Less than three weeks ago I read about geni.com on techcrunch. It sounded interesting so I added my parents and a few relatives to geni.com, typed in 3 or 4 email addresses and now I have 339 relatives connected to me going back 6 generations to 1762. Some of my relatives have scanned and uploaded pictures of my ancestors.
I always knew that someone in my family had records going back pretty far, but geni provides a number of advantages:
Its efficient Everyone who is invited (requires them to be alive and have the internet) can view the same tree. This means that when I make a change or upload a picture, everyone in my family (339 people) can now see and use that picture. Thats a lot more efficient than doing this on paper or even using a standalone genealogy application on my computer. At one point, I was adding people and families to a more distant branch and someone else logged in and corrected some of the tree which I had made mistakes on (sometimes divorces get confusing, especially if you have never met anyone involved).
Its easy to use Because the people who know the most about family history tend to be the oldest, its key that any type of application like this be ridiculously easy to use. Geni is very easy to use and moreover its pretty obvious what to do within a few seconds of logging in. Its flash interface quickly allows users to add members to the tree using fairly obvious arrows.
Its viral (sort of) Not only will you find out more about your direct ancestors, your tree spreads out laterally as distant family members log in and add their family and inlaws. In my case, the tree can only go so far back (there are no records beyond a certain point, and everyone is dead). But there is not really a limit to how broad the tree can get as my second cousins add their spouses family or my great aunt adds her branch of the tree. Already I've found relatives on both my mom and dads side who live in the bay area.
You don't have to do that much work. All in all, I spent less than a few hours on the site and I have a huge family tree including pictures and facts which would have taken me weeks of research to add myself if I was doing it in a non-social networking way.
Social networking A relative of mine I've never met messaged me and called geni "facebook gone legit". Its certainly not a facebook competitor but I am now connected to lots of people I'd never find on facebook. Geni has features that allow you to view a map of living (or dead) family members & inlaws to visualize your family geographically and it also makes a list of birthdays and anniversaries. Also, I was able to look up names of distant relatives who are on my generation of the tree and I found four people on facebook. Maybe at some point I will meet them. Geni would be a great tool to plan family reunions.
Learn what a second cousin twice removed is Even with some relatives I've met I had no idea how they were related to me. Geni provides a very visual way to figure this out and when you view someone profile it tells you exactly how you are related.
I look forward to seeing what other features geni adds and hopefully watching my family tree grow.