Review – Art For Your Sake

Art For Your Sake

I want to introduce the readers of GeneaBloggers to Art For Your Sake and a unique concept and gift idea that can help expand your family’s understanding of family history. Using the “digital photomontage” concept, its owner and resident artist Nancy Gershman can actually “recreate” pivotal moments in your family history especially when no photo or image exists. In addition, Nancy is able to “create” situations that never actually took place but might be vibrant and captivating “what ifs” and “imaginings” to help understand the people and places that came before you.

The Digital Photomontage Concept

Intrigued? Confused? Don’t worry – so was I when I first stumbled upon the Art For Your Sake site. But in reading and reviewing the various pages, you can get a better understanding of how Nancy works with a client to create these works of art.

In short, this is how it works: Nancy will sit down and help you focus on a family history story or episode and help memorialize it by gathering the “back story” and creating art work based on the story and any images you provide.

What if you don’t have a photo of your great-grandmother as a bride, the one who was a dance hall girl and married the Standard Oil executive? No worries – she can take existing images and add elements to create an “imagining” of that special day or event.

Art For Your Sake Christmas

The image above shows a Wedding Anniversary “dreamscape” that Art For Your Sake created for a client. As Nancy describes it:

SUSAN & DAVID’S DREAMSCAPE: Susan loves fun socks; her husband David loves cruises and Hawaiian shirts. So for this anniversary photo gift made from childhood photos, I thought, why not have Santa sit on a beach instead of inside a department store?

Note also how I’ve created a new pair of arms for David so Susan won’t slip off his lap. And those arms are not even his!

After giving her husband this photo collage portrait, Susan W writes: “To quote my husband of 10 years, ‘this ROCKS!!!!’ I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the process, the anticipation and the end result. This is a gift we will cherish always! Thank you from the bottom of my overflowing heart!”

Another unique approach – which I love – is how Nancy can actually take images of your ancestors and place them at a current celebration such as a bar mitzvah or wedding.  Haven’t you had a special day in your life where you wished a parent or grandparent could be there? With Art For Your Sake you can capture a moment that you’ve imagined using photos and other elements.

For Celebration

Many of the works that Nancy creates at Art For Your Sake are in commemoration of a special event such as a birthday or a wedding. These can be events in the present day or very near past or even those that took place over a century ago. And as described above, even if you don’t have a photo of that event, such as your grandparent’s wedding, Nancy can help recreate it!

For Healing

Many clients will have a photomontage created to help them heal from a loss or recover from an addiction. Have you ever felt “stuck” in the past or had regrets over a certain situation? Or perhaps a photo depicts a certain difficult time period for an ancestor but you want to show the healing and recovery that took place in that person’s life? Art For Your Sake can work with you to create what I call “healing images” that will help you process the situation for you and your family.

Conclusion

If you want “special” or “unique” in terms of family history-related gifts this season, then take a closer look at Art for Your Sake and contact them. The end result will be not just a photo – it will be a work of art that your family will admire and others will stop and ask, “What is this? What does it mean?” and you’ll have yet another opportunity to share your family’s story.

Follow Art For Your Sake on Twitter and Facebook.

Note: Later today I will be posting an interview with Nancy Gershman, owner of Art For Your Sake, here at GeneaBloggers – stay tuned to find out more about Nancy and her work.

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Disclosure statement: I do have a material connection with Art For Your Sake and its creator, Nancy Gershman: she has offered to create a digital photomontage for me in exchange for social media and genealogy industry advice which I have provided to her and her company. To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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Review – Oddball Family Tree

Oddball Family Tree

Are you looking for unique and unusual genealogy-related gift items this holiday season? And ones that are reasonably priced? Look no further than Oddball Press and their Oddball Family Tree which I located during a search on Etsy.

What is Etsy?

On a side note, if you haven’t checked out Etsy yet, then realize it is like Ebay only with handmade and vintage items sold by crafts persons and collectors.  A search for the term “genealogy” brings up this list of items including family tree charts, handmade jewelry, and even wall decals!

Etsy

Oddball Family Tree

One item that stood out for me was by Oddball Press and the name stuck with me: Oddball Family Tree. How many of us have felt about our own families that way, especially after researching their history?

This is a letterpress executed print in black and green with great silhouette images and can be completed by hand. There is space for your own name (or the gift recipient) and three generations.

Oddball Family Tree

I quickly placed my order because I figured for $10.00 USD (plus $5.00 shipping) I couldn’t go wrong with such a neat item. There is a substantial shipping discount if your order more than one item from the Oddball Press store on Etsy.

When it arrived, I was impressed with the shipping and packaging – it arrived quickly and was well-protected from any destructive forces.  And when I opened it up, I was not disappointed – great acid-free paper, the print colors were vibrant and consistent.

Ultimately, I made this a gift to myself – I filled it out by hand (with acid-free ink) and am now having it framed for my office. But I could see the Oddball Family Tree being a gift for a friend or family member or even a client! You could let the recipient complete the chart themselves or fill it out for them.

Conclusion

I’ve always been pleased with my shopping experiences on Etsy but I realize that the level of customer service depends upon the store and the store owner.  Kati at Oddball Press has not only a great selection of items but she is very attentive to her customers. All during the purchasing and shipment process I was updated as to what was going on, when the item was being shipped etc. I hope you’ll check out the Oddball Family Tree as well as the other Oddball Press items, both at Etsy and on their website.

Note: Later today I will be posting an interview with Kati Hanimagi, owner of Oddball Press, here at GeneaBloggers – stay tuned to find out more about Kati and her work.

