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In my last post, I introduced Microsoft’s new Deep Zoom technology and showed how we could use it to zoom way in on a large family photo.  This time, I’m posting a collage of 191 photos of my Dad that lets you zoom way in on each individual photo.  If you’ve never seen Deep Zoom in action before, it’s well worth taking a look.  I think that you’ll be amazed at the experience.  Follow the link below to get started.

This collection includes 191 photos of my Dad, John Sexton, spanning his entire life: 1933-2005.  Many of the original scans are fairly high resolution, so as you zoom in, you’ll be able to see some wonderful details.

How to use Deep Zoom to view the collection:

  • Follow the link below to bring up the page
  • Download and install Silverlight, if requested (it’s quick)
  • Use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out
  • Depending on your internet connection, you may need to wait a bit after zooming for the image to sharpen
  • To start with, zoom all of the way out so that you can see the entire collection
  • Then explore by zooming in on individual photos
  • You can also pan (slide) by holding the left mouse button down and dragging

Here’s the collection:    John Sexton Deep Zoom Collection

(If you don’t want to go actually run the demo, you can watch a short run-through on YouTube — the resolution isn’t nearly as good as the real thing, but you’ll get the idea).

Here are some specific things to go look for in the collection (think of this as a treasure hunt):

  • There’s a lot of detail in the buddha in the 3rd row
  • Look at the kids’ faces in the class photo, 2nd row, leftmost photo
  • Find the thumbprint on the photo of John w/the bow and arrow, 1st row
  • Look at the detail on the old printing presses, 2nd from last row, 6th photo from left
  • Look at the detail in John’s face, 5th from last row, 2nd photo from the right (face in his hands)
  • Find Uncle Tom in a ballerina outfit, somewhere in the 7th row
  • In the 1st row is a photo of John with brother Jerry during the first snowfall of 1938.  Can you identify the car in the background?
  • Zoom in on the 1st photo, 5th row, and enjoy incredible color in the photo of Mt. Fuji from 1953
  • Elsewhere on the 5th row, you’ll find a car.  Can you read the make?
  • In the 7th row, you’ll find a photo of John serving some brandy.  Can you read the label?  What time is it?
  • 2nd from the last row, 3rd from left, John holds his granddaughter Lucy’s hand.  What color are her eyes?
  • Can you find the greenish photo in the center of the grid that features John, an antique steel trash baler and an old Ford 8N tractor?

Here are a few other interesting details about this collection:

  • The original collection is comprised of 191 scanned or digital photos
  • Deriving from the original 191, the Deep Zoom collection itself is comprised of 18,433 separate images
  • The collection takes up 1.44GB of disk space

What do family historians out there think about this as a technique for exploring a collection of family photos?

One tough thing about posting family photos to the web is that you need to decide which resolution to post your photo at.  If you have a high resolution photo that you’d like to post on a web page, you basically have two choices:

  • Option A: Resize the photo (make smaller) so that it fits on the screen
    • If you do this, you’ll lose the detail that you had in the higher resolution version.
  • Option B: Post the higher resolution version as is
    • If you post your original high-res photo, it may take a very long time to download and appear in the browser.  It will also be too large to display in the browser and won’t let you see the entire photo at the same time.

But what if we had a way to do both of these things at once?  What if we could post a lower resolution version that allowed the user to see the entire image, but also allow zooming into the photo to see more detail?  And what if we could zoom in not just a little bit, but deep into the photo to see fine details?

Well, Microsoft has a new technology, called “Deep Zoom”, that helps us do exactly that.

Background: Pixels, Pixels, Pixels

Spoiler: If you’re just here to see the demo, jump ahead a few sections to read about how I posted a “deep zoomable” family photo and then click on the link that takes you to the demo.  But if you’re curious about some of the background concepts, read on.

What do we mean by “high resolution” or “low resolution”?

To start with, when we talk about resolution, we generally talk about pixels:

Pixel - The individual colored dots in a digital image.

We can think about pixels in the context of digital images that we take with a digital camera (e.g. an 8 “megapixel” image).  We can also think about pixels in the context of knowing how many pixels wide and tall our computer monitor is.

Let’s start with your monitor.  When you’re working on your Windows-based PC or your Macintosh, your monitor is displaying everything that you see at some resolution.  In other words, your monitor can display a certain number of pixels horizontally and vertically.  For a typical 20″ LCD monitor, this might be 1600 pixels wide by 1200 pixels tall.  Or, if you’re using a MacBook, it might be 1280 pixels wide by 800 pixels high.

The more pixels that your monitor or laptop can display, the sharper the image, and the better/higher the resolution.

Back to digital images.  When you take a digital image, the image is of a particular resolution, based on the camera and the current settings.  For my 8MP (megapixel) camera, the images are 3264 pixels wide by 2448 pixels high.  (If you multiply these two numbers together, you get something close to 8 million total pixels, hence the term “8 megapixel”).

How do these two resolutions, monitor vs. digital image, relate?  If you want to display that 8MP image on your MacBook, and you don’t do any special scaling of the image, the entire image won’t fit on the screen.  That 8MP photo was 3264 pixels wide and your screen is only 1280 pixels wide, so you can see at most about 40% of the picture’s width.

Normally you don’t notice this.  If you open an 8MP image on your computer, the photo viewing application normally shows you the image exactly filling the screen.  What happens is that your photo viewing software actually shrinks the image down so that you can see the entire thing, “squishing” it into fewer pixels.  Naturally, when you do this, some detail is lost.  No matter how hard you stare at that 1280×800 image, you won’t see as much detail as existed in the 3264×2448 version.

But most photo viewing applications allow you to zoom in and out of the image.  As you zoom in, you do see more detail, because the software is re-scaling the portion of the image that you want to see to the screen.  It’s actually going back to that original 3264×2448 image and resizing it again.

When you use a photo viewing application on your PC or Mac, everything works great.  You are able to zoom in and out of the image and you can see all of the detail present in that original 8MP image.  Images stored on the web, however, are a different matter.

Photos on Web Pages

When you post a photo on a web page, you need to pick a single resolution and post the photo at that resolution.  Let’s look at our previous example.  Say you have this gorgeous 8MP digital photo and you want to display it on a web page (or upload it to Facebook).  If you want viewers of the page to be able to see the entire photo, you’ll want to scale it from 3264×2448 down to something like 800×600 pixels.  The basic idea here is that you want the photo to fit into their web browser, which means that you need to think about how many pixels wide (and high) their web browser is.  If they are running a browser on a MacBook and the browser is not maximized, it might only be 1000 pixels wide, or less.  So you’d size the original image down to something like 800×600 pixels.

The problem with doing this is that web browsers don’t normally have a mechanism for zooming into photos.  And if they do (like Firefox’s zoom feature), they’ll never be able to display any more resolution than was present in the original 800×600 image.  The detail from your original 3264×2448 image isn’t available.

One workaround for this problem is to post several variants of the same photo—one at the lower resolution and then several at higher resolutions, showing some section of the photo at a higher resolution.  But this is clumsy.

Resolution and Scanning Family Photos

Let’s talk a bit about how resolution comes into play when you scan a photo.  When scanning, you typically select a particular DPI, or “dots per inch”, to scan at.  The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution of the resulting digital image.

So let’s say that you scan a 4×6 print at 300 dpi.  The resulting image would be 1200×1800 pixels, or roughly 2 megapixels.

It’s important to remember that high-quality negatives or film prints have much higher resolution.  (The available detail is actually based on the size of the individual grains of the silver halide crystals on the film).  A high quality 35mm negative might have a resolution equivalent to something closer to 4000 dpi.

If you actually scanned that 4×6 photo at 4000 dpi, you’d end up with a digital image that was 16000×24000 pixels, or 384 megapixels.  This is an image that is as wide as about 15 20″ LCD monitors!  That’s a lot of detail.  Stored as a typical .tif file on your hard drive, you’d end up with something like a 2GB file.

So what resolution should you use when scanning?  The general rule is that it depends on what you’re going to do with the digital image.  If you’re going to display it on a web page, there’s no need to scan at a very high resolution.  If you’re planning on printing the photo, you’d typically print at about 150 dpi.  So if you’re not going to enlarge the photo, you’d also scan at 150 dpi.

Because there is so much detail available in that original print, you may sometimes want to scan at a much higher resolution.  For example, you might scan just someone’s face from a larger photo and then post that scan on a web page.  For example, if you scan a 1″ square area of the photo and you want to display it as a 600-pixel high image, you’d scan at 600 dpi.

Deep Zooming a Family Photo

Let’s go back to our original premise.  When we post a photo on a web site, there’s no way to zoom into the photo and see more detail, right?

Well actually, there is now a way to do this, using a new technology from Microsoft called “Deep Zoom”.

