A personal review of the We're Related app by Ancestry.com
I've seen a lot of negative talk out there in the cyber world about this app, We're Related. So, I had to give it a try.
I got the app just a short time after its release to the public. I thought of it as simply, 'oh how cute!' You know, I figured it was going to tell me some crazy stuff, much like a Magic 8 Ball (oops, just about told you how old I am!) In any case, I simply wasn't taking it seriously. I mean, there are versions of my family tree on ancestry that date back to 2001 when I first got on to the site. They are not professional in any way shape or form. I wasn't even using sources or making citations back then! I didn't even realize that I needed to! That's how green I was at this thing called genealogy. And over the years, I took my tree off of Ancestry because I saw people using my tree, including my notes! And when I confronted people with that, they would swear that they NEVER used my notes. (Hint: if you have a genealogy program like FTM, when making personal notes, always end your note with a dash and then either your name or your initials. Dummy's don't even look to see those initials there! They simply download your notes, and say they are their own!)
Okay, so my tree is hidden. And there are NO NOTES attached to my online tree any more. I will share it if I feel like someone is a close enough relative, when asked. Meaning at least a 2nd cousin. Any further away in the chain of relatives, and you are on your own! Sources and citations are included, but no notes!
So, when I got the We're Related app, I thought it would be about as useless as t-i-_-s on a boar hog. (Yeah, you know what that "_" stands for..) It was just going to be for fun. I got some hits that said I was related to some of my favorite genealogy people out there. But since I know that nothing even remotely connected to 2nd cousin would come of any of it, and seeing that our common ancestor was like 8-10 generations ago, no I didn't bother to contact them. Or to put them in my tree. Not that my tree doesn't have some people in it who aren't even remotely related to me, but that's because I did research for some of my cousins, on my Dad's side. (Dad came from a family of 15 children. Grandpa outlived two of his three wives, and had children with all three. So in all fairness, having taken on the mantle of family genealogist, I did do some research for my cousins who are not from my Dad's immediate siblings.)
So, why am I excited about my app? And how, or has it, affected my research?
Okay, so I wanted to know if I really was related to John F. Kennedy. Out of curiosity. But, I didn't have research back as far as the app had our common ancestor. But it did give me some names to pick up where I had not tread before. And it began as a game. Not to PROVE the relationship, but more to DISPROVE it. And a funny thing happened.
I was able to PROVE my ancestry back to the common ancestor! But that still didn't prove that I was related to Kennedy. So, instead of moving backward, as I had to prove my link to the common ancestor, I began researching forward from the common ancestor to see if I could, once again, disprove a relationship with the former President. And guess what. I DID prove we shared the same common ancestor!
So, for about the first 10 or so that I received I went right to work to see who all I am related to, or NOT related to.
Funny thing is this, I was able to provide documentation on those first 10 or so that proved I was related to them. Very distantly mind you, but the connect was there. But I wasn't excited about the connect, I mean, if you're a Christian and believe in the Bible, then you already know we are all related someway. Right? If you could do it, we would all be able to trace our roots back to Adam and Eve. Am I right? (Don't you just love looking at those trees on Ancestry or Family Search that have Adam and Eve listed as their ancestors? As I always say, the proof is in the pudding, and you ain't got no pudding there my friend!)
What I was excited about, was the fact that in doing the research, I was getting hints at where to go to find my next set of grandparents. you know, we all have them. 10x great-grandfather was married to UNK. (We've all got them, don't we? Those mystery grandparents?) Suddenly I had names. And with names I could begin to cross reference marriage bans, licenses, birth and death records, property taxes, and could corroborate distant aunts and uncles. These people had been mysteries to me until now!
Okay, so I'm not supportive of using the trees that you are shown on the app. Some of them are just plain weird and make no sense! But do take some time and look through them. I have busted through SEVERAL brick walls with this app's help!
Not to mention that I can say I'm 8th cousins with Johnnie Depp, or 2nd cousins, 36 times removed with Queen Elizabeth. Okay, laugh. Some of my family really get a charge out of knowing things like that!
But, what if I can tell you that I have reputable research that states I am a direct descendant of Charlemagne? Oh, you too??? Yeah, right, so can 2 billion other people on the planet! But hey, I did the research to find my trail (ancestry) back to him. How many of those 2 billion other people can say the same? (I even found out that Henry VIII had some of my ancestors noggins lopped off!)
So, I am totally infatuated with the app. At first I was able to keep up with doing research on each new tree match. I had to give that up in a hurry! There was no way I could prove everybody as fast as the trees were coming in. And no, I am not related to every tree I am sent. For instance, I am NOT related to Kurt Cobain, or Toby Maguire (through a common ancestor listed as Frances UNKNOWN, yeah let's see you prove that one!) But without much effort at all I have proven some very interesting people share a common ancestor with me. Sadly, the closest any of them have been is 4th cousin 4 times removed. Care to guess the lucky relative there? None other than the original fright poet, Edgar Allan Poe.
So, if you have a smart phone, go ahead and download the app. But don't take it seriously, unless you're willing to do the legwork to prove that you're related to Charlemagne. Don't forget sources and citations. And none of this "UNK" stuff. Find out who it is, and then set out to disprove it. (I find it easier to find a name, and then disprove the relationship than trying to prove it. I start out with the premise that it's all a fairy tale, unless you can prove it.)
Have fun with it! Use the app when you have your next family gathering and play charades with everyone taking a famous person you're related to and try to guess who it is! (Just make sure you let everyone know that the connection hasn't been proven unless you actually have!)
Seriously, though, it's a fun app, and it really has helped me break through some walls where I had been stumped before. In some cases moving back only a single generation, or as in the case of Charlemagne, 38 generations!
On a scale of one to five stars, I rate the app with FIVE STARS.