Insights Tech

Getting your Family History together this Christmas

October 18, 2019

Words by Pete Williams | Image credit LifeTimes

Christmas is a time when family gets together often spanning a number of generations.  It is also a great time to get your family history together. My cofounder and I launched a family history platform LifeTimes three years ago.  While there are plenty of family history sites out there most are paid subscriptions sites targeted at the avid genealogists. 

We set out to create a site that was for anyone with an interest in family history who wanted a place to not only create a family tree but to also document the life stories of our families. Importantly to us we also made it free. We have a standard family tree but we also created an event timeline which allows you to add any event in a persons life such as where they went to school, where they lived, where they travelled, what activities they may have undertaken etc.  Just about every event has a relevant location so when an event is added we record the location so you can also see your family history on a map. 

I use the map feature a lot particularly when I travel to an area where my ancestors lived, such as Ballarat, and I can go to the places they lived, worked and played.  For the current generation it is a

bit like “Pokemon Go” meets family history. When the family gets together at Christmas there are two activities that I highly recommend.  First, find out if there is someone in your extended family who has a record of your family history.  In my case my Uncle Bruce had an extensive record of our family tree on a hand written scroll.  I was able to get the scrolls and enter the information on Lifetimes. 

This Christmas my Aunt Helen who is 88 is coming over armed with a heap of old photos and documents together with contact information of my Great Aunt Nanette who has lots of information on my Paternal Grandmothers family who initially emigrated to Australia and lived in Stawell.  If a family member is a subscriber to one of the paid family history sites such as Ancestry or Find My Past you can directly import the family tree into Lifetimes and all of the family can interact with it as well as add to it.

The second activity is to sit down with the older members of your family and ask questions about their life events and add them to the timeline.  I did this a couple of years ago with my parents.  My Dad, who passed away this year had early stage dementia at that time so I was able to record his memories and life story before they were lost.  I was so glad I did as I was 

able to share his life story at his funeral service. A good example is my co-founder’s Great Grand Aunt Emma Lindner, an Australian woman who married a German man Hermann Junge after World War I. Both Emma and Hermann were deported to Germany in 1919. They returned to Australia in 1925 and with the outbreak of World War II Hermann was interned in 1939 and Emma was interned in 1942. 

She suffered ill health and died two weeks after the end of World War II.  Hermann was ultimately released in 1947 and deported once again. A tragic story but one that was well worth recording. Emma’s timeline is a great example of how to use Lifetimes to record both the events of her life together with old family photos here

Some of the things I like are the activity feed, which tells me whose birthdays are coming up as well as what happened on that day in the history of my ancestors, together with the ability to share events on social media with my family. It also works well on mobile which makes it really good when you are out and about and discovering new things about your family history this holiday season.


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