After the passing of my paternal grandmother in 1999, I discovered that she had spent years researching her family history, writing letters to potential relatives to try to obtain additional information and compiling a pretty in-depth, handwritten family tree. Saying I was interested and intrigued is a complete understatement! I immediately began reviewing her research and beginning to conduct my own research. At that time, digital communication and records were nowhere near as readily available as they are today, so, it was a lot of letter writing and telephone calls. At that time, I was keeping all of my research, notes and photographs in a 3” a three-ring binder and it was ALL handwritten. (How times have changed, right?!)
I quickly realized that digitizing my records was the way to go for quicker searching and the ability to make additions, corrections or updates quickly and cleanly. Initially, I used Microsoft Word for storing everything, and, that was fine, for a while. Somewhere around the time I hit 1,000 documented relatives, I realized Word wasn’t going to cut it going forward. I had started amassing a bunch of media – death certificates, census records, obituaries and photos – and that stuff just wasn’t fitting into a HUGE Word file nicely anymore. Not to mention it was impossible to share with any family members interested in their branch of our family tree.
I decided to make an attempt at sharing the research that had been completed with my family in the mid 2000’s and created a free site with Weebly. The Weebly site was a valiant effort and accomplished the goal of being able to share my research with the rest of my family, but, it quickly became overwhelming as no part of the site was integrated and updating was a nearly painful process.
So, I made a HUGE switch from Microsoft Word to using Family Tree Maker in 2011. The switch was epically long, as I had to hand entered everything from my HUGE Word file into Family Tree Maker, as well as insert all the media I had collected into the corresponding family member’s profile. The end result was fantastically searchable and shareable. But, since Family Tree Maker is (or at least was, at that time) offline software, I became the bottleneck for updating our family’s tree. While I didn’t mind keeping things updated, I felt somewhat guilty for hoarding a ton of family history information and not having it readily available for other family members to access at their will. After a few years of using my offline Family Tree Maker program, I started looking into some options to make the information available online for my family members (and any other family historians looking to connect the dots).
In 2015, I stumbled across a solution called The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding or “TNG” for short. I purchased a domain (wevodau.com), installed TNG with my web host and transferred everything over from Family Tree Maker. TNG required much more “tech savviness” than any of my previous adventures in using technology to aid my research, but, the end result was well worth it. I had a legitimate website – wevodau.com – that housed a clean, straightforward family tree database that my family members could access whenever they wanted. I even had the ability to grant family members “contributor” access so they could add some information for their specific branch, making it more of a collaborative effort. Unfortunately, not a ton of people in my family tree other than me found joy in learning to use another piece of software in order to help build the family tree and collaboration was fairly limited. (Can’t say that I blame them for not wanting to devote their free time to nerding out about family history stuff in front of a computer. Some of us are just weird like that.) The only downside to the TNG set up was that there was a recurring expense of hosting the family tree and some maintenance that needed to be looked after in order to keep things up and running.
When Josh and I made the decision to commit to the idea of radically changing our lives, I started thinking about how I was going to handle the family tree situation. Ideally, I’d love to be able to continue to pay for and maintain our family’s website. But, realistically, I’m not sure where we might end up with finances or internet availability, and it’s one more thing I just don’t want to have to worry about remembering to maintain and pay for. So, I started looking for a solution, again…