Press Room - News Article

 Wednesday, May 31, 2000 - Deseret News

Firm helps reconstruct family trees

By Lois M. Collins Deseret News staff writer

Ruth Booth has constructed her family tree, one leaf at a time, for more than 30 years. She was corresponding with distant kin long before the advent of personal computers, trying to track down the names of great-great-uncle so-and-so's wife and their fourth child.

For years, she and a great-niece mailed each other photocopies of information they'd gleaned independently. These days, they're bypassing the photocopies for e-mail.

They have found, after tracking back most of eight generations, that they are related, albeit distantly, to some pretty interesting and sometimes even infamous folks.

Alan V. Eaton would tell them they are part of "One Great Family." He's convinced that if someone could mark every individual's place on a family tree, then overlay it with other family trees, the result would be one gargantuan network of kin, everyone related to everyone else. So convinced, in fact, that that's what he named his Springville-based genealogy business:

Last week, Eaton, president and founder, took members of the press on a virtual tour of his Web site,, which is beginning a beta launch later this week.

So far, the site is linked to about 10 million names, with 5 million more being added each month.

He's not making great claims about being better than other dynamic genealogical sources, choosing instead to view his program as "complementary." What he does boast about is a unique focus that should help prevent the biggest problem in genealogy today: wasting time by doing research others have already done.

"We focus on family relationships, not names, dates and places," he said. "And we bring the data collected by others together."

Donny and Marie Osmond found more than each other on their family tree; the genealogical work already completed stretches back 15 generations. But they also recently added video to their compiled family data. People can also scan in photographs.

Using patent-pending technology, the company tries to make it easy for two people who are doing independent research to merge their data. But as genealogists know, there's often disagreement on a name or a date or some other fact. "We let you merge everything you agree on and leave separate the things on which you disagree," Eaton said.

A research log shows where a researcher has already been, cutting down the amount of time spent "reinventing the wheel."

The site also shows who is logged in at a given time, offering family members the chance to chat or video conference.

Another unique feature is that the computer's idle time can be leveraged to do background processing. "We plug the data you fill in into search engines" that wander the Web like insomniacs, using the wee hours to find data. "You may wake up and find new information," he said.

An individual can look over any found data, then choose to accept it, with a click of the mouse, or let it slip away.

The program will offer some basic features for free. Users will be on a "banners and ad" track that will cover the costs of the services offered. More features will be available on a subscription track for about $75 a year. During the beta testing period, the service will be offered at a reduced rate.

To begin, registered users fill in data about themselves and known information about relatives. At some point, Eaton said, "stuff (already in the database) starts to appear on the tree" as the information that's plugged in matches up with existing information.

The database isn't the only thing that's growing, Eaton said. The company now has about 25 full-time people involved, including 10 employees, 15 full-time contractors and a handful of part-time helpers. Besides that, they have a number of business partners, including Catholic Online, WebMiles and Donny Osmond.


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