This is a software very close to my heart. Because this is the very type of program I wished I had or I wished I wrote/developed for my own use1 There is a personal reason for this.
My father has, many say, the best memory and knowledge about the relatives in our entire circle of relatives that I have encountered. He not only remembers who is related to whom, his brain has, most often than not, other details like their names, their order in the children’s queue, their education, their occupation and in some cases their history of places lived. This is huge and complex data considering that he would not have met/seen them at all – for me, unless there is a face I can not associate a name to it and remember it. And when he talks with his father-in-law (my grand father) another power house of information of his generation, the observers of the conversation not only struggle to keep pace connecting the dots but gasp in awe at the knowledge present and ease with which that is recalled. Many times it has so happened that a person meeting my father for the first time would introduce himself & within minutes from my father he would be enlightened with new knowledge of his family tree and how they are related to someone else.
As for me, I struggle to recall the name and the way they are related even though I would have met them in a function just an year ago. And those I haven’t met are hardly remembered by me. Memory, visualization and ability to recall – I am average, if not bad, at all the three.
So I had this plan of making my father fill out the tree for my reference. And the best way to do it would be on computer so that it would be easy to search, distribute, add/edit contents and most importantly to visualize. I tried using freemind, a mindmapping software, but I alone doing everything would be hugely time consuming and I dropped the idea.
Now comes Geni – a super cool application – with a very easy user interface and features. Since it is a web application, now I can get my other relatives to contribute and finally realize my wish.
Geni promises to be more than just building family tree and few social-networking features are quite fun. And that makes it sort of family-networking site. There are few issues but I hope they get resolved over time. Very prompt and helpful team responds to queries. They have an option to export the content ( which might come handy if they wish to shut down or if they wish to stop free usage – I wish neither happens), printing option – both of which I have not tried out. They have even won Webware 100 awards. Some of the improvements that are almost necessary are – making it work offline with the help of google-gears or suchlike, easy merging of two people, mail-to-all email holders/ mail to those who are editing the trees, import of the tree etc
If you are interested check the site out and let me know what do you think.
And by the way, in their forums, there is a fun topic to list which celebrity are they related to and I found one related to Ralph Waldo Emerson!! Hi there! And another topic tries to find out about the biggest family tree owner and one replies 1800 and 33000 to go !! I was pleasantly surprised to know they were researching from 1990, and that many like them are interested in family tree and archiving that in software. And I had thought there would be no takers for my program and only I had such interests!
 I had started doing a stand alone app but what I am going to talk is revolutionary compared to my idea. I even tried to use freemindmap for family tree purpose!