Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Connecting to Ancestors at GenCircles


There are a number of very large genealogical datasets on the internet, FamilySearch and Ancestry.com being the two largest and well known.

GenCircles, though less well-known, is another biggie. I'm not sure just how big, but by my calculations, there are more than 12 million individuals listed just under the letter "A".  It's pretty big.

A visit to the homepage has the usual, familiar-looking search boxes:  enter a first name, last name, year of birth or death, and so on.  Why bother?,  you ask.  What makes GenCircles different?

Infuriatingly, the site doesn't tell you!  Nowhere is there any description of what GenCircles is, what makes it stand out from other data sources, and why you might want to spend any time there.  Their "About GenCircles" page is singularly uninformative.  I can't believe that people still design websites this way.  Why, oh why, oh why?

He might be in your Gen Circle, perhaps.

Still, I've come across records on GenCircles that haven't shown up in other databases, so it seems worth a search right there.  Any source that can connect genealogists with new leads on family history is one to explore, especially when it's easy and quick to use.

If you work with GEDCOM files (standardized genealogical files), you can upload them to GenCircles and their special SmartMatching software will look through millions of files to try and match your closest ancestors.    (However, see the insightful comment on some drawbacks of GenCircles added by reader, Dee D'Errico....Thanks, Dee. ) 

As with other datasets, GenCircles makes it possible for those with an interest in the same family history to contact one another, and share additional information.

These types of one-on-one communications can sometimes reveal more than a host of data sources ever will.


Visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. 


And don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The reason for GenCircles was "smart Matching". I became a member of it in 2007. It was a wonderful idea; but, the designers of the software did not keep up with the site. It constantly had problems, which they did not fix right away. Smart matching was available to you after you uploaded your GEDCOM to the site. I say "was" because the last time I uploaded a new
GEDCOM to it was in Dec. 2008 and the site has not had any maintenance since then. I just checked it by trying to get smart matches on my file (smart matches were a list of matches to anyone elses' tree on GenCircles with info on how to contact the owner) and it still states that "since your file was just updated, you will be unable to get smart matches for at least 48 hours." Remember I uploaded that file last
December. I don't believe this site will ever be maintained again because the creators of it merged with "My Heritage". Everyone who had a tree on Gencircles was given a free site to upload their GEDCOMs on MyHeritage.com.

Hope this is helpful to you,

Dee D'Errico

David said...

Thanks so much, Dee. I've updated the post itself to note your comment.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that GenCircles has let their smart matching resource die. They had/and have far and away the best display of your data of any site on the net. It's just all right there - bang! and logically presented - beautiful! Ancestry.com, on the other hand, though it has gotten better is still second rate: entirely too much of the screen is devoted to their boxy "skin", and they do not present your notes as GenCirles does. My notes often explain how I found obscure data, and for some researchers this would be the most helpful part of my tree. This is a real drawback with Ancestry.com. When I have hired a professional genealogist to help me with brick walls, I have always directed them to my tree on GenCirles.

Jack

Anonymous said...

Also, you can download Family Tree Legends, free software for maintaining your genealogical data. If you choose, your data are displayed at GenCircles and backed up there.

It is good software and an awesome web site. I wish Cliff hadn't sold it to My Heritage, which is inferior.

Ted Wright said...

Maybe if everybody started griping at MyHeritage they would fix GenCircles. It had the problem that Dee was talking about, but Pearl had fixed it. When MyHeritage pulled the gedcoms and the smartmatching over to their program, the problem came back. They are rather snippy about not having anything to do with GenCircles. You know, the ususal software engineer blindspot, "there can't be anything wrong with OUR program" If they had a program worth a hoot it would not be so bad, but MyHeritiage is a joke of the first order. Lots of bells and whistles, but little info access. Have to dig it out. Sad. GenCircles and RootsWeb had the 2 best.
Ted

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