Modern Software Experience

2010-12-15

programmatic access to genealogy data

Geni API

Geni.com just introduced a major new feature; an Application Programming Interface (API). A two-part introduction to the Geni API, The Geni API and The Geni Model, discusses it in some detail.

Geni.com is not the first web genealogy vendor to offer a public API to their genealogy server. Mid 2009, OneGreatFamily introduced GenealogyCloud. An interesting feature of the GenealogyCloud API is that it not only exposes OneGreatFamily's matching & merging technology, but also gives you a choice between two licensing models; integration of your data with OneGreatFamily or your own, empty database for a higher licensing fee. Geni.com offers no such choice. The Geni API is for accessing the Geni.com database, and there are no licensing fees.

Another interesting property of the GenealogyCloud API is that OneGreatFamily's own application uses it. The Geni API is a new development and the current Geni application does not use Geni API, but will probably change over to using their own API in 2011.

genea APIs

Other vendors have APIs to access their web databases too, but little of that is publicly documented. There is some API between Family Tree Maker and Ancestry.com, and some years ago Ancestry.com said they would publish it, but they still have not done so. There is some API between Family Tree Builder and MyHeritage, but it is not publicly documented.
There is an API for New FamilySearch (NFS), the decade-delayed social genealogy site of FamilySearch, but it is not publicly documented. FamilySearch has a developer program through which developers can get access and documentation, but limits access to both their social genealogy site itself and the developer documentation for it to mormons.

no industry success

So far, none of these APIs is a big industry success. The Ancestry.com  API for Family Tree Maker and the MyHeritage API for Family Tree Builder remain private. Quite a few applications feature New FamilySearch support, but the system still is still not public.

When OneGreatFamily introduced GenealogyCloud, OneGreatFamily CEO Robert Armstrong told me that multiple genealogy vendors had shown an interest in their API, including several vendor of desktop genealogy applications. However, 1½ years later, I am not still aware of any third party product that integrates with GenealogyCloud. I asked them about it a few weeks ago, and they were not able to mention any product. So it remains to be seen how successful the Geni API will be.

integrated access

There are two public genealogy web APIs now. If FamilySearch were to open up their documentation, there would be three.
None of the three systems is completely freely accessible; OneGreatFamily requires a subscription, Geni.com requires a subscription for advanced features, and FamilySearch still limits their site to mormons.
Still, with a growing a number of public web APIs for large genealogical databases, interest from third-party vendors is likely to increase. After all, there certainly is a market for applications that integrate access to all these systems. It would be much nicer to access all these systems from within a single application than to have to use a separate application for each one.

updates

2011-01-18 PhpGedView & Genealogie Online

The open source genealogy project PhpGedview offers a SOAP web service that allows programmatic access to PhpGedView databases. The Dutch Genealogie Online service supports the PhpGedView interface.

2011-01-18 AppleTree

AppleTree, a social genealogy site that is still in beta, has a publicly documented API. The API is freely available, once you've obtained a developer key to use with the API.

2011-02-11 Traces of the Past

Traces of the Past 2.0, an iPhone app that started out as an app for NFS, now supports Geni.com through the Geni API.

2011-03-18 Traces discontinued

TruScape Solutions has discontinued Traces of the Past.

2011-08-10 Family Tree Maker SearchService

The Family Tree Maker SearchService is an Ancestry.com API used by New Family Tree Maker.

2011-08-15 MyHeritage Family Graph API

MyHeritage Family Graph API introduces MyHeritage's new Family Graph API.

2011-09-07 Getting Started with the MyHeritage Family Graph API

Getting Started with the MyHeritage Family Graph API reveals undocumented facts & features you need to get started.

2011-09-08 Family Echo Family Tree API

Added link to Family Echo's Family Tree API.

2011-09-22 Photoloom API

Photoloom has an API - and an example application at familyphotoloom.com.

2011-12-22 Photoloom API

The FamilySearch Family Tree API is public.

2012-06-11 KiN2

KiN2 is a new FaceBook and iPhone app, still in beta, that uses OneGreatFamily's GenealogyCloud.

2013-06-04: GEDCOM X 1.0

The GEDCOM X version number has been changed to 1.0.0 M1.

2014-01-21: WikiTree API

WikiTree has introduced the WikiTree API.

2014-04-14: AppleTree

The AppleTree site is gone.

links