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

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

Review – Pocket-Tree

Pocket Tree

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to use a new product on the genealogy market called Pocket Tree©™.  I was contacted by the company’s owner, Rhonda Early, and asked if I would like to take Pocket Tree©™ for a test drive.  I was very interested because I was on my way to visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and I figured it would help me with my research.

Pocket Tree©™ Step-By-Step

Pocket Tree©™ bills itself as the “Quick, Light, Simple, & Complete 9-Generation Ancestry Chart!” and I couldn’t agree more.  What starts out as a small, index card sized item, open out into a huge 9-generation family chart waiting for you to enter information.  Here is how Pocket Tree©™ opens:

It starts small – 6-3/4 x 4-1/2″ – as shown in the graphic above.  The composition is sturdy, glossy card stock.

Next, open Pocket Tree©™ and some neat vintage photos are displayed.

Pocket Tree Vintage Photos

Next, open the inner panels and a very helpful list of interview questions is displayed.  These would come in handy if you are working with a living relative and you not only want to show them the family tree chart but also prompt them to discuss various aspects of family history.

Pocket Tree Interview Questions

And finally, open the panel to reveal the 9-generation family chart.

Pocket Tree Family Chart

A Helpful Genealogy Tool

Overall, I found Pocket Tree©™ to be a very handy tool while researching not only at the Family History Library but at home as well.  But for me, its biggest advantage is being able to work with a living relative during the interview process.

We all know what happens when we begin to “talk genealogy” with a grandparent, or an aunt or uncle: the eyes glaze over, they start looking for a way to get up and run to the kitchen or sometimes change the subject.  I believe much of this is because it is difficult for them to “visualize” their family history.  And also, it can be difficult to get the conversation “ball” rolling if there aren’t handy interview questions or prompts.

Pocket Tree©™ solves these problems: it folds up into an easy-to-carry size for your purse or jacket pocket.  You can pull it out at family reunions or events and show your family how you’ve progressed with your research.  And the handy questions can get them to start talking about other ancestors and what they recall about the family’s history.

The only difficulty I had: filling the chart out by hand! Realize that since I am on a computer about 16 hours a day, it is a hardship for me to even write a check these days!  I recommend that if you purchase Pocket Tree©™, use a sharp pencil and take your time completing the information.  The process will be worth it when you consult the family tree at a later date.

Conclusion

Pocket Tree©™ is priced at $13.00 US plus $3.50 shipping and handling.  You can purchase via PayPal or contact the company for other payment arrangements via check or money order.  Check out their website and see if Pocket Tree©™ wouldn’t be a handy tool for you or a gift for your favorite genealogist.

Note: I will be posting an interview with Rhonda Early, owner of Pocket Tree©™ here at GeneaBloggers – find out more about her and her company.

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Disclosure statement: I contacted Pocket Tree©™ via email.  I asked for and received a complimentary Pocket Tree©™ to review here at GeneaBloggers. After reviewing the product, I will continue to use Pocket Tree©™ for my own personal use.  In addition, I am enrolled in the Pocket Tree©™ Affiliate program and use these links on this site. To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee