Erica... I think what you say is true. The well established "old family" lines have lots of research already. My Pomeroy line has already had severl editions of a genealogy book - beginning in the early 1900's and an update is in the works. It was through the Pomeroy information that my geni site became vulnerable to merges. I wasn't all that interested because quite a bit is known there already. My "brick wall" occurs when my grandfather's family came to the US in 1913 and left the family behind in Sicily. An earthquake destroyed the town in 1968 making records difficult to recover. However, I did find a nice gentleman on Facebook who went to the town registry and pulled some records for me. :)
One thing I like here on Geni is this kind of discussion of methods. I was trained as a historian and linguist and later as a computer scientist and analyst. I have figured out methods that work for me, mostly on my own, and like to hear how others are doing their research. Sometimes it validates my methods, sometimes I learn something new.
Ancestry has been great for discovering official records, as has www.jewishgen.org. The latter also has some great pages (shtetllinks) on various towns or regions, with material translated from Russian/Polish. I would have never found out about my husband's family who immigrated to Argentina from the Southern Ukraine in 1900. Intelius has helped me locate living relatives. Facebook I have also used to contact relatives. Ditto Ancestry. I have a whole new group of friends who are 2nd through 6th cousins, either through my paternal grandfather or paternal grandmother's family.
Geni saved me an enormous amount of research and even when it's wrong or jumbled, it's far enough along on my more distant branches that with collaborative research or Internet sources, I can untangle many of the issues.
Pam... my grandfathers surname was Bavetta. I haven't found a Bavetta family yet that doesn't trace their ancestors back to to small neighboring towns in Sicily - My research is about finding our common ancestor. So, I'm taking Italian lessons and doing the hard work. Check out http://www.bavettas.com I haven't updated much in awhile but work goes on behind the scenes. As for Facebook, I started "The Bavetta Genealogy Project" , joined the already established group for the small town in Sicily - Santa Margherita di Belice and have made quite a few friends who have been really helpful. So far, Geni doesn't help in this line of research.
Beth, what a wonderful web site--did you build and develop it (I assume)? Yes, I think there are many routes we can take to find our connections. That's an exciting project.
In my own similar project, I've had my Arledge Family History Project site (http://arledgefamilyhistory.org) up since 1997--it's very Web 1.0 and could definitely use an overhaul and update, but it has been a great site to attract Arledges and Arledge descendants to me. They have sent me their branches over the years and I did what Geni is doing and integrated them all into one large Arledge tree, which has really opened up so much knowledge about the family and its migrations.
About 10 years ago I uploaded the tree I had at the time to the Rootweb WorldConnect project so people could actually search it and access it, but then when Ancestry bought Rootsweb and acquired ownership of Rootsweb's trees I felt uncomfortable with the concept and took my tree down.
And then two years ago I discovered Geni and uploaded my tree to Geni so that it could become interactive. I invite all the Arledges who contact me to occupy their place on the tree, and then they can add information about their branches. I've been very pleased, since it has taken that database which was becoming a burden for me to share (since I was the only one who had access to it) and made it available to all family members.
So I think it's important to use as many types of resources as you can, since each can offer you something different and from a different angle.