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PROVO — FamilySearch.org recently certified a locally developed Web application that may draw more people to do family history.
Under the direction of Professor Tom Sederberg, Brigham Young University students developed Relative Finder, a website that allows users to find out how closely related they are to their friends, coworkers and historical figures in under three minutes, according to Sederberg.
The free website requires a FamilySearch login. Once a user is connected, their family tree is downloaded.
“We can show how you’re related to a couple of thousand people like European royalty, U.S. presidents and LDS general authorities, living and dead, and several other people who we have genealogical information on,” Sederberg told KSL.com.
Groups of friends, coworkers or neighbors can also find out how they are related by creating a group together on the website.
Sederberg, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came up with the idea about 15 years ago when he was in charge of the genealogy program in his LDS ward.
We can show how you're related to a couple of thousand people like European royalty, U.S. presidents and LDS general authorities, living and dead, and several other people who we have genealogical information on.
Back then, he gathered ward members’ genealogy records from the Church History Library, saved them on floppy discs and downloaded them to his personal computer. He then computed how everyone was related in the ward.
“On average, everyone tied into about two-thirds of the ward (members), and there were lots of examples of second and third cousins,” Sederberg said. “These are people who lived next to each other for 10 to 15 years and they had no idea they were related.”
As technology developed, so did Sederberg’s idea. About 4 years ago, he and his students working in the Computer Science Department began using FamilySearch genealogy data and put it on their website in its beta, or unfinished, form.
Relative Finder will soon be a free mobile application, and the website is currently mobile friendly.
“Somebody said they feel like Relative Finder is ‘the gateway drug in family history,’” Sederberg said. “I think it’s an interesting metaphor, maybe something I wouldn't have chosen, but the point is people use it and it does kind of motivate them to want to dig in more deeply.”