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Crowdsourcing And The New Genealogy Boom

The genealogy craze meets crowdsourcing . Soon, you may be meeting your 17th cousin. Be prepared for surprises.

US first lady Michelle Obama, center, with her daughters Sasha, and Malia, second from the right, look through archives documenting the Obama's Irish Ancestry during their visit to the Old Library at Trinity College, in Dublin, Ireland, Monday, June 17, 2013. The first lady and her daughters were given a presentation on their own family genealogy and connection to Ireland. (AP)

US first lady Michelle Obama, center, with her daughters Sasha, and Malia, second from the right, look through archives documenting the Obama’s Irish Ancestry during their visit to the Old Library at Trinity College, in Dublin, Ireland, Monday, June 17, 2013. The first lady and her daughters were given a presentation on their own family genealogy and connection to Ireland. (AP)

Americans are crazy for genealogy.  For tracking down the family tree.  Back to the immigrant.  Back to the slave.  The native American.  Back to the stagecoach driver, the ship’s captain, the duke, the duchess, the great grandmother who sang in vaudeville.  A new generation of apps make it easier.  A new generation of algorithms is tying family trees together.  Letting you know you’re a seventeenth cousin once-removed to Daniel Boone or Malcolm X or Marie Antoinette – or the classmate who bugs you.  Then what? This hour On Point:  the new frontiers of genealogy.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

A.J. Jacobs, author and journalist. Author of “The Know-It-All,” “The Year of Living Biblically,” My Life As An Experiment” and ‘Drop Dead Healthy.”  (@ajjacobs)

Judy G. Russell, writer and genealogist. Blogger at “The Legal Genealogist.”

Spencer Wells, geneticist and director of the Genographic Project at National Geographic.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times:  Are You My Cousin? — “My family tree sprawls far and wide. It’s not even a tree, really. More like an Amazonian forest. At last count, it was up to nearly 75 million family members. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re on some far-flung branch of my tree, and if you aren’t, you probably will be soon. It’s not really my tree. It’s our tree.”

The Verge: Who am I? Data and DNA answer one of life’s big questions — “Taking a peek into the past now requires nothing more than a decent internet connection and a laptop. DNA testing, which just a few years ago cost thousands of dollars and offered little information for genealogists, is now a growing consumer option, reaching back hundreds of years to provide undreamed of amounts of information about our ancestors.”

The Desert News: Gaming for genealogy: Helping bring genealogy to a digital generation –“One of Taylor’s most compelling arguments for introducing gaming to genealogy was that current family history methods need to speak to a ‘new generation of genealogists.’ The upcoming generation has been involved in the digital world since birth, and many of them have hardly any experience with physical records.”

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