Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Keeping up with Family and Wasted Time

In my family, people tend to assume that everyone knows the same things they know. But gossip is usually only that efficient when you don't want it to be. So if something happens, and I don't hear about it, I don't know that I don't know, so I don't ask, and they don't know that I don't know, so they don't tell me. And most of my relatives live far away. So I might hear that someone was divorced, for example, but not that they'd remarried. Or that they'd remarried when I wasn't aware they had divorced. I also have a plethora of cousins on both sides of the family that I lost touch with years ago.

About a month ago, I reluctantly joined Facebook for the same reason I reluctantly joined MySpace a few months earlier: a friend had posted something I wanted to see, and I had to join to see it. This post is not about Facebook or Myspace, both of which I think are a waste of time. But I want to explain how I found something more useful and enjoyable.

I never really got into MySpace. I think I must have resisted their appeals to let them search my address book for friends who were already members. Whether I cooperated more or not, I found more of my friends and family on Facebook. What a time eater! While it was nice to find out about friends I'd lost touch with, but that our mutual friends hadn't, it's all to easy to sit down to check your email and spend the next several hours searching your friends' friends to see who else you know, chatting about nothing with people you barely know, reading status updates that are mostly meaningless drivel, and taking stupid quizzes full of advertising just because your friends did.

I did run into some cousins I hadn't seen in a long time. Then I stumbled on Facebook's family tree. It stinks! It's not just the annoying ads and the endless survey questions obviously designed to target the ads and sell you more stuff, you can only add your direct ancestors or descendants. After several hours of tinkering, I still couldn't add even one brother, sister, uncle, aunt, or cousin. I mentioned this to my aunt, and she said, "Don't you know about Geni.com? Your mom posted some stuff over there."

WOW! What an improvement! I'd often thought it would be nice to construct a family tree, but there were too many family members I'd lost touch with, the ones I hadn't didn't have much time to fill me in, and even their knowledge of family history was limited. It turns out several family members have already put in information. All I have to do is fill in any missing parts I can, merge it with their trees, and we can all share information. The tree shows how we're related, but then there is a profile for each person, photo and video albums, a calendar to keep track of birthdays, anniversaries, &c., a timeline for each person's major life events, and more stuff I haven't tried yet. You can selectively import information from your address book and/or Facebook, and control who is able to view that information.

Now I'm catching up with cousins I haven't seen in twenty years, seeing pictures of their children I hadn't even heard about before, and even emailing and chatting with aunts, uncles, and cousins. We're sharing photos, including photos of earlier generations that only a few had copies of, and most of us had never seen. When families are scattered all over the world, it's nice to see a site like this bringing them together. Time consuming? Yes, but worth it!


Blogger Bob Wingate said...

Thanks for your email introducing me to Geni. I'm still working on getting my family all in...it'll take a while to locate all my source material. Then, I'll invite some relatives on to add what info I don't have or make corrections.

I can't spend too much time on it all at once. But it is fun to see all the relationships spread out.

April 3, 2009 at 9:03 PM  

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