GeneTree … are you serious?

A couple of things up front:

  • I’m not a privacy bigot. You can find me on facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, multiple blogs, flickr, my own personal website, and my corporate bio page. I post fairly liberally about myself online.
  • I probably have the best existing genealogical records for my family. I’ve spend HOURS formally interviewing my oldest living relatives, writing down their thoughts, touring grave yards, going to family farm land that my family lost during the great depression. I’m fairly interested in the topic.

So as I’ve started to think more about social networking, I became interested in the possibility of social networks to make genealogy work in the large. It makes intuitive sense to me that social networking is an ideal way to build a genealogical graph. The information is distributed and hard for one person to collect, but not so hard when each person contributes a node and a few branches.

Then I stumbled on Genetree. This company uses genetic testing to automatically build family trees, or at least to connect distant relatives.

OK, sorry, you lost me there. I have to submit my genetic material to a testing lab, have it encoded and stored in your data center, so that you can broker connections between me and my long-lost relatives in Scotland and Alsace-Lorraine?

Yeah, no. No thanks. Let me know how that goes for you. By the way, congratulations on getting funded. Can I speak with your investors?

5 responses to “GeneTree … are you serious?

  1. Hello. My name is Dusty and I work at GeneTree. I just wanted to give my take on this.

    I’m also an avid genealogist and when I first heard of genetic genealogy I thought it was a bit crazy until I understood it better. Its pretty simple with GeneTree, you can buy a dna test kit from us. You simply swish a mouth wash around in your mouth and spit it back in the container and send it off to our accredited lab.

    When you get your results back we help you understand how to use them for your genealogy research.The most exciting thing about it is being matched up against the rest of the dna database to find possible dna cousins. When you find people you can connect with them and collaborate on your family history and find out how you are related. For some, this has helped get past serious blocks in their research.

    Anyway, I just wanted to chime in on this and give you my opinion.

  2. Thanks for the comment Dusty! I appreciate the feedback… I do wish you well. I think that requiring a dna test is going to be a big barrier to adoption. Maybe 5 years or 10 years down the road, we’ll think of that as very common information to share, but right now I think it’s way beyond most peoples’ comfort. But hey, the market will tell you… my opinion, while interesting to me, is just one opinion.

  3. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on less willingness, not more, to handing over your DNA. We’re already seeing a lot of sensitization to DNA-related issues on juries, where TV shows like Law and Order have shaped the way jurors view DNA evidence. Now, combine that DNA awareness with the steady drumbeat of stories about credit information stolen, SSNs stolen, other personal information stolen…I can’t see how these trends end with a lot of people happy to hand over their DNA to a third party.

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  5. Alan,

    I also work @ Genetree. There is more to Genetree that just making connections with your DNA. In fact you can use the site without submitting any DNA sample at all. We’ve got features that allow you to do just what you’ve described above allow people to collaborate in building their family tree. Everyone can contribute to the family tree they’ve been invited to participate in. My mother regularly corrects information on our family tree for me šŸ™‚

    If you get stuck…. DNA can fill in the gaps especially when you match someone that also has built out a family tree on Genetree you can share your family tree with them and theirs with you if you so choose.

    I am really excited about all the ideas we have about social networks solving a lot of the genealogical research problems. Sounds like you have some great ideas as well….shoot me an email sometime if you want to talk about them.