I remember a while back my cousin Premal was setting up a family tree. Quite a few people I spoke to were raving about it. It looked so good and he’d put so much effort into it. I wasn’t inspired back then but then I spent some time with my mum’s parents and they were talking about the old times & referring to people I didn’t know we were related to at all. I was inspired to find out more.

I sent an email to a few people asking them if they knew of any good websites to create a family tree. I had a few responses and went with the one that was the most user friendly. Well, I thought it was anyway. I began investigating and adding the data to the tree but I got disheartened by some of the reactions I got.

Many of the family were excited, interested, curious and willing to provide details as long as it was to remain ‘private’. Many members didn’t want their year of birth. I was fine with that. However, some members of the family wouldn’t give me the correct spellings for the names of their grandchildren, date or month of birth (without the year) or even names of family members who are closely related in terms of blood relations but I have not met yet. For this reason, I wasn’t clear about who they were and how they were connected and I needed my family’s support to include them in the tree.

Suraj thought what I was doing was really cool and that it would help him get his head round who my family are. Suraj knew I wasn’t adding to it any more. He then started another family tree using Geni and invited me to join it. I added myself to it and soon found that I could create my whole family tree using the same tree that he created. It was better than the one I started, it was more visual, easier to use and more interactive. I wouldn’t be the sole person ‘in charge’ of it either! Others could add to it, change details, upload photos etc. It was great.

Now with most things when people feel positive about something they don’t always share. So the few reactions I have heard have been negative or said in a way which left me feeling quite concerned. I am aware that I don’t have a complete and accurate idea about how people feel about it so I’m trying to forget about what I’ve heard unless I can use it constructively.

For those who have, as my uncle put it recently, ‘many characters in the family’; you may want to look at the reactions I’ve listed below and use it to support yourself if you create a family tree.

Also it may be good to explain what you’re doing and why from the very beginning, rather than, when issues arise or questions are asked. By that time people have talked, made up reasons that they think are valid and things have been misunderstood or miscommunicated.

For me, the family tree was about understanding my heritage and seeing the connections between family members whether they were alive or not. It was also about knowing where the ‘additions’ in our family have come from.

For example, anyone who’s joined the family, didn’t come from nowhere. They have a family who are most likely, important to them and will remain a focus in their life with their partner and his or her family. After all they are their ‘first family’ right? Thus I feel they should be added to the tree. We’re not talking about adding the whole clan, just the person’s parents and siblings. I don’t see this as going outside the family and into someone else’s but I do appreciate that people have different views.

I’m going to list a few reactions I had: –

  • “Wow! I now know how we’re related to …”
  • “Do you know what family means? They shouldn’t be included.”
  • “Happy to help. Anything to understand our heritage.”
  • “I’d rather not have any photos on the tree or dates of birth”
  • “I haven’t got time for this.”
  • “I understand what you’re doing and it’s great but I’m receiving about 2/3 emails a day about the tree.”
  • “You are going too far outside the family”
  • Worried about the security of the site

This beauty of this site is that although my immediate family will show in my tree, if an ‘in – law’ adds their parents, siblings and so on; it would be created under a separate ‘node’. Thus members of the tree would have to click on that ‘in – law’s’ picture to see their tree. It’d be a separate tree if you like. This way we can see how we’re all connected but remain separate too. I hope this makes sense.

Here are a few definitions of a family tree that I got off the net 🙂

The free dictionary say: –

A chart showing the relationships between individuals in a family over many generations
A genealogical diagram of a family’s ancestry.
The ancestors and descendants of a family considered as a group.

Your dictionary say: –

A genealogical chart showing the relationship of ancestors and descendants in a given family
All the ancestors and descendants in a given family

Answers.com says: –

A record or table of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or ancestors; a family tree.
Direct descent from an ancestor; lineage or pedigree.
The study or investigation of ancestry and family histories.
A genealogical diagram of a family’s ancestry.
The ancestors and descendants of a family considered as a group.

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Categories: Relationships


Suraj Shah · August 15, 2008 at 1:59 pm

It is good to get an insight into what people’s responses are. One member of my family was also concerned about having family details on the site, and security risks associated with it.

Definitely worth sharing this article with our family on Geni.com as even they may get similar challenges when inviting their extended family to the tree.

Heena Modi · August 15, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Thanks Suraj 🙂

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