Genealogy and the Power of Social Media

It’s (semi) official. I share a bloodline with George W Bush. He’s my 19th cousin once removed. So. Very. Strange.

I’ve been using Geni for quite a while now after becoming slightly interested in Genealogy. I’m not sure what piked my interest to begin with, but I know what solidified it and it’s probably no news to you. Seems I might be descendant of royalty (ie: King Edward II aka LongShanks). I still haven’t found the direct link (just some woman named Mary listed as a ‘Descendent of’) to King Edward II but although unproven as of yet, I can trace back to the Aldrich Immigrant George Aldrich with a certain level of certainty.

Geni has been running a promotion recently for a 14 day free Pro account trial. About 2 weeks ago I figured what the heck, why not? I went for it and HOLY COW! The power of social media has truly been revealed to me.

family-statsOne of the key features of a Pro account is the ability to find similar profiles to those in your tree. I figured the best way to go about this is to go back as far as I can and see if there are any matches. Naturally I used the immigrant George Aldrich (born 1605) whom I also happened to recently find the last will and testament of. Wow did I find matches. Over 20 of them in fact, and after requesting merges with those that appeared to be identical matches, my tree began to grow at an astounding rate. You see, once you merge with someone else who is active, they begin requesting merges with others, who request merges with others and eventually you’ll likely know how you’re connected to everyone. Geni‘s own slogan is after all “Everyone’s Related”.

After two weeks of this (I’m now lacking a Pro account since the trial is up) my tree is ginormous. To be specific I’m now connected to over 26 million people (living and deceased) with over 5 thousand direct ancestors alone. It’s insane and the number keeps going up and up and up.

Sometimes all this connectedness and user driven content does have its downsides though. I just found out that George W Bush is my 19th Cousin Once Removed. We share blood. ugh. Unfortunately now that I lost my Pro Account I can no longer view the ‘path’ between us since he’s too distant and not a direct ancestor. They usually look a little something like this though:


This is all very cool and I’ve learned a ton about my family’s history. What’s really neat is you find other people out there that are more interested and have more information than you do. This is certainly one area that Social Media excels at.

If you even have a tiny interest in this stuff at all I highly recommend using to get started, even if it’s just to get your immediate family into the site so others can find you. You never know, you might just inherit England.

Just Call Me Longshanks

A while ago I became pretty interested in Genealogy. I started searching around and talking to relatives. I’ve found out a lot of interesting things but probably the most interesting came from somewhere unexpected. The Mormons are apparently very into this stuff and keep track of it all. They have a website filled with genealogy records.

Although I can’t verify it (Yet!) It seems I may be a descendent of King Edward II. If you’re not sure who King Edward II was perhaps his father King Edward I (nicknamed LongShanks) might be more recognizable.

Yes the very same King Edward I from Braveheart. Apparently I have evil blood flowing through my veins. The same blood which killed William Wallace.

I’m Sorry 😦

Happy 80th Grandpa Heath!

Grandpa Heaths SurpriseSaturday we went to Grandpa Heath’s 80th Birthday surprise party. It was awesome because he has relatives all over the country who were able to make it, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts and even Hawaii. It’s very rare that they all get together in one place and its even more rare that he doesn’t know its happening. You could see the joy on his face as he entered the door and saw all these family members from distance places. I’ve met most of the immediate family (Rachel’s uncles and aunts) but there were several that I hadn’t and lots of cousins that I had not met before.

I had the chance to meet Rachel’s uncle Brian, for the first time, who lives in Texas with his wife Carolyn and daughter Kristin. I’m very glad I did, They’re neat people and we got to spend even more time with them on Sunday. Brian owns a paint contracting business near Dallas/Ft Worth. I offered to let him stay busy painting our dining room while they were in town but he declined. C’mon man we’re family now!

