Posted in Storytelling

What’s Your Family Story?

Famicity is a private social network designed as a way for families to share their stories. It’s a beautiful way to document both today’s family and our ancestors.

Famicity screen on iPad
Famicity on an iPad

Famicity combines stories, albums and even videos with a family tree, internal messaging system and address book to make it beautiful way for families to stay in touch and share special family moments. For the family historian, it is also a creative way to share the stories and memorabilia of our ancestors.

Famicity is available on Windows and Mac desktops as well as iOS and Android phones and tablets. It costs nothing to create a Famicity account and, once created, you control who to invite to your private Famicity network.

They describe themselves as a “private social network designed to protect, share and continue your family’s legacy.” It is that – and more! You can post photos, build albums, post videos and stories. There’s plenty of options for comments and conversations too. You can access Famicity using your web browser or using the free mobile apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets. All the content you post in Famicity is encrypted and stored on their servers.

Tap the “hamburger” icon (the three green horizontal lines) at the top left of the Famicity screen to display the menu you see on the left. You are looking at the News screen where the most recently posted content appears at the top of my timeline. As you scroll down the screen, you go futher back in the timeline. Note that the photos shown here show who posted this item and when. When posting a photo, once it has been added to an album you can tap the photo to display an overlay making it possible to add a description and date for that photo. In the example above, the photo on the left was edited to include the date but the photo on the right was not so the current date was automatically displayed.

When viewing an album, you’ll see a panel similar to the one shown here. In the column on the right you see the title and description of this album along with icons to Like, Comment or Tag the photos in it. You can also use the comment box at the bottom of the panel to ask questions or share thoughts. Each comment is displayed in date order in this panel.

Tags are used to identify the people included in your album or story. If you are creating a story describing a vacation or holiday get-together, you can tag everyone present at this event. Use the Tag icon in the album, story or photo to set your tags.

Inviting family and friends to your Famicity network is quite easy. All you do is enter the email address of the family member you want to invite. There is also a place to include a message to add to your invitation. You can use this to add friends as well. Sometimes you will want to limit access to specific content to just your family or a specific set of friends. Famicity supports organizing your network into groups. This, combined with Famicity’s permissions feature, makes it easier to define who can see what within your network. There are two permissions – “Share with” or “Do not share”. You add who can and can’t see that item. By using groups, you can assign one group to share an entry rather than having to list each member by name. There’s no limit to the number of groups you create. You may want a group for your family historians and another for your Georgia cousins. It’s up to you.

The Inbox component makes it possible to send private messages to individuals within your Famicity network. Messages can be addressed to one or more individuals or to a specific group.

Famicity also has a family tree component. You can build your tree on Famicity or import it via GEDCOM if you already have one. While your family may not take to the tree at first, the stories, photos and ephemera posted to the network might just inspire them to see how they “fit” into the their family’s history. When you create a story or album in Famicity, add tags to identify who all are part of the event or photo. When you tap on an individual in the family tree, then select the option to see their story, Famicity will display a timeline for that person including every story and album where they have been tagged.

Famicity is a delight to use. Right now I am collecting stories, albums and ephemera telling our family’s history – recent and historic. Once I have a nice collection to capture their attention, I will start inviting the family. This will give us all opportunities to share the many wonderful family events, vacations and precious moments unique to our family without having to wade through the trash, trivia and advertisements found on most social networks.

Life is good!

To learn more and get started building your own network, visit Famicity at Got questions? Use the comments box at the bottom of this post to ask questions or share tips.

Posted in Storytelling

Why Journaling Is Important

Vital records and DNA can only tell us so much about an ancestor. It’s the photographs, letters, diaries and journals that bring them to life. Those of us lucky enough to inherit any of these from our ancestors are delighted to have a closer look into their world.

Today we have many ways to quickly capture a moment and share it with others. Our cameras will automatically embed the date, time and often location for us. With a little bit of effort, we can add a few words to better describe what is happening in each photo. This is journaling. What do you add? Consider the things you would love to know about the old photos in your collection and use that to help you describe today’s pics.

