Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Build your family tree on web

Online networking platforms, like Facebook and Google Plus, have expanded not only our friends’ circle; but also our family circle. There have been instances when the friend request was actually from a long-lost distant cousin, with whom you had indulged in many a childhood prank during your summer-holiday visits to his house!

Knowing 50 family members is not the same as knowing 50 friends, because, unlike the latter, we also need to know how they are related to us. And that’s no easy task: one, because of the large number of relatives we have got to know through networking sites, and two, it’s simply impossible to remember how someone is related, especially if it goes something like: “she is my father’s brother’s son’s wife’s mother’s sister’s daughter”!

The web, as always, has the solution. Make a family tree, of not just 50 members but even 200 or more. It was in late 1990s that attempts were first made to draw on the power of internet to help people trace their family lineage. Ancestry.com, which owns many related sites, is said to be the world’s largest genealogy company in the world. It’s a paid site.

However, there are now many free online family tree websites that are very user-friendly. Geni.com, Myheritage.com, Tribalpages.com and Familyecho.com are a few. Some of them become paid if you have to add beyond a specific number of members.

Most of these have similar features. Begin by opening an account either with a dedicated login and password or by using your Facebook account. Enter names of your parents, siblings, spouse, and keep adding to make the tree bigger and bigger.

There are many attractive features that make these sites interesting to work on. You can add photos and personal details like date of birth, wedding date, email ID etc. You can create a family newsletter so that everyone is updated about all the family events. You can indicate if the person is alive or deceased.

You can invite family members to open their own account and you can merge their trees with your tree. When trees are merged, there could be “conflicts”, meaning, the same person could be referred to by different names or have different spellings. In such cases, the software will identify and suggest you to resolve the conflict by picking one name that you like.

You can search people in your family tree; and the best part is, the software figures out how you two are related, and shows the names and relationship of everyone who is in the chain. For example, your relationship with E will be shown as: “You →  A your father →  B his mother →  C her sister →  D her daughter → E her daughter.”

Such sites are useful in these times, when families are nuclear and scattered; and the newer generations have lesser and lesser knowledge about family lineage and relationships.

(This article appeared in Wireless World column of The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

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