There Are No Friends in Genealogy

I’ve been using MacFamilyTree this week to try and make some order out of the various email messages, scraps of paper and family histories that together describe my father’s side of the family.

I’m new to the arcane world of genealogy, and one of the things that strikes me as odd is that there’s no was to enter non-related people in MacFamilyTree; I assume this means that, in genealogy in general, the notion of “friends” isn’t considered; it’s all about family.

Given that genealogy is “a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor,” I suppose this makes technical sense. But if my goal is to understand the context of my ancestry, surely the people that were friends, acquaintances, shopkeepers, neighbours and otherwise a part of my ancestors’ lives are important, aren’t they?

I wonder if anthropologists, or perhaps sociologists, have digital tools that are MacFamilyTree-like, but not so rigid in their rules about who matters.

Comments

Jonas's picture
Jonas on January 23, 2007 - 16:02

Have you seen the startup web site Geni? It seems quite nice (but also very rigid so far).

Cheers,
Jonas

oliver's picture
oliver on January 23, 2007 - 16:09

A friend would catch your typos.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 23, 2007 - 16:43

Alas, not my typos, but MacFamilyTree’s typos — it’s a German product with obviously less-than-perfect English translation.

Alan's picture
Alan on January 23, 2007 - 19:01

Years ago we loaded what family tree information we had on a downloaded tool from the Mormons, the name of which or website is not known to me now. One feature was an unlimited space for comments on each person into which anecdotes with this sort of non-linear context was entered. I do not recall if it was searchable to determine if more than one third cousin or great-great-uncle danced with a girl who danced with the Duke of York but that should be an easy enough feature to add into a family tree tool.

Andrew MacPherson's picture
Andrew MacPherson on January 25, 2007 - 16:07

A joy of growing up in Queen’s county was that my Protestant friends were probably my relatives even if I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time. I did some research last year using The Island registry and was able to determine among other things that my parents were fifth cousins twice. Family names I had no idea were in my family included: Warren, Callbeck, Molyneaux, Beer, Pollard, Moore, Fraser, Cantello, Bagnall. My wife is from Prince county and as of yet I haven’t found a common ancestor but have found other instances where our ancestor’s families were connected by marriage. The upshot is that our son is descended from 200+ people who immigrated to P.E.I. in the early 1800s — sizable portion of that population. I now see why geneology is addictive….

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