Interview with Jason Wills

Posted January 5, 2011 by Geni | 2 Comments

This week we interviewed New Zealand genealogist, Jason Wills. He is a Pro user and very active in the Geni community.

You have been using Geni for a little over a year and a half now. What brought you to Geni and how has your experience been thus far?

When I first joined Geni i was not aware of tree merging and thought it was just like any other Genealogy site so I did not at first use it very much. However once I received my first merge requests from Kristina Lee Stewart I found out the much bigger picture and was happy to get stuck in and help with merging all the various trees together. With many of the historical profiles being locked and with the removal of stacking it has become much harder to fix things now being a non-curator though.

Tell us a little about about how long you have been researching your own genealogy and how you got started doing that.

I have been researching my own genealogy since I did it for a school project when I was 15. My grandmother’s brother had done their side of the family, and my aunt had done my mother’s side of the family and I have expanded on their research. It has been a hobby for the past five years and I think it has been very rewarding discovering my origins and finding all sorts of relatives you never knew existed, some right around the corner, some on the other side of the world. But it can also be frustrating when you know that the photo of your ancestor exists but you can’t find anyone who has it.

What are your main areas of focus?

Being in New Zealand I am interested in the many pioneer families who came here. My first ancestors to arrive here sailed into Wellington Harbor in 1842 and as such I have alot of family members in New Zealand including many who have intermarried with Maori and Pacific Island families. I also have Australian convict ancestry, and some Dutch ancestry so I have done some research in those areas. My male line came from Kent in England so that is the main area I have been focusing on lately plus I am interested in the earlier Anglo-Saxons and Romans.

We see you manage over 32,000 profiles on Geni! How do you keep track of all of those? Are there any ways you think we can better organize the profiles you manage? If so, please share your thoughts.

Of these 32,000 profiles i have only added about 7,000 myself, the additonal profiles I took over from someone who had abandoned their account and their tree contained some royalty and some Wills family. I have received many requests from people to merge with these profiles I am managing and I think a good feature would be to be able to bulk transfer profiles to these people more closely related to these profiles than myself.

Which site features do you anticipate and how do you think we can improve the overall user experience on the site?

  • More tree view options, a default tree view with first cousins + direct ancestors after that making it easier to view and comprehend
  • I have recently sent my DNA to FTDNA to be tested, a DNA feature would really be appreciated in the near future. The ability to find people with genetic matches would be a great additon to the Geni
  • The ability to create a family tree PDF file thast could be printed into a book
  • The return of popular ancestors and blood relatives, I found several new family members this way
  • An improved forum with an off topic section for people who want to discuss non-Geni related things like recipes etc.
  • Make it harder for people to vandalise the big tree
  • If there was a way to stop new users adding obvious duplicates, such as auto-suggestion of merges, maybe in a pop up box
  • Permanently locking a master profile to its master profile parents making the big tree alot cleaner, rather then having to reset the parents after every merge. Big tree mess drives people away.
  • Integration of Google books with documents
  • A migration chart for your ancestors showing their movements
  • Improvement of the family map
  • Title field before the first name i.e “Sir”
  • Ability to decide who follows me
  • Ability to allow a read-only view of my tree to people who wish to see it
  • Project merging and sub projects

Is there anything else which you would like to add?

All in all Geni is a great site and continually improving which is great. It is user friendly and I like it better then every other Genealogy site on the internet.