Wired, March 1, 2018
By Megan Molteni
IN THE LAST 20 years, genealogy websites have attracted more than 15 million customers by promising insights into your past. Maybe you’ll uncover a secret infidelity or be reunited with a long-lost cousin, like when Larry met Bernie on Finding Your Roots. It’s deeply personal, affecting stuff. But when your family tree contains thousands, millions, even tens of millions of people, it’s no longer a personal history. It’s human history.
When commercial genealogy and social networking website Geni.com launched in 2007 it aimed to create a “family tree of the world.” Today, amateur genealogists have created more than 115 million individual profiles on the free site, linking them together by marriage or birth when they can. Recently, the company allowed scientists from the New York Genome Center, Columbia, MIT, and Harvard to scrape these crowdsourced public records into family trees the size of small nations. Their analysis, which was published today in Science, includes the single largest known family tree, containing 13 million people (one of whom, spoiler alert, is Kevin Bacon).