Famicity: a new free platform that allows families to gather, record and share their stories. Now in English and French.
One of the things I love about RootsTech is meeting innovators who are passionate about creating new ways to discover, preserve and share family history. While I was there I met Guillaume Languereau, CEO and co-founder of Famicity. I was impressed with his enthusiasm and dedication to his company and thought I’d share it with you.
What is Famicity?
Famicity is a free platform that helps families curate and share their pictures, videos and memories “so future generations remember who they are and where they come from,” says Guillaume. “The goal is to create a living family tree where the whole family will collaborate and share to preserve the story of each and every person.”
“It’s a legacy center,” Guillaume says, meant not just for distant family history but for recording the history that’s unfolding now. In fact, he says, “the users who share the most are young mothers with a newborn baby.”
Famicity appears to work similarly to family trees on many genealogy websites, with emphasis on family social networking and privacy. No paid subscriptions are required; relatives can be invited by email. You can build a tree from scratch or by importing a GEDCOM file. Each person in the family has a profile, with his or her information organized in timeline format. The design is meant to serve the needs of old and young. “A child just has to click on a person to discover the story of his/her life. It has never been easier to tell every family member’s story.”
The service was developed in France over the course of 5 years. It launched there and now has 150,000 users who have documented more than 3 million ancestors. Its success brought Guillaume to RootsTech 2016 to launch Famicity in English.
Famicity is a free service available on PC, MAC, tablets, and mobiles. Here’s a video teaser:
I do remind everyone, when they upload and share family history pictures, video, stories and other precious “digital artifacts,” to keep and back up their own master copies of them on their own computers. I love seeing relatives share and collaborate online–and I also love knowing they’ve secured and backed up their master files within their own reach. I use Backblaze which you can learn more about here.
Two cousins recently chatted after learning that they share DNA. The first asked whether the second is white. “No,” she answered. The response: “Are you sure?”
In our modern society, families are defined in a myriad of different ways. Using DNA for genealogy is certainly contributing to these
A family and its female slave house servants in Brazil, c.1860. Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view full source citation.
changing definitions, as families find themselves genetically linked across social and cultural boundaries to kin they never expected.
Such is the case for a Bartow, Florida resident who submitted a DNA test out of curiosity and found more than she expected. Through a combination of DNA testing and social media, Mary McPherson, who is white, met one of her cousins, Dolores Washington-Fleming, who is black.
Peter Williams’ entry in 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, St Bartholomews Parish, Colleton, South Carolina. Image from Ancestry.com.
According to an article on The Ledger, the two women share a great-great-grandfather, Peter Edward Williams, who was born in South Carolina two centuries ago. Peter was a slaveholder. The 1850 census slave schedule shows that he held a female slave who was a few years younger than she was. Dolores believes that’s her grandmother’s grandmother.
The two finally met this past May for the first time and enjoyed this new definition of family. I think what I like most is what Dolores’ son said about the situation: “My mom and I are fascinated by history, and this is history. We represent what the times were like back then.” It still boggles my mind just a little that we are able to use the DNA of living people today to resurrect the past, and bring depth and meaning to the present, and possibly even prepare us for the future.
I find myself in a similar situation to Dolores and Mary. My mom was adopted, and even though we have had DNA testing completed for several years, we didn’t have any close matches, and honestly, we weren’t looking. Though she did have a passing interest in her health history, my mom did not feel the need to seek out her biological family. But then over the last few months various pieces of her puzzle have started to fall into place. This is much because of a key DNA match that popped up in March.
With that one match and subsequent correspondence, our interest in my mom’s biological family has skyrocketed. Why? I think it is because our DNA match, sisters from Texas, have shown us genuine kindness and interest. They have truly shown us what it means to be family. Even though we are unexpected, even though we aren’t sure yet how exactly we are connected, they have embraced us without reservation without hesitation.
To me, this is what family is. They accept you in whatever condition you come in and do their best to make you feel like you belong. Now, that kind of welcome isn’t felt by everyone who meets their genetic cousins, and people should carefully consider whether they’re ready for unforeseen results or unanticipated reactions from DNA matches before they get started.
But what about you? If you’ve started down the genetics path, how has DNA testing expanded or strengthened your definition of family?
Recently my Premium Podcast included a letter from Pat, who was looking for advice on how to return lost or orphaned heirlooms to a family. Ancestry.com had a few family trees posted. Pat didn’t know “whom to contact to get the materials to the most interested, closest family members.” This was my advice–and here’s the inspirational report back.
I would first focus on the tree where the tree owner is most closely related to the folks mentioned in the memorabilia. I would probably make copies (depending on what the items are) and offer to all. If I didn’t get a confirmed answer from the first choice in a reasonable time I would offer to my second choice. I would ask the recipient to allow me to pass their contact info on to any others who get around to responding after the fact since it’s everyone’s “family”.