I had the pleasure of meeting two more distant relatives, Rachel’s father’s nephews, Matt and Dan. Matt has a house in Hawaii and offered to let us stay (although he assured us he would not guide us around, he draws the line there) the next time we go. That’s fine Matt, we’ll be happy to hire a tour guide with the money we saved staying with you! As it turns out Dan is very much into Genealogy and we got talking about Rachel’s family tree. Apparently he has traced their tree back to a revolutionary war soldier. That means Rachel can join the daughters of the revolution! Not quite sure what that gets her besides a plaque and probably a lot of junk mail though… We traded E-mail addresses and Dan agreed to send us the tree, I agreed to get it into Geni which I’m trying to get all our family to use and I strongly recommend it for those of you who haven’t yet.

I was also able to see some relatives whom I’d met before but hadn’t seen in a while. Among these was Rachel’s cousin Becky, who was pregnant with her second child, Cheyenne, the last time I had met her. This time around she had the third child, Desmond, with her. They were very energetic which meant they probably slept like a log that night and I’m sure Becky is thankful for that.

Flag and PlaqueTowards the end of the day Grandpa Heath opened all of his wonderful gifts and Matt, whom I had met earlier, presented Him with an American Flag which had been ceremoniously flown over the USS Arizona memorial in his name on September 11, 2007. It also came with a plaque with a military seal providing documentation that it was indeed flown over the memorial in his name at the time and date noted. It was all very moving because Grandpa Heath long ago served in the Navy during World War II until his responsibilities at home had called him back. The USS Arizona memorial had always held a special place in his heart but he hasn’t yet had the chance to visit it. I’m sure the flag and plaque will be long remembered by him as well as the rest of his family who was there to witness the gift.

A great event and I wish there were more like it.

Lutz vs Milton is No More

For those of you who did not go to RIT or did not have the opportunity to take classes with Professor Lutz you missed out. RIT had its very own Milton look-a-like (from Office Space). I saw him at the GENI talk on Friday and unfortunately Milton he is no more. He shaved his mustache and I must say he looks quite a bit different. If you haven’t seen it, what I believe to be the very first side by side comparison is below. This image is in fact how Professor Lutz (as well as the rest of the SE department) found out about his doppelgänger many years ago.

Milton or Lutz

And Now:

Professor Lutz

GENI can't be pushed back in the bottle

Friday some friends from work and I went to RIT‘s first Dean’s Lecture Series talk of the year by Peter Freeman. This talk, about GENI (Global Environment for Network Innovation), was informative but a lot less interesting than I imagined. I thought there would be discussion about their thoughts for the next internet and where we might be going. Instead we were inundated with boring generic statements of how GENI will be a testing bed for experiments dealing with the next internet. All of this is available at their website but to summarize, GENI’s primary objectives are:

  • To develop and evaluate ideas for future network design
  • To encourage related research

Some things that struck me during the talk:

  1. The importance of a comprehensive coordinated effort in order to avoid the same defects existing in today’s solution was one of their key points. In almost in the same breath they mentioned the different approaches by Japan, The European Union and The United States.
  2. Their basic architecture included devices named super routers. If these are like today’s routers they’re already building some very blatant similarities into what’s supposed to be a test bed for a new architecture. One of the things they mentioned was changing the TCP/IP stack. Routers are level 3 devices and as such currently utilize the TCP/IP stack. If these new devices are different than today’s routers they should have a different name.
  3. It seemed to me they were concentrating purely on the hardware networking part of things. Isn’t our hardware pretty solid? Can’t we already have 5×1028 addresses for each of the estimated 6.5 billion people alive today with IPv6 (wikipedia)? Can’t we already handle that bandwidth with the existing broadband technology? I would think the bigger concern is archaic protocols such as FTP and HTTP and their underlying stacks like TCP/IP, which have been hacked together over the years. DZone recently posted an article about why FTP Must Die and its definitely worth a read.
  4. If the hardware is redefined but the software and protocols are not, won’t we just end up with one giant hack which fits all of today’s technology into tomorrows architecture? This just seems like adding an extra layer to me.

GENI has a good idea with their general principle. We do need to be looking to the future, some of our current internet practices simply wont be able to hold up when

Every Light switch has an IP address.

However; they’re going down the wrong path and it seems like they’re creating too much (hardware) infrastructure to really inspire the creation of a new and unique solution.