07 October 2007

Are We Related?

An exciting thing is happening soon with FamilyLink. FamilyLink is a social networking tool for genealogists, and it is owned by World Vital Records. The people who are in the World Vital Records demographic generally have no idea what "social networking tool" means, even if we try to explain it as "Facebook for genealogists." For most of the people who do genealogy, Facebook is something their kids and grandkids use. We usually end up explaining FamilyLink as "a way to connect with other genealogists. You can find people searching the same surnames or localities as you, and you can find people who live in the areas where you are researching. You can also upload GedComs and pictures and share them with your families and friends."

To help promote FamilyLink, our CEO, Paul Allen, has really been pushing for the development of Facebook applications. Some time last week we launched the MyWill app which is really just a fun application where you can bequeath your belongings to your friends.

The app we're launching this week is much more exciting. It has a couple of major features. One is that it will allow you to go through all your friends and select the ones you are related to. You indicate how you are related. If they are using the app, then it will show you images of their family members and suggest that you might be related to them as well. This is a great feature because you may have cousins on Facebook that aren't on your "Facebook friends" yet. I started using the app on Wednesday, and then Eric added it on Thursday. As soon as he added me as a family member, he could see all the people I had added as my family members. He found about three cousins that he didn't have has friends. It was really cool!

The really cool, but rather complicated feature is that it will allow you to upload your family tree (in digital format, this is called a GedCom) and compare it with your friends to see if you are related. This will be especially cool among BYU students where so many people's ancestors can be traced to the early Mormon pioneers. I'm sure there are oodles of people who are distant cousins and don't even know it.

The biggest problem we can see is that most people won't have any idea where to get a GedCom that has their name in it. The process of creating a GedCom is rather tedious, and it's doubtful that very many people will want to go through the hassle. In helping Eric do the usability testing, we realized how difficult it would be.

If the Facebook user does not have a grandmother or somebody who can email them a GedCom with his/her name in it, the user will have to go to a deal of trouble to create one.

First, he will have to download Personal Ancestral File (PAF). It is free from FamilySearch.org. (There are much better programs available, but they cost money). Then he will have to do some searches for his grandparents or great-grandparents on FamilySearch, download those GedComs, and import them into PAF. Then he'll need to add the people up to the point where he has downloaded the files. For example, if Eric downloads GedComs with each of his grandparents as the root persons, he will still need to add his parents and himself. That really isn't that difficult, but for somebody who has just barely downloaded PAF, it can be pretty tricky! Then the users would save the compiled GedCom he has just created and upload it to the Facebook app.

I'm pretty sure most people won't want to bother.

And so, my friends, I am offering this service to you. If you want to use the Facebook app, but you don't know how to download (or don't want to bother downloading) GedComs, importing them into PAF and so forth, I WILL DO IT FOR YOU!!! Shoot me an email or comment on my blog, and I will send you the appropriate questions so I can see what I can find for you that is already online.

Folks, I'm offering free research here. I really want this application to succeed.

The application will be launched some time this week, but the ability to compare GedComs may not be available for a few more weeks. Wouldn't it be sweet if you could compare your GedCom with your friends' GedComs as soon as that features is available? (The correct answer is "Yes.")

If you're my friend on Facebook, I'll invite you to the app as soon as I'm allowed to.


allicat4 said...

Will ya make one for me? Jk. I'll do it myself. :)

Anonymous said...

Sherry, this sounds really interesting. If you've got the time, I'd like you to make one for me!

Kristy said...

Ooh, this is cool! Will you make one for me? I'm a family history retard.

gklindsay said...

Way to go Sherry!