Google Family Tree?

Posted by admin on May 21, 2008

By Mike Elgan in Computerworld: “Here’s my prediction: The various genealogy databases will be compiled by some company — most likely Google — into the Mother of All Genealogy Databases. Imagine a kind of Google Maps site, but one that maps family relationships instead of geography. The service might even be in part a Google Maps mashup of some kind.

Google Maps combines image databases from disparate sources around the world. It’s an open, extensible system, so random developers and companies can build mashups that combine map data with any other data, augmented by Google-generated content.

Call it the Google Family Tree.

Such a database would enable you to do absolutely amazing things. For example:

• Enter your unique ID info (probably your Gmail username) and that of any other person, and the site would trace you both back to the most recent common shared ancestor.
• Follow a timeline that shows the locations and migrations of ancestors all leading up to the descendant that is you.
• Track down every living relative.
• Pick any year in history and see just how many of your ancestors were alive at the time.
• Genetic family relationships could be combined with Linked-In-type social networking friendships or business relationships to render the most direct connection with anyone else (”Hey, you’re the brother-in-law of my former boss’s wife!”).
• And many other cool tricks nobody can even think of right now.

Such a public database would also have profound social implications. For example, it would probably render meaningless the concept of race because we would see before our eyes that we’re all a lot more like Tiger Woods than any of us thought.

Second, the privacy implications would be enormous and obvious.

Third, such knowledge might have legal implications, calling into question various people’s right to inherit property or titles.

The prospects of such a massive, public database are staggering, scary and, yes, exciting.

Genealogy is boring. But tomorrow’s genealogy — with a million times better results with a fraction of the effort — well, that’s something our ancestors couldn’t even have imagined.”

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