I’ve always had an interest in our family heritage, but keeping track of all that data was hard work. Since the early early days of the PC I have been looking and hoping for a well written and easy to use genealogy program.
The first attempt I used was a dBase 3 application of some sort who’s claim to fame was using soundex to match family names. Where exactly it was supposed to get the data to match and find names is still a mystery to me since BBSes were just becoming popular as modems stepped up to a speedy 1200 baud.
Through the 1990s I made a number of futile attempts with various DOS programs and a few Windows programs. Then, as I was migrating to Linux, I started looking at open source software, web applications, and anything that might work for me. Nothing really held my interest for long and exporting and importing data became harder than the old way of stuffing papers in a notebook. Somewhere along the line I gave up and quit looking. That is until today when someone pointed out Geni.com.
I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at Geni.com today and it doesn’t suck. It reminds be of a mash-up between the popular social networking site LinkedIn and Visio. Unlike Visio though, it works well on all platforms that support a browser and Flash applications. The heart of the site is the tree view complete with boxes and arrows (and a paragraph on the back of each one). Click the arrows around your box to add a spouse, children, and parents, then proceed to click their arrows to add more people. Fill in email addreses as you go and solicite some help from the people you are adding. Hopefully they will log in, update their own profile and add a few relatives.
My first impressions are that this is really the sort of program I have been looking for all these years. The interface is about as simple as it could be and still provide the features it does. I haven’t had any issues, odd errors, or apparent bugs, and performance is very nice.
I invited my parents, and they have both logged in with and helped update the tree and fix some spelling errors. We’ll see if the less computer addicted in-laws will take an interst once the wife passes some invites in that direction.
Hopefully Geni.com will stick around long enough to be of use to my children.
On the off chance that the site does not survive you can export to a standard GEDCOM format to be used or converted for use in a number of other applications. Just be sure to export frequently and store the file somewhere safe.
I’d love to hear comments from people using other genealogy applications or web sites and your experiences.