Let website Geni grow a family tree with a little help from you and yours

September 4, 2007

The Plain Dealer – September 3, 2007 Masthead_v2news

I’ve always wanted to work on a family tree, but I’ve never had the time for it. Now I’ve found the way: Other people will do it for me.

This may work for you too.

An online startup, Geni (www.geni.com), is bringing the social networking craze – yes, as in youth-oriented spots like MySpace and Facebook – to the sometimes stodgy world of genealogy. By building a family tree online with Geni’s free service, you can easily share your family tree with any relative who has an e-mail address. When your relatives add names and dates to their family tree on Geni, these new branches will be added to your tree, too. If you get enough relatives working on this, you can have a family tree with hundreds or thousands of relatives.

I got my wife to sign up with Geni, and within a half-hour my tree had 40 new people sprouting from the branches – with no work on my part whatsoever. When I told her about my slacker’s scheme for family-tree building, she looked at me like I was crazy. "People enjoy this as a hobby," she noted.

"I know they do," I told her. "I don’t have time for this particular hobby. I want other people to do this hobby for me."

And you may, too – though Geni is so easy to use and addictive, you will likely want to participate. Anyone who is able to check the weather online can probably fill in a bunch of names at Geni, making it possible to cobble together a detailed family history without a lot of legwork.

Calling all relatives of mine, no matter how distant or computer- phobic: If you’re reading this, e- mail me and I will add you to my family tree and invite you to join Geni.

That’s the essence of Geni. After you sign up for an account, you add family members, enter their e-mail addresses, and check a box asking Geni to invite them to join the service. Once your relatives join, they will be able to see your collaborative family tree from their perspective.

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