“I finally took up the challenge, determined to find a family and offer up the material I had recovered. This material contained old (labeled!) photos, school records, dance cards and letters home to Mom and Dad and seemed potentially quite precious.
It proved difficult to determine which family seemed to have the closest connection, so I decided to offer the material to the person whose Ancestry.com tree contained the most (valid) sources. Fortunately, the tree owner was quick to respond, eager to receive the materials I had to offer. I sent them off and the tree owner is delighted as she is the granddaughter to the original party and believes herself to be the only living descendant of that person!
It feels just right to get those materials back “home”! I encourage other listeners to do the same. It produces a great sense of genealogical balance. So many others have done blessedly wonderful things for me in my research, making it easy to pay it forward just a little bit.
Thank you for the encouragement and the advice. I have loved both podcasts for a number of years now–you are consistently wonderful!”
Thanks, Pat, both for the compliment and for the inspiring message! I love hearing these kinds of stories.
Ancestry.com has improved the ability of AncestryDNA to find good matches for Jewish, Hispanic and other ancestries that maybe weren’t so precise before. Here’s the lowdown, quoted liberally from Ancestry.com’s press release:
The problem: Predicting genetic relatives among customers of Jewish and Hispanic descent and some other groups. “In DNA matching, we are looking for pieces of DNA that appear identical between individuals,” says the release. “For genealogy research we’re interested in DNA that’s identical because we’re both descended from a recent common ancestor. We call this identical by descent (IBD). This is what helps us to make new discoveries in finding new relatives, new ancestors, and collaborating on our research.”
“However, we also find pieces of DNA that are identical for another reason. At one extreme we find pieces of DNA that are identical because it is essential for human survival. At the other, we find pieces of DNA that are identical because two people are of the same ethnicity. We call these segments identical by state(IBS) because the piece of DNA is identical for a reason other than a recent common ancestor. This, we have found, often happens in individuals of Jewish descent.”
“The challenge in DNA matching is to tease apart which segments are IBD, and which ones are IBS….Most Jewish customers find that we predict them to be related to nearly every other Jewish customer in the database….Detecting which cousin matches were real and which ones were bogus has always been a challenge for these populations.”
First step toward a solution: “By studying patterns of matches across our more than half a million AncestryDNA customers, we found that in certain places of the genome, thousands of people were being estimated to share DNA with one another–likely a hallmark of a common ethnicity. Our scientific advancements… have allowed us to effectively “pan for gold” in our matches–by throwing out matches that appear to only be IBS, and keeping those that are IBD.”
“While the problem was more pronounced in customers of Jewish and some Hispanic descents, we observed this problem across all ethnic groups. So, all customers will see increased accuracy of their DNA matches, and significantly fewer ‘false’ matches.”
AncestryDNA results with better matches found by this method “will be available in the coming months,” says the release. They plan to email existing customers when results are ready.
Dropbox is my go-to tool for sharing files online. Here’s how to share folders on Dropbox, and an update on how Dropbox sharing has changed.
Dropbox is a favorite free tool of mine for sharing genealogy files online with family and fellow genealogists. It’s so frustrating to attach a file to an email only to discover that your email provider rejects it because it’s too big. And digital files (particularly video and high quality photographs) can be quite large. Dropbox solves the emailing problem.
Dropbox is cloud-based storage space where you can share most any files: family photos and videos, copies of your family stories, a PowerPoint slide show for your next family reunion, or research notes and to-do lists you’re working on with a team of fellow genies. Dropbox is especially great for files that are too large to email or that multiple people want to access and/or edit (without losing track of who has the most current version).
Here’s how to share folders on Dropbox (in Windows):
2. From your list of folders, select the one you want to share by hovering the cursor over the folder’s name so the “Share” box appears on the right. (Don’t click on the folder name. That will open the folder.)
3. Click “Invite people to collaborate” if you want someone to be able to edit the folder and sync it (save it back to Dropbox in real time). Click “Share link” if you just want to let someone see the folder contents but not change them.
4. Enter the email address(es) to share with where it says “Invite members to this folder.” Add a personalized message if you like. Then hover over “can edit” if you want to change that option to “can view” only. As shown below, the system automatically allows those who can edit to manage membership of the folder (such as invite others). Unclick that box to reserve that privilege for yourself.
4. Once you’ve added everyone you want, click “Share folder.”
A Recent Dropbox Improvement
In the past, if you reorganized your Dropbox folders or any of the items in those folders, the links that you had previously sent out to other people would no longer work. Good news: shared links will now still work even if you move or rename the file or folder.
How to Unshare Files and Folders in Dropbox
Here’s more on file-sharing from Dropbox: “If you ever want to unshare something you’ve already sent out (like to remove access to a sensitive document), it’s easy to disable an active link.” After signing in, “Click the link icon next to the file or folder, and click ‘remove link’ in the top right corner of the box that appears. You can also remove the link by visiting dropbox.com/links and clicking ‘x’ next to the file or folder.”