The concept of family reunions has traditionally been associated with a way to reconnect with the family across generations, distances, and locations on a specific date. Although the in-person contact is a unique and memorable experience in itself, more and more families are realizing the benefits of the web for exchanging and sharing their lives with immediate and distant relatives.
With the rise in online social networking sites, more people are using web-based technology to stay attuned to family events, keep in touch, informed, and exchange gossip and chatter; the opportunities run from Skype communications, text messaging, instant messaging, and user-created websites that showcase highlights and experiences. Online family albums are a great way to offer a portal to your family’s activities, news, and events; simply send your loved ones a mass e-mail when you update your site, and everyone can find out immediately of the newest baby’s arrival, a wedding announcement, or a simple update on events or news from your corner of the world.
Sites such as MyGreatBigFamily.com are spearheading a fresh take on the family reunion, by offering a complete package service. The site can help you create a comprehensive family website with a URL, and add a graphical family tree that can go back up to six generations. Want to populate your entire lineage? You can do it easily and navigate through it all on one page, with pictures and historical reports on each family member easily available. Exploring the branches of your family lines is easy, simple, and can be shared with a variety of age groups to on one site. Youngsters can explore their own family tree by logging in and clicking through each family member’s profiles. Sites like this are a great for genealogy enthusiasts, and provide a useful platform for both large and small family groups.
Sites such as Ancestry.com approach the family history aspect of tracking a family story, and plotting the information on a visual map. Ancestry.com also offers access to US-based indexes to scour and trace long-lost family members. Each member can add and edit personal information on their profiles, and personally maintain a portion of the site. Family members can also add photos, share details on their personal pages, and communicate over the network. Ancestry.com is a subscription-based service.
FamilyTreeGuide.com is a free service that offers a fast and simple way to upload GEDCOM (Genealogical Data Communications) files to share online. These are created using a genealogy program, such as Family Tree Maker or the Master Genealogist. The site then serves as a guidepost for family members to visit, check-in, and review their connections.
Future ventures in family networking sites may include video-sharing, digital libraries of memorable events, and complete sites focused on ‘live’ updates when new information from any family member is posted. As people become more linked and involved online, family relationships can, and will, evolve to a whole new level.