If you’ve attempted genealogical research, even just for a few hours, you probably realize that documents, sticky notes, and ancestor charts quickly transform into an incomprehensible mass of paper on top of your desk. Even if you are saving all your records digitally, organizing the information can still be a challenge. Luckily there are websites which offer free family tree building services and data storage. They’re easy to use and immensely helpful. Today we’ll highlight a few of those sites.
FamilySearch is the online presence of the Family History Library, the largest genealogical collection in the world. This website is free, easy to use, and offers a variety of neat services for users. The first feature is the family tree, which you can view in the traditional style or as a fan chart (a visually striking representation of family lineage illustrated left). For each family member users may enter name, vital information including birth, death and marriage dates, a “life sketch” or brief biography and various relationship types. Please note that this service does not allow users to enter same-sex partners. I find this to be quite limiting as well as an unnecessary and troubling bias. Some individuals may wish to use an alternative tree-building service such as Geni (highlighted below).
Additionally FamilySearch allows users to submit “Memories” including photos, stories and documents. Please note that anything uploaded or submitted on FamilySearch is viewable by all its users.
Geni (short for genealogy) is another fun, free, easy to use website for keeping track of your research. You can sign up for a free account, or upgrade for more access to other users’ trees and research materials. Unlike FamilySearch, Geni only allows for one type of family tree, the traditional tree structure. However, Geni does allow for same-sex relationships on your tree and, in my opinion, is a little more intuitive to use than FamilySearch’s version. One important note: make sure that your Flash Player is up to date. Although Geni will redirect you to an HTML5 version of the tree-builder, the Flash version is much easier to use and nicer looking.
Like FamilySearch, Geni also allows you to upload photos. Again, please be aware that anything you upload to the website is viewable by other users.
While Flickr doesn’t allow us to build family trees or record stories, it does give users one Terabyte of space for uploading photos. These could be photos of our ancestors, family heirlooms, documents, anything really. Flickr is very user friendly and allows you to choose the license type and privacy settings for each item or group of items that you upload. That means that you can restrict your photos to friends, family or yourself, or you could make them open to all. You’re able to organize photos into albums as well as by tag, offering users a simple way to catalog their family archives.
If you’re interested in finding out more about genealogical research at WPL, check out our website or come to the third floor of the library.