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Disclosure statement: I have no material contacts with Oddball Press or its creator, Kati Hanimagi. I purchased my own copy of Oddball Family Tree for my own personal use. To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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Review – WikiTree

wikitree

WikiTree is a relatively new genealogy and family history site created by Chris Whitten, who also created the WikiAnswers site.  Built and structured as a wiki (similar to that of Wikipedia), WikiTree is a useful tool for managing your research data and more importantly for collaborating on your research with family members.

Not Freemium Free, but Free Free

While there are several family history and genealogy wikis out there, many of them claiming to be free, WikiTree is real free.  What I mean is there is no “split level” free or freemium concept where you can perform base functions for free but advanced features require a paid membership or subscription.  Also, WikiTree is free from advertising or other “come ons” seen at many sites.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be advertising down the road, but for right now I really appreciate the “zen” of WikiTree in terms of its appearance and formatting.

Inputting and Importing Family History Information

Working with WikiTree was relatively easy after signing up and confirming my email address.  I was able to manually input the information I wanted for each person in my family tree.  In addition, I was able to import a 288 person GEDCOM file which I had exported from Family Tree Maker 2011. The process involves “submitting” your GEDCOM and you receive an email notification once the file has been process.  My GEDCOM took approximately 5 hours.  Also, once the file has been uploaded, you may have to merge some of the profiles if you have already created them on WikiTree.

Privacy Matters

For me, the strongest features of WikiTree lie in its privacy functions and more specifically its concept of Trusted Lists.  Information on living individuals is kept private and if you want to share a specific profile with another family member or researcher, you must add that user to the Trusted List for that profile.  This creates a “permission based” system of profiles where you as the creator are in control.

And because each profile has its own Trusted List, there won’t be any “constantly shifting permissions” as we’ve seen on other genealogy wikis (one day it would be up to 5th cousins, then it was something else). WikiTree so far appears to take privacy seriously judging from its privacy policy and this commitment allows me to take WikiTree seriously as a trusted family history site

Perfect? No Perfecting? Yes

Whitten has stated that he is not a genealogist per se although he has always had a great interest in family history. His strongest skills lie in the architecture of WikiTree, its design and functionality.  That being said, Whitten realizes that WikiTree is not the perfect app for family history but it does strive to be perfect – what I call being in a constant state of “perfecting.” Like any work, there will be changes, tweaks and adjustments.  Whitten is open to new ways of presenting the information (a recent change was the display of a family tree from left to right instead of right to left) and actively seeks feedback from the genealogy community.

Several functions were confusing for me, a genealogy techno geek if only in my own mind.  Some things I’d love to see:

  • A preview or a public view function.  As I entered information such as birth dates, it always appeared for me and I didn’t know what a non-member of WikiTree would see.  I had to log out to understand what this view would look like.
  • Better handling of source citations.  I know this is a concept that is much discussed in the genealogy community but a way to enter a source citation for each data point would be better than creating a separate source page or a source section within a profile. One of the emerging tenets of genealogy education is urging beginners to cite their sources now and to learn the discipline of citing sources which will serve them well in the future.  A better mechanism at WikiTree will help beginners get in the habit of citing those sources. One idea is to have a source citation field right next to the “certain” radio button on a data point.  Better yet, require a source citation if “certain” is selected!
  • Some of the data entry fields are confusing, namely Current Last Name as well as the option of not displaying two people as linked spouses when their marriage has ended.  As has been discussed in-depth in the genealogy blogging world, the concept of “blended families” is one that must be confronted in 21st century genealogy and applications will need to have functions and formats to handle these types of relationships.
  • Deleting profiles is not recommended and I can see why, since doing so can greatly disrupt the wiki architecture.  However, changing the relationship of a person is not easy nor was it intuitive for me.  It is very easy to build some weird, weird relationships if you aren’t paying close attention! Example: I went to enter my brother as a sibling but I entered him as a sibling of my mother. I know – can’t you just hear the banjos in the distance? I had to change his data to that of one of my aunts, my mother’s sister and then re-enter my brother as my sibling. I can only imagine the cast of Sister Wives using WikiTree right now.

Feedback Taken Seriously

I have to hand it to Whitten and his commitment to feedback. While researching information for this review, I had the chance to read some of the reviews that others had done on WikiTree, including Dick Eastman of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.  In each instance, Chris was right there in the comments thanking the reviewer and then making certain that readers felt comfortable giving feedback on WikiTree.  In fact, if you look at the string of comments at Eastman’s review, you’ll see the skill with which Whitten is able to engage the commenters and discuss features and proposed changes.

It appears that Whitten not only talks the talk but walks the walk in terms of the collaborative spirit of the wiki concept.  Wikis are meant for working together, for that “give and take” between contributors, for creating dialog about changes or format.  Whitten has not only built an application that allows collaboration in family history research, but he ramps up the collaboration mechanism by actively seeking out feedback from users and reviewers.

Conclusion

I believe that many genealogists and family historians will appreciate the features in WikiTree especially if they seek a web-based application where they can share and collaborate with family or other researchers. The WikiTree site is easy to use, easy to understand and most importantly, it “gets” concepts that are important to its users such as privacy.  Realize that WikiTree is an evolving application and right now in its youth it will exhibit some growing pains.  But with the active guidance of the family history community, I think WikiTree could grow into an important application in the field of genealogy.

Note: Later today I will be posting an interview with Chris Whitten, creator of WikiTree, here at GeneaBloggers – stay tuned to find out more about Chris and his site.

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Disclosure statement: I have no material contacts with WikiTree or its creator, Chris Whitten. To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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