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What you see here is a photo I have “doctored” to look more like a painting. It got doctored because the original was very faded and needed help. Once the image looked the way I wanted it, I used the Collect app [iPhone – $1.99] to create the frame and add a title and caption. The date was automatically pulled from the photo’s metadata.

This is journaling. It didn’t take long to add the paragraph of information about this photo. Collect is just one of a number of journaling apps that make it easy to create eye-catching stories. Once you get into the journaling habit, your collection of little stories will quickly become a family history.

Posted in Storytelling

21st Century Journaling

Isn’t it wonderful to inherit letters, scrapbooks, diaries and journals from your ancestors? Sure, the records we collect in the archives tell us who our ancestors are and where they lived, but don’t give us much about their personality or the world they lived in. That’s why letters and such become treasures.

My grandfather died when my mother was still a toddler so, when I inherited my grandmother’s “stuff” I was delighted to discover she had saved a stack of letters from him. It took him five years to convince her to marry him. During most of that time she was teaching school at various locations in Georgia. In addition to schmoozing her, he was also passing on a lot of local news about friends and family. What a treasure!

I recently made a connection to a research cousin on my father’s side of the family. She had inherited a diary from her second great grandmother (sister of my second great grandfather). My ancestor was killed in the Civil War and the children were sent to various families in the area. Tracking them was a challenge until this cousin told me she had transcribed the diary and included notes from her research. She had then published it through Amazon and within minutes I was reading it on my Kindle. It’s no literary masterpiece but it is a treasure to me.

DayOne journal entry
The story of a spoon captured in DayOne

What are you doing to share your world and the family members who were part of it? Today we have some amazing tools that make it easy to capture stories, events and the ephemera that color our lives. Let’s take a look.

The mobile smart phone is a revolutionary device. It’s a phone, a camera, a word processor, a GPS device and so much more. It’s always nearby and ready to capture a moment when it happens. Add a journal app and you have an instant baby book, travel journal, scrapbook and diary.

Today’s journal apps are quite amazing. When you create a new entry, the app automatically adds the date, time, place and sometimes even the current weather – all the things you’d love to know on your old photos. Your journal entries aren’t just words either. Most allow you to include photos, video and audio too.

The app shown above is Day One for iOS and Mac. It automatically adds metadata – location, date, time and weather – along with the tags (keywords) you add to make it easy to organize your entries. It supports multiple journals and has export features making it easy to export all or selected entries to a PDF or text file. Another app Diaro is available for iOS and Android devices and provides many of the same features.

How can you put these apps to use? Here are some ideas:

  • Tell the story of your precious treasures. Have you inherited a family quilt, portrait or other heirlooms that you know nothing about? Done leave future generations in the dark. Use your journal to document what is so special about the things you have collected so future generations will know why they are important to you. Paintings, vacation souvenirs, books and even Christmas decorations often have stories.
  • Do you have any favorite childhood hangouts that no longer exist? Capture today’s favorite places while you can. Restaurants, beaches, fishing holes and attractions may be special to you, but how will the younger generations know what makes them special if you don’t tell them in your journal.
  • These apps are delightful for keeping a travel journal. Since photos, location and date are easily captured, all you need is to do is add a few words.
  • Young moms are seldom very far from their phones, so gifting them with a journal app makes it easy to capture all those precious moments. And, the built-in social features make it easy to share them with you.
  • Although when using the term “research journal” we generally think of a list of resources we have already searched, it can also be used to capture the little stories our research delivers. Although my family’s eyes glaze over when I open my genealogy program, they love these little stories.

If you are active on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you might find the Momento app quite interesting. Once you connect it to your favorite social networks, Momento will automatically capture the status updates, photos and check-ins you post to those accounts. You can also add private notes, photos and videos manually.

Both Day One and Dario support Markdown – also known as archival-quality text. Momento saves as plain text. This means your journaling efforts will last long after these apps are gone. Grab an app today and get into the journaling habit!

If you would like to learn more about Markdown, visit Moultrie Creek Gazette for an introduction and click Markdown in the tag cloud for additional articles.