Here’s a sample family photo, inserted into this post at roughly 600×480 pixels.

smallfamily

There’s nothing special about this photo.  If you use the browser’s zoom functions to zoom into the photo, you’ll quickly see how coarse the picture is.

Here’s the same photo, posted on my web site, as a “deep zoomable” photo:

The Bemidji Twelve

Click on the link to go play with the image.  Try zooming in and out and notice that as you zoom in, the photo starts off very grainy, but quickly sharpens up.  Note that you can also pan the photo using the mouse.  You’ll need to install a small browser plug-in called Silverlight, but the install goes fairly quickly.

How Did They Do It?

The basic idea of Deep Zoom is that you start with a very high resolution image, capturing the detail that you want to see when you are all the way “zoomed in”.  You then use some software to generate a lot of other images, which are all chunks of the original image at various resolutions.  The basic idea is to pre-generate all of the different resolutions of the image that you’ll be seeing as you zoom in and out.

In my case, I started with an 8″x10″ image and scanned it at 800 dpi.  This resulted in a digital image that was roughly 6400×8000 pixels, or 51 megapixels.  Another way to think about this is that to display the image at the original resolution, it would cover a grid of 20″ LCD monitors that was 5 monitors wide and 5 monitors high.  I saved the original photo as a TIFF image, and the file was about 145MB.

Here’s the amazing part.  When I ran this photo through the Deep Zoom software, it generated just over 1,100 new images from the original image.  The new images are various chunks of the original photo, at many different resolutions.  Coincidentally, the size on disk of all of these photos also adds up to about 145MB.

I then posted the “deep zoom” collection of photos on my web site, along with some pretty straightforward programming.  (Microsoft has done most of the work here).  The result is what you saw above—a single image that you can zoom into and out of, made possible by 1,100 separate images that are automatically loaded at the proper time as you zoom or pan.

Wrapping Up

The Deep Zoom technology is very exciting for family historians.  We are no longer limited to posting photos merely as static images on a web site.  Instead, we can post collections of “dynamic” images, allowing us to preserve all of the detail that is present in the original film-based copies that we started with.  And the experience for the user is nothing short of phenomenal.  The first web page loads very quickly and new chunks of the photo load only when they need to.

Review – Amiglia.com

In a recent post, I included a list of genealogy-related web sites, including sub-categories for “Online Family Trees” and “Social/Family Networking”.  I’m going to start reviewing the sites listed in these two categories and publish some of my findings/thoughts here.  As I review each site, I’ll try to go a bit beyond just publishing a list of features.  Instead, I’ll sign up as a member of each site and make an effort to use the site for its intended purpose and then share my impressions.

I’ll start with amiglia.com, which is the first site, alphabetically, in these two categories.

01-logo

Overview

Amiglia bills itself as a Family Tree + Photo Album.  It’s basically a photo-sharing site for families, allowing uploading of a GEDCOM file to create the family structure and then uploading of photos and videos and attaching them to individuals in the family.

Amiglia was founded by Paul, Milena and Tim Berry, who started the site as a personal web site used to share photos between extended family members.  They eventually opened the site up to the public.

Amiglia is still listed as being in beta, but appears not to have been actively worked on since early 2007.  The expiration, in July of 2008, of the site’s SSL certificate, is further evidence that amiglia is no longer being actively supported or promoted.  The site’s support staff did not respond to an e-mail that I sent, asking about the status of the site.

Pricing

Amiglia advertises a 365-day free trial, followed by a membership fee of $49.95/yr thereafter.

Traffic / Popularity

In my list of genealogy sites ranked by traffic for Aug, 2008, amiglia was ranked 128th out of 163, with compete.com reporting a total of 3,000 visits for the month of August.  It was ranked 25th out of 29 in the “Online Family Trees” category and 15th out of 17 in the “Social/Family Networking Category”.

Feature List

Amiglia advertises the following list of features:

  • Family tree with photos that you can blog
  • Linked albums of related families
  • Personal profiles linked to nuclear family
  • Family facebook of your entire family
  • Family calendar with birthdays and events
  • Maps of geolocated photos
  • Easy tagging for people, themes, places
  • Easy search for family photos
  • Elegant slideshows to view, email and blog
  • Music uploads to any slideshow
  • Integrated Skype calling and chats
  • Riya import
  • Interactive photo-based babies’ games
  • Easy mass uploading
  • Upload by e-mail or with camera phone
  • Import from Flickr or Photoshop Album
  • Easy GEDCOM imports at signup
  • Video clips support (up to 5MB each)
  • Advanced privacy, no spam, no ads
  • Backup CDs or DVDs at minimal charge
  • Email reminders for family birthdays

During the course of my use of the site, I exercised some, but not all, of these features.

Signing Up

You need to sign up with an account on amiglia before you can create a tree or start uploading photos.  I immediately ran into a serious problem when I tried to sign up.  The site’s security (SSL) certificate has expired.  (As of 6 Oct, 2008).  This means that by default your browser won’t load the signup page, given that it is a secure (HTTPS) web page.  This is a serious problem—you should never load an HTTPS page if your browser is unable to validate the associated security certificate.  You can actually ignore the problem, telling your browser to load the page anyway, but doing so would be a serious security risk.

002-securitycertfailure

What does this mean?  Basically, two things:

  • When you sign up for the site, the signup page will not be secure.  The password that you enter here could potentially be compromised.  But since you don’t need to enter credit card information, this is serious, but not potentially all that dangerous.
  • The expiration of the security certificate is a sign that amiglia is essentially a dead site

I wanted to continue reviewing the site, so I did bypass the lack of a security certificate and went ahead and signed up.

003-signup

Note that when you sign up, you are able to suggest a sub-domain as part of the URL that you share with your family.  This is a handy feature—instead of just going to amiglia.com and logging in, your family can get to the family tree directly by going to yourname.amiglia.com.  The availability of the name would depend, of course, on whether someone else has already taken that name.  In my case sexton.amiglia.com was available.

Privacy Settings

The next step is to decide on whether your site is private or public.  You are able to make the entire site public (viewing, editing), allow public viewing only, or make the site entirely private.

Another very nice feature is the ability to set a single family password.  I didn’t test this, but the idea here is that family members don’t necessarily have to sign up in order to gain access to the site.  Instead, they can use a common password that you share with the entire family.  This makes it much easier for family members to get at the site.

004-privacysettings

Creating Your Tree

After you sign up, you’re shown your default tree, with you at the center:

005-defaulttree

At this point, you can start manually entering family members, or you can upload a GEDCOM file.  I chose to upload a GEDCOM file, deciding to use the Kennedy family as my test case.

006-uploadtree

Amiglia appeared to read my Kennedy.ged file with no problems.  Once it was uploaded, I was asked who I wanted to choose as the center of my tree.  I picked John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  (Born 1917—I had to page down a bit to find JFK in the list).

007-selectcenter

I was a little disappointed at how the names were organized here.  They were apparently sorted by birthdate, youngest first.  But it would have been nice to have selected the center point with a textual search or dropdown.  If you have a large family tree, it could potentially take a very long time to find the person that you want.

At this point, I was completely signed up and I’d created a basic Kennedy family tree.

008-allsetup

Family Tree View

In Amiglia, the most common way of seeing the people in your tree is by using the Family Tree view.  This is a graphical rendering of your family tree that allows moving around through the tree.  Here’s what the Kennedy tree looks like:

009-familytree1

One problem that I saw was that when I navigate to the home page, sexton.amiglia.com in my case, it still contained the default family tree that showed me (spsexton) at the center of the tree.  To see the tree that I’d just uploaded (the Kennedys), I had to click on the Family Tree choice in the main menu.  I think that this is because amiglia couldn’t find me in the Kennedy tree, but even after editing my profile, I wasn’t able to get this to work properly.  There seemed to be no way to get the Kennedy tree to be the default tree on the site, or JFK to be the default person that you see when you go to the home page.

As you move your mouse around in this tree view, the tree gently slides to reveal more family members.  The general idea is that when you hover over someone who appears at the edge of the tree, they slide over to the center of the tree.

Although the tree navigation is sort of appealing, with the smooth scrolling, there are enough problems with it to make the navigation completely unusable.

As you move the mouse towards the edge of the tree, it scrolls a bit, to try to shift more of the tree on that side of the screen to the center of the screen.  But because of this, if you go try to click on someone in the try, they often slide away before you can click on them.  This is very frustrating.  It’s so bad that there were cases when I absolutely could not click on a particular individual—as I tried to move the mouse over them, that person would jump alternately from one side of the screen to the other.  Argh!

