faster.

A few more enhancements:

  • You can now send multiple requests to merge the same profiles. If you’ve sent a request to the manager, for example, and they haven’t responded after a few weeks, you can send a request to a common collaborator as well. Hint: you can review your open requests here.
  • You can now edit and merge public profiles that are your close relatives.
  • A Tree Matches tab appears on all profiles with matches.

June 2010 Introduced Translation While we’re based in Los Angeles and most of us speak English as our primary language, we understand the importance of internationalization much more than the average company. Many of our Curators and power users read, write and speak a language other than English, and ancestry is global by nature. Our translation software (tr8n) ranks among our proudest achievements. Upon release of this feature, Geni was translated into twenty different languages within a matter of weeks. That is a crowning achievement, and we take our hats off to the community for all of your help!

July 2010 Introduced Revisions [beta] In our attempts to turn Geni into a Wikipedia-like resource for genealogy, this was a major step forward. Revisions provide so much necessary information and context, and this feature has proven invaluable time and time again. Not only do revisions “keep everyone in check”, but they also provide a new discovery method for collaboration and research. To put it mildly, our development strategy has been very focused around these sorts of tools, and you can expect a lot more features in this vein in the new year.

Note: Revisions were launched as a Pro-only feature, and were released to all users on August 19th.

August 2010 Introduction of System of Curators and Merge Center

Curators (August 19th)

Wikipedia has Administrators; Geni has Curators. Our first five Curators: Bjørn Brox , Anne Berge , Shmuel Aharon Kam , Henn Sarv ,Gene , began their duties on August 19th, and Erin Spiceland , David Kaleita , Lúcia Pilla , Mihály László Farkas , Pam Wilson , Terry Jackson , Rehan Allahwala , joined them by September. Within a short period of time we expanded to more than fifty Curators, and the response has been tremendous. The efforts of our Curators have been far beyond expectations, and we think we have a pretty great thing going right now. (Full updated chronological list of curators will be appended shortly).

As Geni continues to grow, Curators will be the staples of our community. From effort to passion to shared knowledge, we feel privileged to work beside some of the best and brightest genealogy collaborators in the world.

Merge Center

Based on feedback and site activity, we created the Merge Center to make collaboration a lot easier. A number of Geni features were rolled into a single, convenient interface that provides a much more efficient means of sorting through the inherent issues of a shared family tree.

The Merge Center has allowed our users to significantly reduce the number of duplicate profiles on Geni.

October 2010 Introduced Following and Projects

Following The theme around the Geni offices when we released this features was “Goodbye Friends, Hello Followers”. We like friendship a lot; but collaborative genealogy isn’t about your close friends. It’s about sharing your hard work and knowledge with the people who will appreciate it most, and help expand upon your work. Genealogy is worldwide and transcendant, and Following allows any Geni user to stay abreast of her interests. This feature was met with some resistance, but we truly believe that following is far more important for collaboration than “being friends”.

Projects We released this feature with pride. While we know there is a lot of refinement necessary, Projects appeal to the core of individual genealogists. We created Projects as a means of uniting individuals with similar interests, and the response has been fantastic. Since the release of this feature, Geni users have created more than 16 new Projects each day on average. Projects allow for true collaboration based on interest; whether the Project is based on a surname, a genre, or something different or in between, this feature has proven useful for uniting genealogists with similar interests and lineages, and we expect it to continue to grow in a rapid fashion.

Geni’s most active users have rallied around the Projects feature, and collaboration is at an all-time high.

November 2010 Relaunch of Geni Blog, new Discussion and Project search capabilities

The Geni Blog – Relaunched

There are so many interesting things happening on Geni. We have such a large number of amazing contributors and we constantly shake our heads at the information that is surfaced. So we resurrected the Geni Blog as a means of sharing all of our amazing content with anyone who feigns interest. We have been very happy with the response to our blogging efforts, and we are committed to turning Geni into one of the top genealogy publications on the web in 2011. We hope you’re following along on a regular basis

Project and Discussion Search Based on the vast amount of information that Geni users have contributed to Projects and discussions, we enabled a search feature that allows our users to easily find information that they want to consume. Our vast set of data is constantly growing; as such, we constantly refine our features to accomodate. Our initial search offerings have provided a lot of value for Geni users, and we will continue to innovate and expand our search features in 2011.

December 2010 Many new releases

The World Family Tree Page When we realized that a Big Tree with 50 million profiles was close to realization, we wanted to provide the community with a means of monitoring their progress. So we released our World Family Tree page, which provides constant updates on the size of the Big Tree. We also added some interesting data points to highlight some more fascinating aspects of Geni. We apologize to anyone whose employers’ became suspicious of the constant data requests from this page

Surname Pages It’s barely been two weeks since we released Surname pages, and we’ve already seen thousands of updates from various Geni users. A surname is a starting point for genealogical research, and we want to provide as much information as we can to both current and potential Geni users. We expect the Surname pages to explode in 2011 as more users contribute their personal knowledge to the site.

The Geni API Demand for an API became very evident in the latter stage of 2010. The progress we’ve seen from the initial adopters is encouraging, to say the least. In fact, the first script using our API was able to put a significant dent in the number of outstanding merges on Geni. We envision some pretty creative apps and features based on our API in 2011.

Text Revisions This was a big first step towards our goal of total transparency and collaboration. To provide true and accurate collaboration tools, we must allow all users to see revisions and revert to previous versions of a text field, document, profile, or any other data point on Geni. On Geni, data is never lost; but the creation of tools to work with revisionist data is still a work in progress. Our engineers have spent countless hours in the past year creating a system where we can record every movement on Geni, and therefore empower our users to work with each of those movements. We have been developing some revolutionary technology, and we will share many more collaboration and revision features with our users in 2011. We consider this to be the tip of the iceberg.

The Big Tree statistics as of the end of 2010 Steady growth of the Big Tree has been a constant in 2010. We started the year with more than 30 million connected profiles, and that number has increased more than 60%. In fact, there’s a chance that the 50 million profile milestone will be reached before 2011 even begins! You can join us on pins and needles as we monitor the progress.

Collaborative Genealogy

Geni Collaborative knowledge building, by Curator Pamela Wilson, Faculty of Department of Communication, Reinhardt University, Waleska, Georgia, 2012

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Information still to be added: Creating a history of Geni's evolution to the Big Tree , More Early Days Reminiscenses