Friday, September 21, 2007

The Google Family Tree?

I came across an.... "interesting" article today on the Computerworld web site. Mike Elgan wrote an article titled Coming Soon: The Mother of All Genealogy Databases. It starts out like this:
I've always found genealogy boring. But it's about to get exciting, very
exciting, and for everybody.

Millions of people around the world spend hours tracing their "roots"
as far back as they can. I've always suspected that people are really searching
for self-identity. If they can learn their country of origin or discover descent
from someone famous, they might be able to think more highly of themselves. They
can, say, watch the Irish Day Parade with a new sense of entitlement.

He goes on to discuss the social networking site and, and then talks about genetic genealogy...
A team of computer scientists, mathematicians and biologists have come up with a computer algorithm that can trace the ancestry of thousands of people in a few
minutes based on a DNA sample, according to the September 2007 edition of the
journal PLoS Genetics. The researchers claim that their method is 99% accurate.
They plan to build a massive database of people and how they're related.

After giving a list/summary of the current state of genealogy research technology he then makes a prediction... "These various databases will be compiled by some company -- most likely Google -- into the Mother of All Genealogy Databases." For the sake of the article he refers to it as the "Google Family Tree".

Then he summarizes, with another list, all the wonderful things we'll be able to do... like "Track down every living relative. " and "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!"). "... all this, he suggests, by just signing in with one's gmail username.

Oh, and he thinks this is all going to happen within the next 10 years. Then boring old genealogy will be exciting to him.

Here's my thoughts on this. Mike is obviously a geek and not a genealogist or genea-geek (like some of us!). For a geek, he has a pretty good imagination. As a writer for a major technology web site, he's a poor researcher. I'm thinking we should all chip in and send him a copy of Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

What do you think?