There were a number of other problems with the tree navigation, rendering it fairly unusable.  These include:

  • You can jump to related trees easily (e.g. Jackie’s family), but often you can’t easily navigate back to the original family
  • There is no easy way to navigate to a person by entering their name.
  • The screen says that I should “click on the name of any person to see their profile”.  But clicking on various people, I was never able to see any additional information.
  • It would be helpful to be able to zoom in/out of the family tree.  With the default size, it feels like I’m zoomed way in to the tree and it was hard to get an idea of the big picture.
  • It’s very difficult to go directly to a specific family member.  You can go to the Facebook page (see below) and hunt through a list of pictures.  But there is no easy way to go directly to a particular person.

Adding Photos

The next step is to upload some headshot photos of people in the family.  Headshots are displayed as thumbnails in the family tree and appear in the “Facebook” area of the web page.

There are two basic ways to upload a photo of someone.  The first is to navigate to that person’s profile and then upload the photo.  The second method is to upload the photo and then identify who the person is in the photo.

Let’s try the first method—navigating first to a person and then uploading a photo for them.  I thought I’d start with JFK and upload a profile.  It’s a bit difficult to navigate directly to JFK’s profile.  The only way I found of getting to that person was to select their silhouette from the Facebook page, which you can get at the Facebook button in the main menu, or by clicking on a silhouette at the bottom of the Family Tree view.  (Note that not all family members are shown in silhouette on this page, so you’ll need to click on the “More People” link at the bottom of the page.

Here’s what the page full of silhouettes looks like.  Again, the big problem here is that it’s very difficult to find the person that you’re looking for.  There are no birth dates, so you end up seeing identically-named people.  There’s also no way to sort the family members, or see them in a basic list.

010-facebook1

Once we locate JFK and click on his name, we get back to the standard Family Tree view, with a portion of the tree shown in the top of the window, and John’s profile shown in the bottom.

011-updateindividual

At this point we can click the Browse button to upload a photo.  Once we do that, the new photo is now shown as a thumbnail whenever John appears in the family tree.  The same image is now used in place of the generic silhouette on the Facebook page and when viewing John’s parents or children.  Oddly, the photo of John is not shown when you’re viewing his profile, other than as a tiny image in the family tree.  Grr!

After we’ve uploaded an image for JFK, here’s what John Jr’s profile page looks like.  Note that John Sr’s photo is now shown instead of the silhouette.

012-johnjr

One problem that I found is that even after uploading John’s head shot, the head thumbnail is not always shown on the family tree.  This appears to be a bug.  It seems like only if we’re already viewing John’s profile, then that fragment of the family tree will show his head shot.  But in many cases, the head shot is not shown.

There appears to be another bug in how photos are attached to people.  I uploaded a photo of Jackie using the same process as the one of John, and both now are used as silhouettes.  However, when I go to the list of all photos (main Photos button), I see Jackie’s photo, but not John’s.  This also appears to be a bug, in that there seems to be no way to edit standard photo properties for the photo of John.

I continued with this process a bit further, uploading some more head shots.  As I added photos and attached them to people, the main family tree gradually filled in to include the head shots.

General Thoughts

Amiglia.com is really targeted towards a single family, allowing sharing of photos between siblings or parents/children/grandchildren.  There are some areas of the site that seem to assume this is the case, rather than that you’ve uploaded a larger family tree, including deceased relatives.  For example, the calendar shows family member’s birthdays, but only includes their first name.  For a large family, going back a number of generations, the calendar would be pretty useless.

Usability: using amiglia.com is very painful.  It’s confusing and inconsistent—to the degree that would likely lead to people just giving up on the site because they can’t figure out how to use it.

Performance: the site is very slow, even painfully slow.  I tried connecting from various locations and on a very fast DSL link.  But in all cases, the performance was equally slow.  This points to a problem on the server side.  Likely amiglia.com is being hosted on a single machine that is just not fast enough to keep up with the demand.

Conclusions

I’d intended to go further with my review and use more of the features, but I’ve given up on amiglia for two reasons:

  • It just became too painful to work with.  The usability and quality level is so poor that I’d never recommend Amiglia to anyone.  Nor would I use it myself for storing and organizing family photos
  • As of 8 Nov, 2008, amiglia.com now appears to be completely down and has been unavailable for at least several days.

Amiglia.com appears to be one of those “web 2.0” sites that had a lot of promise, but never took off and has now quietly died.  It never got above 4,000 unique visitors/month, so it never became a mainstream site.  And, based on the expiration of the SSL certificate, and the unavailability of the site itself, it now appears to be truly dead.

Here is a complete list of the family history web sites whose traffic I surveyed in the previous post.  As I mentioned in the earlier post, I’ve broken the sites down into several major categories, based on the primary purpose of the site.

This list includes every site in each category, along with a short description of the site.  The sites are listed alphabetically.

Blogs / Podcasts / News

dearmyrtle.com – Dear Myrtle
eogn.com – Eastman’s online genealogy newsletter
genealogue.com – Genealogy news
genealogyguys.com – The Genealogy Guys
olivetreegenealogy.com – Search records, resource guides

Community

cousinconnect.com – Queries about particular familys/individuals
daddezio.com – Italian genealogy
family-reunion.com – Family reunion planning
familytree.com – Brief intro to genealogy
gendir.com – Genealogy directory & message boards
genealogy-search-advice.com – Ask questions, get answers
genealogy.com – Family Tree Maker, message boards, online trees, search records  [Generations Network]
geneanet.org – Records search, online trees, online photos, famous trees, postcards, community  [GeneaNet]
genhomepage.com – Site directories, help/guides, community  [Stephen A Wood]
genuki.org – UK & Ireland genealogy
jewishgen.org – Home of Jewish genealogy
lineages.com – Professional researchers
makemyfamilytree.com – Community site, info on “making” family tree
raogk.org – Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
rootsweb.com – Free records search, online trees, publish web site, message boards  [Generations Network]
usgennet.org – Non-profit genealogical web hosting service
us-census.org – USGenWeb census project
werelate.org – Community site, wiki
yourfamily.com – Bulletin/message boards

Directories

accessgenealogy.com – Links to various resources
census-online.com – Links to census data
cyndislist.com – Directory of sites
familyhistory101.com – Organized collection of links & info
gendir.com – Genealogy directory & message boards
genealogylinks.net – Over 50,000 links, by region
genealogysearch.org – Surname search, directory
geneasearch.com – Resources for searching
genhomepage.com – Site directories, help/guides, community  [Stephen A Wood]
gensource.com – Genealogy directory
kindredtrails.com – Genealogy links
linkpendium.com – Definitive genealogical directory
usgenweb.org – Links to state/county records

DNA

23andme.com – Genetics
dnaancestryproject.com – Genebase  (see also genebase.com)
dnaheritage.com – DNA testing
familytreedna.com – DNA database
genebase.com – Genebase (see also dnaancestryproject.com)
smgf.org – Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation

Magazines

ancestrymagazine.com – Ancestry magazine
everton.com – Everton Publishers, Everton’s Genealogical Helper
familychronicle.com – Family Chronicle
familytreemagazine.com – Family Tree

Online Family Trees

amiglia.com – Post family tree, photos
ancestry.ca – Ancestry.com site for Canada
ancestry.co.uk – Ancestry.com site for United Kingdom
ancestry.com – Paid records search, publish books, online trees  [Generations Network]
ancestry.com.au – Ancestry.com site for Australia
famillion.com – Build your family tree; connect/merge with other trees
familylink.com – Create family tree online  (now familyhistorylink.com)
familytreeguide.com – Post family tree online
findmypast.com – Post family tree, search records
gencircles.com – Post family tree, search trees
genealogy.com – Family Tree Maker, message boards, online trees, search records  [Generations Network]
geneanet.org – Records search, online trees, online photos, famous trees, postcards, community  [GeneaNet]
genesreunited.com – Build family tree online & find your family
genetree.com – Create online tree, share w/family
geni.com – Post family tree, photos, videos
genserv.com – Collection of searchable GEDCOM files
kincafe.com – Family tree, shared photos, calendar
kindo.com – Build family tree, share with family
kindredkonnections.com – Search records, post family tree (mytrees.com)
myheritage.com – Post family tree, photos, Family Tree Builder software  [Israeli company]
noktree.com – Post families/individuals, messaging, etc.
onefamilytree.com – Post family tree
onegreatfamily.com – Post family tree, search other trees
pedigreesoft.com – Online shared family tree  [Findmypast.com]
rootsweb.com – Free records search, online trees, publish web site, message boards  [Generations Network]
sharedtree.com – Online shared family tree
tribalpages.com – Post family tree, photos
webtree.com – Publish/shared family tree, display charts
wikitree.org – Post/search global family tree
worldroots.com – Lineage of famous people & royalty
zooof.com – Build family tree, discover connections

