How are you planning to share your family tree-to-date? Remember that you will never finish a family tree, so do not wait until it is perfect and detailed to a high degree. At some point in time, you will want to share this family tree with your relatives, your cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, etc.
I will assume that you have long ago discussed your research with these relatives, perhaps when you interviewed them for information they might have. Perhaps they had documents or photographs, or family stories of ancestors that you were able to use for your research on various family lines. You probably found, as many people do, that they were happy to share information, and were very pleased that someone else – you – were doing this research! There seems to be at least one person every other generation who is interested in family history and all things genealogical. Your responsibility is to share your information!
Here are a few successful ways others have shared their genealogy results with relatives..
At reunions or family picnics, you could have a table of information on everyone’s ancestors, with several photograph albums arranged by date. You could also post up a big sheet of paper with the family tree listed on it. This could be done professionally, or you could do it by hand, copying details from printouts of family groups. If you color-code each family line, relatives could quickly find their part of the tree. With a little planning, you may find that you can make a smaller tree for each family line, for individuals who care to take one home with them. You may also be able to fill in some more stories, hear about more family treasures or momentoes or photographs, as people pore over the details you have found to date. Take about 8 months or so to put on this kind of reunion, and involve a few relatives too in the planning stage!
2. Family History Book.
It is possible to make a family history book at any time, with whatever details you have gathered to date. You may use publishing software which is part of your family tree database software to put together a basic family tree book. Or you may make your own kind of book using any word processing software, or simply typing the bare bones information of your ancestors. Perhaps you might design a type of scrapbook-style book, with copies of photos, details of residences, headlines of the era, or more, interspersed with descriptions of individual family units. You may elect to make a family history book of one or two family lines only. There is no correct way to put together a “book” of your family history.
3. Online Family Trees.
Many companies will allow you to upload your family tree to their site for free. They generally protect “living” persons’ details if you specify particular individuals as living or private. And, they often allow you to specify who can even look at the online tree. If you elect to do this, make sure that you maintain control of all the information that you have gathered. If there are errors that relatives find, they should email you (or call) to tell you of any error or mistake they believe they have found; you can then edit the tree with any corrections. Make certain that you understand how you can access your family tree on the site, and that you can both upload and download the tree at any time. Ask the support desk for details of how this process takes place, and how the information is kept private. If you elect to allow the public to see your information, you need to be absolutely certain current living relatives are not included in the tree. For example, you may decide to break the tree into several different lines e.g., your grandparents families, and then upload each one with a different name for the tree. In that way, your own parents and children are not detailed online. Or, just upload the one tree, after having removed details of the living descendants.
Once the tree is online, you can invite relatives to access and view the whole family tree. You should keep yourself as the only editor of the tree, so that you (and only you) can make changes to the details. Otherwise it could get quite silly if too many people start changing things because they believe their details are more correct than what you have researched! Also, as relatives send you information or photographs or documents they have found, you will be able to scan and upload these items, attaching them to individuals in the online tree. Over time, your tree could be very detailed indeed!
4. Copy the Database For Relatives.
You can make a copy of your family tree and email it to your relatives. By showing them how to download a free family tree software program and then how to open your tree in the program, you will be able to share a copy of the family tree. Copies are made by having the software program “export” the entire tree in a GEDCOM format – which is a very common format. This condenses the information in a way that allows it to be “imported” into any other family tree software program – a very handy feature! Always export the tree with identifying information: the date of the export and your name attached.
You may also find other interesting ways to share the family tree information – be creative and inventive, and see what may be particularly practical and interesting for your relatives. Scrapbooks, published histories, inventive and creative posters, reams of paper of the entire tree, on an online web site, copies of the database (e.g., CD or DVD): all these and more are ways relatives would be able to enjoy learning more about their ancestors.