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“Bumping” Your Genetic Relatives

The Future of Genetic GenealogyToday at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, Dick Eastman writes in “Avoid Dating Your Cousin – There’s an App for That” about a smartphone app that allows users to “bump” their smartphones – gently bump them together – in order to determine if and how they are related.  The Islendiga-App has been around for some time, as other articles discussing the app appear as early as April 2013.

Not surprisingly, it was created in Iceland where genealogies are incredibly detailed and comprehensive. From Dick’s post:

To determine if a potential date is a possible cousin, Icelanders often check the Íslendingabók database. Now a smartphone app will do that for you quickly and easily. Three students from the University of Iceland created a smartphone app, The Islendiga-App, that allows you to bump your phone against another person’s phone, similar to how bump-to-push contact exchange features work, and immediately see your genealogical (if any) relation to the person in question. There is even an alarm feature that lets you know if you share a grandparent.

In 2012, in response to a call for papers for RootsTech 2013, I submitted the following proposal, which turns out to be very similar to the  Islendiga-App.  Unfortunately I never had time (or money!) to develop the app. The proposal wasn’t selected, probably because it was a little unusual, but I thought it was a fun proposal for a technology-driven forum:

“TreeWave” – An App for Comparing Family Trees

 Short Description:  TreeWave is a proposed app for portable computing devices and smartphones.  With TreeWave, genealogists can easily compare their family trees. In the background, TreeWave automatically compares a user’s family tree with family trees of other users located within a predetermined proximity, and alerts them if a match is identified.

 Full Description: TreeWave is a proposed app for portable computing devices and smartphones.  With TreeWave, genealogists can easily compare – and possibly share – their family tree.  In the background, TreeWave automatically compares a user’s genealogical information with  information of other users within a predetermined proximity, and alerts both users if a match is identified.  The app asks both users if they are interested in sharing.  If yes, the information is shared and can include other identifiable information. TreeWave has a continuum of privacy settings that allow the user to determine how much personal or genealogical information to share with others.

Imagine if this were used also to compare genomes with another person? The smartphone could show what ancestors you share, as well as how much DNA you share, including a predicted relationship.

This would be especially fun at genealogy conferences!

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007

4 Comments

  1. I love this idea. We have lots of mtDNA and FamilyFinder matches on my mother’s side and I have spent alot of time back and forth with some people only to find that we just can’t figure out the connection. The only value that might be lost in the use of an app is that you might miss the sense of “where else” the family might have gone. By the way, I love you posts!

  2. When I read Eastman’s column I thought it would HAVE BEEN handy for some of my ancestors that apparently also had a restricted (geographical?) pool from which to choose mates…the results of which are wreaking havoc with my autosomal DNA mapping/segment analysis today. But your idea is superb…a engaging way to not only make genealogical conferences, but also genealogical societies in general, more social and potentially enlightening. Especially now, when first-rate educational workshops/seminars can be accessed remotely (and cost effectively) from our homes, this app would add a whole new reason to “be there” in person. I can do the business plan… :-)

  3. I agree completely Mary! There’s no need for the location awareness to be set for where the smartphone is. You could set it to work for all participants (local and far) of any genealogical conference. The options are endless.

    Ultimately I decided, however, that the likelihood of this being a profitable idea was low. I think it would be very well received, and useful, but wouldn’t be worth the time it took to develop it. Now if I were retired or something like that, it might be a fun side project. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

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