Search

accessible.com – Primary source material from 18th/19th cent periodicals
allvitalrecords.com – State records
ancestorguide.com – Surname search
ancestorhunt.com – Free genealogy search engines
ancestralfindings.com – Search records
ancestry.ca – Ancestry.com site for Canada
ancestry.co.uk – Ancestry.com site for United Kingdom
ancestry.com – Paid records search, publish books, online trees  [Generations Network]
ancestry.com.au – Ancestry.com site for Australia
ancestryconnections.com – Search surnames
archive.gov – The National Archives
censusfinder.com – Directory of free census records
deadfred.com – Search photos
deathindexes.com – Searchable death indexes & records
deathrecordsobituarysearch.com – Search death records
distantcousin.com – Archive of genealogical data & document images
ellisisland.org – Search immigration records
ellisislandrecords.org – Search immigration records
familybirthrecords.com – Search records  [Generations Network]
familycensusrecords.com – Search records  [Generations Network]
familydeathrecords.com – Search records  [Generations Network]
familyhistory.com – Search databases, message boards  [Generations Network]
familymarriagerecords.com – Search records  [Generations Network]
familymilitaryrecords.com – Search records  [Generations Network]
familysearch.org – Free records search, PAF software  [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints]
familytreesearcher.com – Find family trees at nine sites
findagrave.com – Search cemeteries
findmypast.com – Post family tree, search records
footnote.com – Search historical documents
genealogy.com – Family Tree Maker, message boards, online trees, search records  [Generations Network]
genealogy.org – Search records  [Generations Network]
genealogybank.com – Search records
genealogybuff.com – Search record, get state/city info
genealogysearch.org – Surname search, directory
genealogytoday.com – Records search, articles
geneanet.org – Records search, online trees, online photos, famous trees, postcards, community  [GeneaNet]
genwed.com – Marriage records online
gjenvick.com – Search passenger records
heritagequestonline.com – Search census, books, PERSI
idreamof.com – Search records
immigrantships.net – Search passenger lists
interment.net – Search cemetery records
kindredkonnections.com – Search records, post family tree (mytrees.com)
mortalityschedules.com – Search mortality schedules
newspaperabstracts.com – Search newspapers
newspaperarchive.com – Search old newspapers  [Heritage Microfilm]
noktree.com – Post families/individuals, messaging, etc.
obitcentral.com – Obituary central
obitsarchive.com – Search for obituaries
olivetreegenealogy.com – Search records, resource guides
onegreatfamily.com – Post family tree, search other trees
pastplaces.com – Repository of old photos, videos, stories
politicalgraveyard.com – Search for where dead politicans are buried
rootssearch.net – Search records
rootsweb.com – Free records search, online trees, publish web site, message boards  [Generations Network]
searchforancestors.com – Search various records
searchyourgenealogy.com – Search records
stevemorse.org – Search records
surnameweb.org – Search surnames
theshipslist.com – Search passenger lists
us-census.org – USGenWeb census project
vitalrec.com – Search vital records
worldvitalrecords.com – Search historical data
yourpastconnections.com – Database of items discovered at auctions, etc.

Social / Family Networking

amiglia.com – Post family tree, photos
ancestry.com – Paid records search, publish books, online trees  [Generations Network]
ancientfaces.com – Post photos
familybuilder.com – Build/share family tree
famiva.com – Social network for families
genetree.com – Create online tree, share w/family
geni.com – Post family tree, photos, videos
itsourtree.com – Create family tree, stay in contact with relatives
kincafe.com – Family tree, shared photos, calendar
kindo.com – Build family tree, share with family
lifeonrecord.com – Capture family stories from phone
livinggenealogy.com – Create pages for ancestors, share photos/stories/documents, blog
myfamily.com – Share family photos/videos/stories  [Generations Network]
myheritage.com – Post family tree, photos, Family Tree Builder software  [Israeli company]
ourstory.com – Save stories, photos on collaborative timeline
storyofmylife.com – Post personal stories, preserved in perpetuity  [Story of My Life Foundation]
tribalpages.com – Post family tree, photos

Software / Tools

ancestralauthor.com – Create PDF files from GEDCOM files
ancquest.com – Ancestral Quest, PAFWiz  [Incline Software]
bkwin.com – Brother’s Keeper
clooz.com – Online filing cabinet for documents/records
dorotree.com – Family tree software for Jewish historians
family-historian.co.uk – Family Historian 3
familysearch.org – Free records search, PAF software  [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints]
familysearchlabs.org – Various tools that are still under development
familytreelegends.com – Family Tree Legends 5.0
familytreemaker.com – Family Tree Maker software  [Generations Network]
famtreesoftware.com – Famtree software
famware.com – Family oriented software
gedhtree.com – Generate charts/trees from GED file
geditcom.com – Edit/view GEDCOM files on the Mac
ged4web.com – Convert GED file to web pages
genbox.com – Genbox Family History (see also thoughtfulcreations.com)
gendesigner.com – GenDesigner 3.0
genealogy.com – Family Tree Maker, message boards, online trees, search records  [Generations Network]
genealogy-software-review.com – Reviews/comparisons of major software tools
legacyfamilytree.com – Legacy 7
leisterpro.com – Reunion 9
macgenealogy.org – Mac Genealogy software information
mudcreeksoftware.com – GENMatcher, GENViewer
myheredis.com – Heredis Mac X.2
myheritage.com – Post family tree, photos, Family Tree Builder software  [Israeli company]
phpgedview.net – PhpGedView–view/edit Ged files on web
progenygenealogy.com – Map My Family Tree, Charting Companion, Genelines
raynorshyn.com – GEDClean tool
rootsmagic.com – RootsMagic, Personal Historian, Family Atlas
starkeffect.com – GED2HTML, GEDCOM Viewer
thoughtfulcreations.com – Genbox Family History, for organizing research (see also genbox.com)
uftree.com – Family Tree Maker 2005
whollygenes.com – The Master Genealogist
winfamily.com – WinFamily 7

This post includes a survey of web site traffic for some of the most popular family history and genealogy related web sites.  The data included shows # page visits for each web site for the month of August, 2008.  This data was taken from the compete.com web site.

The # page visits metric, as defined by compete.com, means–the total number of visits to a site during the month, which may include multiple visits by a particular user.  If the user visits multiple pages on the site, it is still counted as a single visit, unless that user has been inactive for at least 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, any further page loads are counted as a new visit.

All web traffic is shown for a particular domain, e.g. ancestry.com.  Data is not broken down by multiple pages/areas within that domain, e.g. search.ancestry.com vs. ancestrypress.ancestry.com.

I’ve grouped the web sites into several top-level categories, based on the primary purpose or use of the site.  Some sites appear in multiple categories, if they have significant functionality in multiple categories.

I haven’t included sites that deal with specific surnames, specific geographical regions, or specific products (e.g. ordering coats of arms).

In each category, I’ll present a graph showing the # visits for each site, followed by the actual data for the sites in that category.  Both the graph and the data will be sorted, with the sites having the most number of visits listed first.

When actual site data is listed, I include both “# visits” and “# unique visits” data.  The number of unique visits shows the number of individual computers/users that visited the site during the month, as opposed to the total number of visits.

All Sites

To start with, here are metrics for the top sites, across all categories.  To keep the graph manageable, only the top sites are graphed–i.e. those having at least 100,000 visits per month.

All Sites (>100,000 visits/mo)

All Sites (>100,000 visits/mo)

Here is the full list of sites, with the most frequently visited listed first.

All sites – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
ancestry.com – 15.3 million | 4.9 million | 3.1
myfamily.com – 6.66 million | 987,000 | 6.7
familysearch.org – 3.02 million | 990,000 | 3.1
myheritage.com – 2.47 million | 923,000 | 2.7
genealogy.com – 2.19 million | 1.16 million | 1.9
findagrave.com – 1.72 million | 643,000 | 2.7
rootsweb.com – 1.43 million | 687,000 | 2.1
geni.com – 1.34 million | 397,000 | 3.4
footnote.com – 1.03 million | 790,000 | 1.3
newspaperarchive.com – 976,000 | 805,000 | 1.2
archives.gov – 822,000 | 677,000 | 1.2
worldvitalrecords.com – 625,000 | 412,000 | 1.5
familylink.com – 546,000 | 308,000 | 1.8  (now familyhistorylink.com)
ancestorhunt.com – 529,000 | 437,000 | 1.2
heritagequestonline.com – 438,000 | 111,000 | 3.9
onegreatfamily.com – 421,000 | 325,000 | 1.3
interment.net – 406,000 | 288,000 | 1.4
genealogytoday.com – 333,000 | 295,000 | 1.1
usgenweb.org – 325,000 | 133,000 | 2.4
usgennet.org – 313,000 | 213,000 | 1.5
accessgenealogy.com – 295,000 | 222,000 | 1.3
cyndislist.com – 269,000 | 183,000 | 1.5
familytreedna.com – 241,000 | 106,000 | 2.3
vitalrec.com – 237,000 | 203,000 | 1.2
ellisisland.org – 229,000 | 149,000 | 1.5
familytreemaker.com – 206,000 | 126,000 | 1.6
deathindexes.com – 190,000 | 136,000 | 1.4
tribalpages.com – 188,000 | 83,900 | 2.2
distantcousin.com – 176,000 | 136,000 | 1.3
searchforancestors.com – 166,000 | 147,000 | 1.1
linkpendium.com – 163,000 | 134,000 | 1.2
cousinconnect.com – 155,000 | 131,000 | 1.2
ancestry.co.uk – 152,000 | 104,000 | 1.5
census-online.com – 149,000 | 94,000 | 1.6
politicalgraveyard.com – 138,000 | 121,000 | 1.1
daddezio.com – 134,000 | 107,000 | 1.3
familybuilder.com – 134,000 | 55,600 | 2.4
genealogybank.com – 134,000 | 134,000 | 1
genwed.com – 134,000 | 104,000 | 1.3
us-census.org – 129,000 | 91,500 | 1.4
familyhistory101.com – 126,000 | 104,000 | 1.2
kindredkonnections.com – 126,000 | 102,000 | 1.2
obitcentral.com – 120,000 | 106,000 | 1.1
gencircles.com – 117,000 | 79,600 | 1.5
ourstory.com – 113,000 | 23,100 | 4.9
censusfinder.com – 107,000 | 87,500 | 1.2
surnameweb.org – 105,000 | 96,100 | 1.1
jewishgen.org – 103,000 | 71,400 | 1.4
genebase.com – 98,300 | 85,800 | 1.1
eogn.com – 97,200 | 46,400 | 2.1
deadfred.com – 97,000 | 76,000 | 1.3
kindredtrails.com – 96,100 | 71,400 | 1.3
familyhistory.com – 87,200 | 72,100 | 1.2
geneanet.org – 80,200 | 41,400 | 1.9
idreamof.com – 78,200 | 60,500 | 1.3
genealogybuff.com – 77,400 | 61,800 | 1.3
stevemorse.org – 73,500 | 53,200 | 1.4
genhomepage.com – 69,800 | 20,500 | 3.4
ancientfaces.com – 68,300 | 55,900 | 1.2
genealogylinks.net – 67,300 | 52,700 | 1.3
searchyourgenealogy.com – 65,500 | 61,000 | 1.1
familytreemagazine.com – 63,400 | 42,900 | 1.5
genealogy.org – 63,400 | 49,400 | 1.4
ancestry.ca – 53,900 | 26,900 | 2
familytreelegends.com – 50,500 | 37,400 | 1.4
immigrantships.net – 46,400 | 38,300 | 1.2
familytree.com – 44,900 | 41,500 | 1.1
ancestralfindings.com – 44,800 | 28,700 | 1.6
olivetreegenealogy.com – 43,900 | 36,700 | 1.2
ellisislandrecords.org – 42,800 | 39,500 | 1.1
storyofmylife.com – 42,800 | 5,770 | 7.4
dnaancestryproject.com – 41,100 | 38,900 | 1,1
obitsarchive.com – 37,500 | 23,200 | 1.6
ancestry.com.au – 35,200 | 29,500 | 1.2
familydeathrecords.com – 34,800 | 33,000 | 1.1
familybirthrecords.com – 34,500 | 31,200 | 1.1
legacyfamilytree.com – 32,700 | 20,900 | 1.6
newspaperabstracts.com – 30,300 | 26,100 | 1.2
theshipslist.com – 29,500 | 18,300 | 1.6
familymarriagerecords.com – 28,600 | 25,000 | 1.1
family-reunion.com – 28,400 | 25,800 | 1.1
geneasearch.com – 26,900 | 22,300 | 1.2
genetree.com – 25,000 | 7,070 | 3.5
rootsmagic.com – 24,600 | 14,400 | 1.7
genealogysearch.org – 24,200 | 20,000 | 1.2
familytreeguide.com – 24,100 | 23,600 | 1
findmypast.com – 23,900 | 17,100 | 1.4
raogk.org – 22,100 | 13,000 | 1.7
gendir.com – 20,600 | 19,300 | 1.1
smgf.org – 20,000 | 12,900 | 1.6
worldroots.com – 18,900 | 17,800 | 1.1
webtree.com – 17,400 | 11,900 | 1.5
noktree.com – 13,900 | 11,500 | 1.2
ancestorguide.com – 13,800 | 10,400 | 1.3
kincafe.com – 13,500 | 10,500 | 1.3
uftree.com – 13,100 | 12,700 | 1
familysearchlabs.org – 12,800 | 5,700 | 2.2
ancquest.com – 12,000 | 3,650 | 3.3
familytreesearcher.com – 11,500 | 11,300 | 1
itsourtree.com – 11,500 | 7,140 | 1.6
23andme.com – 10,400 | 8,590 | 1.2
everton.com – 10,100 | 7,650 | 1.3
allvitalrecords.com – 8,940 | 7,020 | 1.3
lineages.com – 8,870 | 8,410 | 1.1
dearmyrtle.com – 8,780 | 7,160 | 1.2
dnaheritage.com – 8,430 | 4,660 | 1.8
makemyfamilytree.com – 8,080 | 8,080 | 1
werelate.org – 7,210 | 6,330 | 1.1
progenygenealogy.com – 6,210 | 6,210 | 1
famiva.com – 6,060 | 3,360 | 1.8
genesreunited.com – 6,060 | 4,080 | 1.5
phpgedview.net – 5,870 | 5,600 | 1
kindo.com – 5,530 | 4,940 | 1.1
rootssearch.net – 5,010 | 3,300 | 1.5
yourfamily.com – 5,010 | 4,590 | 1.1
whollygenes.com – 4,780 | 4,530 | 1.1
gjenvick.com – 4,690 | 4,450 | 1.1
familychronicle.com – 4,540 | 4,540 | 1
familymilitaryrecords.com – 3,810 | 3,420 | 1.1
raynorshyn.com – 3,630 | 3,630 | 1
accessible.com – 3,470 | 1,940 | 1.8
genealogy-search-advice.com – 3,380 | 3,050 | 1.1
gensource.com – 3,320 | 3,040 | 1.1
familycensusrecords.com – 3,290 | 3,290 | 1
genealogue.com – 3,160 | 3,160 | 1
deathrecordsobituarysearch.com – 3,090 | 2,800 | 1.1
wikitree.org – 3,010 | 3,010 | 1
amiglia.com – 3,000 | 2,480 | 1.2
genserv.com – 3,000 | 1,630 | 1.8
ged4web.com – 2,520 | 2,010 | 1.3
onefamilytree.com – 2,270 | 1,360 | 1.7
clooz.com – 2,140 | 1,660 | 1.3
mortalityschedules.com – 2,080 | 1,720 | 1.2
sharedtree.com – 2,040 | 2,040 | 1
lifeonrecord.com – 2,000 | 2,000 | 1
ancestryconnections.com – 1,690 | 1,600 | 1.1
ancestrymagazine.com – 1,640 | 1,640 | 1
leisterpro.com – 1,600 | 1,600 | 1
genbox.com – 1,180 | 932 | 1.3
starkeffect.com – 897 | 897 | 1
yourpastconnections.com – 890 | 453 | 2
mudcreeksoftware.com – 701 | 701 | 1
ancestralauthor.com – 663 | 663 | 1
famtreesoftware.com – 545 | 545 | 1
gedhtree.com – 447 | 447 | 1
macgenealogy.org – 354 | 354 | 1
genealogyguys.com – 315 | 315 | 1
geditcom.com – 217 | 217 | 1
dorotree.com – 182 | 182 | 1
family-historian.co.uk – 182 | 182 | 1
pedigreesoft.com – 182 | 182 | 1
thoughtfulcreations.com – 120 | 120 | 1
famillion.com – 106 | 106 | 1
bkwin.com – 0 | 0 | 0
famware.com – 0 | 0 | 0
gendesigner.com – 0 | 0 | 0
myheredis.com – 0 | 0 | 0
pastplaces.com – 0 | 0 | 0
winfamily.com – 0 | 0 | 0
zooof.com – 0 | 0 | 0
genealogy-software-review.com – no data
genuki.org – no data
livinggenealogy.com – no data

Blogs / Podcasts / News

This category includes top-level domains that contain family history related blogs, podcasts, or primarily contain news.  My lists of blogs is not very complete and does not contain blogs that do not have their own domain name.  (Because traffic data for blogs hosted on other sites is not available).

Blogs / Podcasts / News

Blogs / Podcasts / News

Here is the data for the Blogs / Podcasts / News category:

Blogs / Podcasts / News – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
eogn.com – 97,200 | 46,400 | 2.1
olivetreegenealogy.com – 43,900 | 36,700 | 1.2
dearmyrtle.com – 8,780 | 7,160 | 1.2
genealogue.com – 3,160 | 3,160 | 1
genealogyguys.com – 315 | 315 | 1

Community

Sites in this category primarily offer a community for family historians or genealogists, rather than being a search-based or social networking site.

Community

Community

Here is the data for the Community category:

Community – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
genealogy.com – 2.19 million | 1.16 million | 1.9
rootsweb.com – 1.43 million | 687,000 | 2.1
usgennet.org – 313,000 | 213,000 | 1.5
cousinconnect.com – 155,000 | 131,000 | 1.2
daddezio.com – 134,000 | 107,000 | 1.3
us-census.org – 129,000 | 91,500 | 1.4
jewishgen.org – 103,000 | 71,400 | 1.4
geneanet.com – 80,200 | 41,400 | 1.9
genhomepage.com – 69,800 | 20,500 | 3.4
familytree.com – 44,900 | 41,500 | 1.1
family-reunion.com – 28,400 | 25,800 | 1.1
raogk.org – 22,100 | 13,000 | 1.7
gendir.com – 20,600 | 19,300 | 1.1
lineages.com – 8,870 | 8,410 | 1.1
makemyfamilytree.com – 8,080 | 8,080 | 1
werelate.org – 7,210 | 6,330 | 1.1
yourfamily.com – 5,010 | 4,590 | 1.1
genealogy-search-advice.com – 3,380 | 3,050 | 1.1
genuki.org – no data

Directories

Sites in this category are primarily lists of links to other sites.

Directories

Directories

Here is the raw data for the Directories category:

Directories – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
usgenweb.org – 325,000 | 133,000 | 2.4
accessgenealogy.com – 295,000 | 222,000 | 1.3
cyndislist.com – 269,000 | 183,000 | 1.5
linkpendium.com – 163,000 | 134,000 | 1.2
census-online.com – 149,000 | 94,000 | 1.6
familyhistory101.com – 126,000 | 104,000 | 1.2
kindredtrails.com – 96,100 | 71,400 | 1.3
genhomepage.com – 69,800 | 20,500 | 3.4
genealogylinks.net – 67,300 | 52,700 | 1.3
geneasearch.com – 26,900 | 22,300 | 1.2
genealogysearch.org – 24,200 | 20,000 | 1.2
gendir.com – 20,600 | 19,300 | 1.1
gensource.com – 3,320 | 3,040 | 1.1

DNA

This category includes sites that focus primarily on DNA-based research.

DNA

DNA

Here is the raw data for the DNA category:

DNA – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
familytreedna.com – 241,000 | 106,000 | 2.3
genebase.com – 98,300 | 85,800 | 1.1
dnaancestryproject.com – 41,100 | 38,900 | 1,1
smgf.org – 20,000 | 12,900 | 1.6
23andme.com – 10,400 | 8,590 | 1.2
dnaheritage.com – 8,430 | 4,660 | 1.8

Magazines

These are sites that are associated with a printed magazine focused on family history.

Magazines

Magazines

Here is the actua traffic data for the Magazines category:

Magazines – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
familytreemagazine.com – 63,400 | 42,900 | 1.5
everton.com – 10,100 | 7,650 | 1.3
familychronicle.com – 4,540 | 4,540 | 1
ancestrymagazine.com – 1,640 | 1,640 | 1

Online Family Trees

In this category, I include sites whose primary focus is in allowing users to either create or upload their family tree to the site and then share with others.  There is a fair bit of overlap between this category and the Social/Family Networking category, but sites in this category put more emphasis on publishing a tree than on sharing other types of information.

Online Family Trees

Online Family Trees

Here is the actual data for the Online Family Trees category:

Online Family Trees – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
ancestry.com – 15.3 million | 4.9 million | 3.1
myheritage.com – 2.47 million | 923,000 | 2.7
genealogy.com – 2.19 million | 1.16 million | 1.9
rootsweb.com – 1.43 million | 687,000 | 2.1
geni.com – 1.34 million | 397,000 | 3.4
familylink.com – 546,000 | 308,000 | 1.8  (now familyhistorylink.com)
ancestry.co.uk – 152,000 | 104,000 | 1.5
onegreatfamily.com – 421,000 | 325,000 | 1.3
tribalpages.com – 188,000 | 83,900 | 2.2
kindredkonnections.com – 126,000 | 102,000 | 1.2
gencircles.com – 117,000 | 79,600 | 1.5
geneanet.org – 80,200 | 41,400 | 1.9
ancestry.ca – 53,900 | 26,900 | 2
ancestry.com.au – 35,200 | 29,500 | 1.2
genetree.com – 25,000 | 7,070 | 3.5
familytreeguide.com – 24,100 | 23,600 | 1
findmypast.com – 23,900 | 17,100 | 1.4
worldroots.com – 18,900 | 17,800 | 1.1
webtree.com – 17,400 | 11,900 | 1.5
noktree.com – 13,900 | 11,500 | 1.2
kincafe.com – 13,500 | 10,500 | 1.3
genesreunited.com – 6,060 | 4,080 | 1.5
kindo.com – 5,530 | 4,940 | 1.1
wikitree.org – 3,010 | 3,010 | 1
amiglia.com – 3,000 | 2,480 | 1.2
onefamilytree.com – 2,270 | 1,360 | 1.7
pedigreesoft.com – 182 | 182 | 1
famillion.com – 106 | 106 | 1
zooof.com – 0 | 0 | 0

Search Records

This category includes sites focused mainly on searching of historical documents or records.

Search

Search

And here is the actual data for the Search category:

Search – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
ancestry.com – 15.3 million | 4.9 million | 3.1
familysearch.org – 3.02 million | 990,000 | 3.1
genealogy.com – 2.19 million | 1.16 million | 1.9
findagrave.com – 1.72 million | 643,000 | 2.7
rootsweb.com – 1.43 million | 687,000 | 2.1
footnote.com – 1.03 million | 790,000 | 1.3
newspaperarchive.com – 976,000 | 805,000 | 1.2
archives.gov – 822,000 | 677,000 | 1.2
worldvitalrecords.com – 625,000 | 412,000 | 1.5
ancestorhunt.com – 529,000 | 437,000 | 1.2
heritagequestonline.com – 438,000 | 111,000 | 3.9
onegreatfamily.com – 421,000 | 325,000 | 1.3
interment.net – 406,000 | 288,000 | 1.4
genealogytoday.com – 333,000 | 295,000 | 1.1
vitalrec.com – 237,000 | 203,000 | 1.2
ellisisland.org – 229,000 | 149,000 | 1.5
deathindexes.com – 190,000 | 136,000 | 1.4
distantcousin.com – 176,000 | 136,000 | 1.3
searchforancestors.com – 166,000 | 147,000 | 1.1
ancestry.co.uk – 152,000 | 104,000 | 1.5
politicalgraveyard.com – 138,000 | 121,000 | 1.1
genealogybank.com – 134,000 | 134,000 | 1
genwed.com – 134,000 | 104,000 | 1.3
us-census.org – 129,000 | 91,500 | 1.4
kindredkonnections.com – 126,000 | 102,000 | 1.2
obitcentral.com – 120,000 | 106,000 | 1.1
censusfinder.com – 107,000 | 87,500 | 1.2
surnameweb.org – 105,000 | 96,100 | 1.1
deadfred.com – 97,000 | 76,000 | 1.3
familyhistory.com – 87,200 | 72,100 | 1.2
geneanet.org – 80,200 | 41,400 | 1.9
idreamof.com – 78,200 | 60,500 | 1.3
genealogybuff.com – 77,400 | 61,800 | 1.3
stevemorse.org – 73,500 | 53,200 | 1.4
searchyourgenealogy.com – 65,500 | 61,000 | 1.1
genealogy.org – 63,400 | 49,400 | 1.4
ancestry.ca – 53,900 | 26,900 | 2
immigrantships.net – 46,400 | 38,300 | 1.2
ancestralfindings.com – 44,800 | 28,700 | 1.6
olivetreegenealogy.com – 43,900 | 36,700 | 1.2
ellisislandrecords.org – 42,800 | 39,500 | 1.1
obitsarchive.com – 37,500 | 23,200 | 1.6
ancestry.com.au – 35,200 | 29,500 | 1.2
familydeathrecords.com – 34,800 | 33,000 | 1.1
familybirthrecords.com – 34,500 | 31,200 | 1.1
newspaperabstracts.com – 30,300 | 26,100 | 1.2
theshipslist.com – 29,500 | 18,300 | 1.6
familymarriagerecords.com – 28,600 | 25,000 | 1.1
genealogysearch.org – 24,200 | 20,000 | 1.2
findmypast.com – 23,900 | 17,100 | 1.4
ancestorguide.com – 13,800 | 10,400 | 1.3
familytreesearcher.com – 11,500 | 11,300 | 1
allvitalrecords.com – 8,940 | 7,020 | 1.3
rootssearch.net – 5,010 | 3,300 | 1.5
gjenvick.com – 4,690 | 4,450 | 1.1
familymilitaryrecords.com – 3,810 | 3,420 | 1.1
accessible.com – 3,470 | 1,940 | 1.8
familycensusrecords.com – 3,290 | 3,290 | 1
deathrecordsobituarysearch.com – 3,090 | 2,800 | 1.1
genserv.com – 3,000 | 1,630 | 1.8
mortalityschedules.com – 2,080 | 1,720 | 1.2
ancestryconnections.com – 1,690 | 1,600 | 1.1
yourpastconnections.com – 890 | 453 | 2
pastplaces.com – 0 | 0 | 0

Social / Family Networking

This category includes sites that could be called “social networking” sites and whose primary purpose is to post/share information with other family members.  These sites are also typically newer sites with more dynamic user interfaces, referred to as “Web 2.0″ sites.

Social / Family Networking

Social / Family Networking

Here is the actual data for this category:

Social/Family Networking – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
ancestry.com – 15.3 million | 4.9 million | 3.1
myfamily.com – 6.66 million | 987,000 | 6.7
myheritage.com – 2.47 million | 923,000 | 2.7
geni.com – 1.34 million | 397,000 | 3.4
tribalpages.com – 188,000 | 83,900 | 2.2
familybuilder.com – 134,000 | 55,600 | 2.4
ourstory.com – 113,000 | 23,100 | 4.9
ancientfaces.com – 68,300 | 55,900 | 1.2
storyofmylife.com – 42,800 | 5,770 | 7.4
genetree.com – 25,000 | 7,070 | 3.5
kincafe.com – 13,500 | 10,500 | 1.3
itsourtree.com – 11,500 | 7,140 | 1.6
famiva.com – 6,060 | 3,360 | 1.8
kindo.com – 5,530 | 4,940 | 1.1
amiglia.com – 3,000 | 2,480 | 1.2
lifeonrecord.com – 2,000 | 2,000 | 1
livinggenealogy.com – no data

Software / Tools

The final category includes sites focused primarily on genealogy software or tools.  Note that comparing web traffic for these sites doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the market share or prevalence of the associated software products.

Software / Tools

Software / Tools

Finally, here is the raw traffic data for the Software/Tools category:

Software/Tools – visits/mo | uniques/mo | avg-visits/mo
familysearch.org – PAF – 3.02 million | 990,000 | 3.1
myheritage.com – 2.47 million | 923,000 | 2.7
genealogy.com – Family Tree Maker – 2.19 million | 1.16 million | 1.9
familytreemaker.com – 206,000 | 126,000 | 1.6
familytreelegends.com – 50,500 | 37,400 | 1.4
legacyfamilytree.com – 32,700 | 20,900 | 1.6
rootsmagic.com – 24,600 | 14,400 | 1.7
uftree.com – 13,100 | 12,700 | 1
familysearchlabs.org – 12,800 | 5,700 | 2.2
ancquest.com – Ancestral Quest, PAFWiz – 12,000 | 3,650 | 3.3
progenygenealogy.com – 6,210 | 6,210 | 1
phpgedview.net – 5,870 | 5,600 | 1
whollygenes.com – 4,780 | 4,530 | 1.1
raynorshyn.com – 3,630 | 3,630 | 1
ged4web.com – 2,520 | 2,010 | 1.3
clooz.com – 2,140 | 1,660 | 1.3
leisterpro.com – 1,600 | 1,600 | 1
genbox.com – 1,180 | 932 | 1.3
starkeffect.com – 897 | 897 | 1
mudcreeksoftware.com – 701 | 701 | 1
ancestralauthor.com – 663 | 663 | 1
famtreesoftware.com – 545 | 545 | 1
gedhtree.com – 447 | 447 | 1
macgenealogy.org – 354 | 354 | 1
geditcom.com – 217 | 217 | 1
dorotree.com – 182 | 182 | 1
family-historian.co.uk – 182 | 182 | 1
thoughtfulcreations.com – 120 | 120 | 1
bkwin.com – 0 | 0 | 0
famware.com – 0 | 0 | 0
gendesigner.com – 0 | 0 | 0
myheredis.com – 0 | 0 | 0
winfamily.com – 0 | 0 | 0
genealogy-software-review.com – no data

How devastated would you be if you lost all of your family history data?  What if you fired up Family Tree Maker or RootsMagic tomorrow and they were unable to read any portion of your family tree?  What if your computer doesn’t even boot tomorrow when you try to turn it on?  How would you feel about losing those 1500 photos that you’ve scanned and have on your hard drive?

Hard drives do crash and files do become corrupt.  It’s not a matter of if you will lose some data, but when you’ll lose it.  If you use a computer for any length of time, you’re almost guaranteed to lose data at some point.

When you do suffer a data loss, it might be just a corrupt family history data file.  Or it might be a complete hard drive meltdown, where you lose absolutely everything.

Instead of hoping or assuming that you will never lose data, the best plan is to assume that you definitely will lose data at some point and to prepare for the day that it happens.  Your backup plan should be dependable enough that you wouldn’t suffer even a little anxiety if you discovered tomorrow that absolutely everything on your PC was lost.

Here’s my basic mantra–everything on your computer that you care about needs to be backed up.  And to make sure you can recover lost data, you should back things up in more than one way and store the backups in more than one place.

Think of backups like seat belts.  Yes, you can get away without wearing seat belts in your car for a while.  But if you ever do get in an accident, you’re going to really wish you’d been wearing your seat belt.  The same is true of backups–if (or when) you lose some data, you’re going to wish you’d taken the extra effort to back everything up.

To that end, here is a list of things that you can do to protect yourself.  These aren’t alternatives–my proposal is that you do everything on this list.  Yes, doing all of this is a pain.  But so is losing 10 years of work and having no way to get back what you’ve lost.  Do you really want to risk losing everything, for the sake of convenience?  Consider this list as–the things that you’ll wish you’d been doing after you suffer a major data loss.

1.  Identify the location of all of your genealogical data (on all machines)

The first step is to figure out what data you need to back up.  Here is a basic list of the types of data you should be most focused on.

  • Genealogy program data files
  • Generated reports
  • Scanned photos
  • Scanned documents
  • E-mail data files
  • Personal documents and writing, e.g. travelogues, lists, source data, etc.
  • Web browser favorites  (bookmarks)

I’ll go into more detail in a future post on exactly where to find things like genealogy program data files and e-mail data files.

It will also be important, when planning the next steps, to have some sense of how much data you’ll need to back up.  If you’re backing up mainly genealogy data files, this might be as little as 50-100MB.  On the other hand, if you’re like me and you have lots of high-resolution scanned photos, the amount of data might grow to as much as 100GB or more.

2.  Synchronize your data between multiple computers at home

The first technique to use, in order to protect your data, is to synchronize your data between multiple PCs at home.  I realize that not everyone has more than one PC, but it doesn’t take a very powerful machine at all to serve as a backup device–i.e. a machine that you don’t use regularly, but just store backed up files on.

Once you’ve identified the data to back up and the machine to use, you’ll want to pick a software tool that does the file synchronization for you in an automated fashion.  The basic idea is as follows–when you first install the tool, it will copy all of the data to the second machine, creating a “mirror” of the data on your main PC.  What this means is that every directory and file is duplicated on the backup machine and you could go to that machine and see the same directory/file structure as what you have on your main PC.  If anything goes wrong with the data on the first machine, you have an exact copy on the second machine, so you won’t lose anything.

Once the synchronization tool has been set up, it will run all of the time in the background and (here’s the cool part) wait until you change something on your main PC and then automatically copy the changes over to the backup machine.  In this way, you never have to worry about doing any backups yourself.  The tool takes care of everything and ensures that you always have two identical copies of all data.

The benefit of “on-site” file synchronization is that if you lose something, you have a backup copy that you can get to easily and without any trouble.  Just copy the file from the backup machine to your main PC.

Here are some basic tools that support automatic file synchronization:

Of these tools, only FolderShare and SugarSync are available on the Mac.

3.  Use an online backup service to back up your data to “the cloud”

In addition to synchronizing data between multiple PCs at home, you should sign up for a service that backs your data up to an online location.  (Some people refer to this as storing your data “in the cloud”, meaning–the Internet).

Online backup tools/services work in much the same way as the synchronization tools that I describe above.  Once you set up the service, it should run automatically and guarantee that any files you change are automatically copied to an online location.

There are a couple of subtle differences between doing synchronization to another PC and doing online backups:

  • Online backups will do a better job at storing old versions of files, or keeping files after you’ve deleted them locally
  • Because the online service might store several versions of a document, it may be a little harder to get access to the current version
  • Online backups can run quite a bit slower than local synchronizations–a concern unless you have a very fast Internet connection
  • With online backups, you’re relying on the online site to stay up and on the company to stay in business
  • You’ll typically pay more for online backup services than for file synchronization tools

Here are some companies that provide online backup services:

4.  Do quarterly archival backups and off-site

The next major leg of your backup strategy should be to do occasional “archive” backups to something like CD-ROMs and to store the resulting media off-site.  (Somewhere other than the building where your main PC is located).

Doing archival backups periodically, in addition to other backup methods, is critical, though it typically involves more manual effort than the other strategies.  The reason that archives are so important is that both synchronization and online backup have the goal of duplicating the directories and files on your main PC.  This means that if you delete a bunch of files on your main PC, the files will eventually also be deleted from either your backup PC (if synchronizing) or from the online service.  Once this happens, you’ll have no way to get your data back.

Online backup services are pretty good about keeping deleted files around for a short period of time.  So if you delete a file and notice quickly enough, you’ll be able to get your file back.  But if you discover that you deleted some stuff a year ago and need it back, odds are good that the online service will have already thrown the data away.

Here are some tools that make doing regular archival backups easier:

5.  Store personal passwords on multiple encrypted thumb drives

We all have lots of different username/password combinations that we’re required to create when visiting web sites, or signing up for various services.  These usernames and passwords constitutes data which is very important to keep backed up.

Unlike other types of data, it’s probably not a good idea to just back this data up with the other data, e.g. as part of an online service.  If you lose everything on your computer and need to go back to your online service to retrieve the data, you’ll need to know at least your username/password for the online service.

Because of this, I recommend keeping all of your username/password combinations on a USB flash drive that you keep with you at all times.  That way, even if you lose all data on your PC, you still have the passwords that you need to access your online data or services.

The problem with carrying all of your data on a USB drive is that it’s not secure.  If you lose the drive, someone else could read all of your data.  For that reason, it’s important to also encrypt the data on the thumb drive.  When you encrypt the data, you pick a single pass phrase that you’ll be guaranteed of remembering.  Entering that pass phrase “unlocks” the thumb drive and you can then access everything else.

To store and encrypt your password data on a thumb drive, I recommend doing the following:

  • Buy a USB flash drive.  It doesn’t have to be very large.
  • Create a text file on the flash drive and enter all of your username/password combinations
  • Use a product like TrueCrypt to encrypt all data on the drive
  • Create a second flash drive that is identical to the first, also encrypted
  • Keep one flash drive with you and store one in a safe place

6.  Keep copies of all installation media off-site

It’s also important to safeguard the programs or applications that you’ve installed on your PC.  If you suffered a complete PC meltdown, you’ll need to reinstall all of your applications before restoring your data.

The best strategy is to buy a sleeve that holds a number of different CDs and to store all of your software in the sleeve.  For software that you’ve downloaded, rather than bought, burn the downloaded images to a CD and store that CD in the folder as well.

Once you have a single folder with all of your software, store it in a safe place, at a different site from your main computer.  This way, if you suffered some disaster at home, you’d still have access to all of your original software.

7.  Create regular genealogy reports and distribute to several family members

As an added safeguard, it doesn’t hurt to create regular printed reports of all of your family data and to distribute these reports as widely as possible.  Information that is located only on a computer, no matter how well backed up, is not nearly as likely to survive as data that has been written down or printed out.

Distributing your reports and charts to as many family members as possible ensures that the data will survive even if you lose all of your electronic data.

Another important reasons to do this is because none of us can guarantee how long we’ll be around.  We may have the most organized set of electronic family history data imaginable, well backed up.  But if we die and no one continues on with our work, it will all be lost.  To guard against this, just make sure that as many people as possible have copies of the data and of all of your work.

8.  Get physical prints of all digital photos and store off-site

It’s equally important to protect digital photos by getting physical copies as soon as possible.  Again, the best strategy is to store the physical copies in a location different from the PC where the digital copies are stored.  If your house should burn down, you’ll at least be able to go back to the prints and re-digitize them.

As with reports and charts, it’s also a good idea to distribute photos as widely as possible.

9.  Monitor how your backups are doing

A backup plan is not effective if it has stopped working.  So it’s important for you to periodically check on your various backup strategies.  Go browse locations of online data, or synched data.  Try retrieving data from the archival backups that you’re creating.  It’s important to make sure that your data is truly being backed up and that you’re able to retrieve it.

10.  Write up a description of where your data is and give to family member(s)

Finally, it’s a good idea to write down a detailed description of where all of your family data is.  Include a description of your PCs, exact folders where the data is located, software programs used, and a description of where your data is backed up and how.  Make sure that several family members have a copy of this description.  You should also make it clear what is to be done with this information after you’ve gone.  Ideally, you’d bequeath it to another family member that is willing to carry on your work.  But if that’s not possible, you might consider donating the information to a local genealogical society, or historical society.  The main goal is to make sure that the information is preserved, no matter what happens to you.

Conclusion

That’s my complete list of what I think is necessary to safeguard your genealogical data.  Not only do these strategies ensure that you’ll never lose any data, they also help make sure that your data is properly preserved for future generations.

Doing all of this might be a little bit of work.  But you need to consider how much of a tragedy it would be to lose any of your data.  Then weigh that against the inconvenience of doing regular backups.  For most of us, family data is so incredibly important that it’s worth doing almost anything to make sure that it stays safe.

Those of us who are passionate about family history spend a lot of our time looking backwards.  Our entire focus is on learning about our family’s history, seeing how far back we can go and how many details we can uncover.

But how often do we reverse this, and look forward instead?  When was the last time that you stopped to think about your descendants?  I’m not talking about your kids or even your grandchildren.  I’m thinking instead about the descendants that we’ll never meet, like great-grandchildren and their kids.

What would these descendants want to know about you?  What aspects of your daily life, which you might find tedious, might they find fascinating?  What significant pieces of your life are simply not captured by your “document trail”–the birth certificates, marriage records, etc. that will define you 100 years from now?

It’s much more fun to look back than to look forward.  I love staring into the eyes of ancestors in an old photo and wondering what their lives were like.  And the life of a lumberjack in Minnesota in 1894 is infinitely more interesting to me than the details of a typical white collar person’s life in 2008.

But it’s a mistake to only look backwards.  For starters, our lives are a lot more interesting than we think.  We’re so busy just living from day to day that we forget that our lives really are adventures.  That epic backpacking trip through Europe, or the story of how we quit our day job to start a new business—those are wonderful stories that need to be told!

Our lives are also filled with minutiae that our descendants will likely find fascinating.  As common and straightforward as our lives seem today, future generations will be very curious to learn about how we lived our lives—because their lives are likely to be so different.

Just imagine what you’d give for the chance to ask a dozen questions of one of your ancestors.  The simplest questions would yield great insights and bring these ancestors to life.  Questions like: Why did you marry your spouse?  What are you most proud of?  Who were your heroes?

The answer to any one of these questions would be something that we’d likely treasure, and it would bring an ancestor to life in a way that no census page ever will.

Our own answers to these questions would be no less a treasure for future generations.  Every little detail about our lives that we can leave a record of, and every artifact that we manage to preserve and pass down, will likely be equally treasured by some future family historian as they look back through time and try to make sense of our life.

So here’s a little laundry list of some of the things that you might think about leaving behind for future generations:

  • Answers to simple questions like:  What do you believe in?  What are you passionate about?
  • Diary/journal entries
  • A list of all the places that you’ve lived, with dates
  • A list of the cars that you’ve owned/driven
  • A list of all the people that have made an impact on your life    -
  • A short summary of your best friends
  • A list of all the jobs that you’ve ever held
  • A description of how you spend your leisure time
  • A list of some of your favorite things/places/people
  • A list of your biggest pet peeves
  • Personal letters
  • Birthday and holiday cards
  • Funeral and wedding programs
  • Ticket stubs
  • A treasured book
  • A favorite tool
  • Photos—lots of photos
  • Home videos
  • A recording of your voice
  • A complete list of all the traveling that you’ve done
  • A description of a typical day at your job
  • A dozen secrets that you wouldn’t share with any living relatives
  • Your biggest disappointment or heartbreak
  • Your greatest regret
  • A list of the five most significant events in your life
  • A list of your greatest talents
  • A description of your most embarassing moment
  • A description of some piece of technology and how you use it in your life
  • A description of your morning ritual(s)
  • A description of your evening ritual(s)

I could go on all day.  And likely you could, too.  The point is that there are many things that you could so easily leave behind for your descendants.  It takes such little effort to create just a few of these artifacts, and they would likely become great treasures to some future family historian.  So what are you waiting for?

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