23 January 2016

My Geni Treeee

"Geni is solving the problem of genealogy by inviting the world to build the definitive online family tree." True. Right there on their website.

" ... the problem of genealogy."

I can think of numerous, typical genealogical problems in the course of any family historian's pursuit. But I didn't know genealogy itself as a study has an unspecified, overwhelming problem that necessitates constructing a "definitive" world tree.

Apparently others do, because Geni.com and its sister MyHeritage.com are overflowing with individual contributions anxious to help assemble and define The World's Answer To an All-inclusive Family Tree (TWATAFT©). Not to forget that FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com and how many others also encourage the growing of, as they like to say online trees in the expectation that their respective efforts will mesh somehow, some day, like magnificent tectonic plates finally thundering into their ordained slots. And who knows, maybe then everlasting peace on earth won't be far behind because we will then finally recognize we are all truly sisters and brothers.

(Do the geniuses in these companies have nothing but bliss and hugs at their own family gatherings? Do they not have the drunk uncle; the mouthy grandmother; the petty criminal brother; the vicious teenager; the schizo cousin; the sullen in-laws; the hidden skeletons? You know what I mean. The old saw about never discussing controversial subjects in order to get along is something someone always does. Some family gatherings are more like an initiative for World War III instead of World Peace.)

So will those companies ultimately merge their gigantic trees with each other? Or is this a competition among them?

In a moment of weakness some time ago I joined the basic free service of Geni.com ― despite my growing aversion to public "family trees" and visions of impossibly-tangled, unsourced, unverified truthiness where the well-researched bits are lost in the glorified stew. The operating principle at the time seemed to be nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Not exactly as shown
Why did I really do it? Because ... Latvia.

What I knew was that plenty of Latvians and Estonians were sharing on Geni and maybe, just maybe, they knew something I needed to know ― hopefully breaching the walls of language and culture. Hesitantly I put my (deceased) mother and a few earlier generations online. Right away I didn't like their dating format and married females being shown with their married surname, birth surnames in brackets e.g. Liso Jurikas (Riis). If I remember correctly, Geni also wanted email addresses for these DEAD people till something in the system figured out they were offline. To show that Merriman was not my birth name, I inserted ex-husband who somehow came out as my father. This did not look encouraging for a start. My clumsy, perhaps; I can't blame Geni for everything. Or was collaboration already underway?

Soon this newbie had dozens of relatives / references to other trees from mystery submitters. In fact, every imaginable ascending relationship began showing up from well-meaning people adding to my supposed distant ancestry so what is this: my tree is only 10% complete, I'm told. And "Invite your relatives to complete your tree." Well, I don't see a HELP button to find out what will happen if I click on them. Never mind, it appears they are toiling away for my benefit regardless of any invitation. Will I see borrowed iterations coming from myself? Am I really the manager of "my" tree? If only the citations were there ...

Unlike its sister site, MyHeritage, Geni does not send me continual messages about "smart matches" to other trees whereupon I must upgrade from the free site to subscription status for access to fellow submitters and enhancements. After registering with Geni I have not been stonewalled with requests to Pay Up; I can contact the toilers. Well, okay, I do get weekly "family reports" but that is acceptable ― i.e. who has messed around done what lately. I believe MyHeritage sends similar messages to its free members but immediately blocks you from new information unless you upgrade.

It's not as if you genealogists haven't heard that whine before. Be sure to see Kerry's post on Clue Wagon. Changing horses in mid-stream seems like emotional blackmail. She said it SO well four years ago. 

Statistics: Geni says I am connected to 99,854,343 people on Geni.com and 5,000 of them are blood relatives. Dazzling, isn't it? The figure changes day to day. My tree spawns: two hundred and fifty pages of it. Glancing at page 10 of this compilation starts a zillion entries for second cousins thrice removed. Lots of unknown names in the "managed by." Dare I look at page 25? Yes. now it's third cousins twice removed. Page 49: fourth cousins twice removed. At this rate it would take me all day to reach page 250 just for idle curiosity. Plus extra time with Google translate for things that look like remarks. Just imagine if my tree were 60% complete. Or 90%.

So even on my micro level the whole concept is dazzling. Should I care if my quintuple great-grandfather's alleged great-grand-aunt's purported sister-in-law has an automatically generated relationship to me? I didn't sign up for a full-time job policing outta control floods of repetition (did I?) as coattail hybrids join the fun. It's a challenge to my preference for sharing prolonged and often painful research in traditional narrative (old-fashioned?) ways. But less stressful my way! 

I observe my weekly reports and the exponential explosion with a weary wary eye. do want to love all the toiling genies but I'll pretty much stick to my way. If you should find my Geni tree don't believe a thing you see. There are other ways to create and share a tree privately. Just as I'm wondering what I wanted to say here wrapping this up, I found she did it again (where was I when the email notice came?). Viva Kerry.

Next family reunion: let's get on with the peace and love.


~~ Posts to be resumed, hopefully, once a residential move is completed. ~~

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman