Twile at RootsTech 2017!

The largest global genealogy conference in the world – RootsTech – is finally here and we are delighted to be in Salt Lake City to be a part of it again.

The Innovator Summit kicked off the event today, reminding us of our experience in the Innovator Showdown in 2016, where we came away with two awards, including the coveted People’s Choice (read our previous article here).

Are you visiting RootsTech this week?Here are 10 reasons you should come and see us on booth #332 & 334.

10 reasons to visit the Twile booth

  1. It’s now completely FREE for everyone!
  2. You can create a FREE personalized infographic of your family history
  3. We can show you how to get the rest of your family interested in your research
  4. You could win a $200 Amazon gift card
  5. We’ll show you how to import your FamilySearch Tree
  6. We have free balloons for your kids!
  7. We’re on the way to the restrooms
  8. We’re from England…we might be related!
  9. We have cute British accents
  10. Our flights have cost a fortune (we’re from the UK)

Twile demonstrations

We are also doing several demostrations of Twile, so come along and find out more:

Thursday 9th February 

  • 2.30pm. Not just about records –  Kelly Marsden, Co-founder of Twile – at the Findmypast booth
  • 4.40pm. How to create your family infographic – Paul Brooks, CEO of Twile – in the Demo Theatre

Friday 10th February 

  • 2.30pm. Not just about records – Kelly Marsden, Co-founder of Twile – at the Findmypast booth

Saturday 11th February

  • 12.40pm. Turn your FamilySearch Tree in to a Twile Timeline – Paul Brooks, CEO of Twile – in the Demo Theatre
  • 2.30pm. Not just about records – Kelly Marsden, Co-founder of Twile – at the Findmypast booth

We look forward to seeing you!

 

 

How to add perspective to your family history

Putting your family stories into perspective and giving them context is the key to understanding what life was like for your ancestors and for telling those stories in an interesting way.

We read an article this week by The  Family History Guy, which summed it all up perfectly:

“The character John Keating, in the award winning film, “Dead Poet’s Society” was asked why he stood on his desk. His poignant reply: “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.” So too must we, as genealogists ‘constantly look at things in a different way’. Another way of saying this is we need perspective. Just as the world looks far different at the cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner than it does standing in the midst of a wheat field. Our family history looks much different when examined at “cruising altitude”. The most valuable thing Twile gives me as a genealogist is perspective.”

The Family History Guy goes on to explain how Twile made him – a genealogist of 25 years and public speaker on family history – step back and see his family in a whole new way.

“When I first used Twile and loaded just my parents and grandparents in, just three generations and I noticed something. My mom’s dad died before my parents were married. Not a super alarming fact. But until that moment … those two facts were complete and total strangers. Both living happy, but separate, lives in my brain until that glorious moment that Twile put them next to each other and introduced them … None of the documents I have would give me that information, and I had never thought to ask.”

Take a look at the full article here and if you have had a ‘Eureka’ moment with Twile, we would love you to share it with us!

The Family History Guy will be speaking at RootsTech on Saturday 11th February. If you are at the event, go along to hear his presentation ‘Timelines: Back to the Future of Your Research”.

 

At home in ‘Bronte’ Country

I was pleased to go along to Todmorden Library earlier this week, where members of the Todmorden Family History Group launched an exhibition sharing family history stories from the local area.

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Todmorden is a market town and civil parish in the Upper Calder Valley in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, England. It is firmly nestled in ‘Bronte’ Country –   where the Bronte sisters lived and wrote their classic novels –  around 17 miles from Manchester. I live near here in the village of Hebden Bridge, so it was great to find out a bit more about family stories close to home.

Jan Bridget, pictured second from the right and founder of the Todmorden Family History Group had a great story to tell. She spoke about her link to Emily Bronte’s novel ‘Wuthering Heights’, through her fourth great grandfather, Richard Sutton.  Sutton was a possible role model for Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff.  Jan has just finished writing a book about Richard’s grandson, Willian John Sutton, whose father emigrated to Canada in 1850. Known as Will, he was a lumberman, geologist, assayer, pioneer and promoter of Vancouver Island and, with his brother James, robbed the graves of First Nation people to sell to Franz Boas, the ‘father’ of American Anthropology.

Everyone I saw yesterday had something interesting in their family history. Councillor Tony Greenwood, opened the exhibition and shared stories from his own family history including his three times great uncle, Abraham, who was the librarian of the Rochdale Chartist Library and later became first president of the co-operative wholesale society, which he ran from his terraced house in Rochdale.

Further to the remembrance day celebrations of last weekend, I was also interested to hear about the story of Joseph L. Milthorp, who having fought in the First World War,  tried to enlist for the Second World War but was too old! Instead he joined the Blackshaw Head Home Guard and a photograph on display at the exhibition shows him and fellow members of the Home Guard football team for 1943 including: Sgt Pickles, L/Cpl Simpson, Savage, Crowther, Pte Townend, Coupe, Nesbitt, Marshall, Barker and Hodge in goal.

For more fascinating stories, if you are in the area, I would recommend a visit to the exhibition which will run until November 21st at Todmorden Library.
Pictured: Councillor Tony Greenwood, Mayor of Todmorden, Kelly Marsden, Jan Bridget and members of the Todmorden Family History Group. 

Add more people to your family tree

When you add people to your family tree, Twile automatically adds their life events (such as their birth) to your timeline.  The more complete your tree is, the more detailed your timeline is and the richer your family story will be.

How to add people to your family tree

  1. Visit your tree at https://twile.com/people
  2.  Move your mouse over one of the people already on your tree
  3. Click ‘Add Relative’
  4. Choose the relationship type for the new person
  5. Choose their gender and enter their name
  6. Click the ‘Add’ button at the bottom of the window
  7.  The family tree will reload to show you the new addition

Watch the Video…

Take  look and see how easy it is.

A Twile timeline is a great way of sharing your research with other members of your family – read our blog post on Inviting your family. 

Twile supports #CreateUK

This week we have been supporting The Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s campaign #CreateUK, a week long celebration and showcase of the creative industries in the UK.s300_CREATE_UK_GOV.UK

As a tech startup in the UK, we’re delighted to be amongst a community of fellow creatives who are generating almost £10m every hour for the UK economy!

When asked why we create, many reasons sprang to mind and it reminded us of an article that Paul Brooks (Twile co-founder) wrote to TechCityInsider earlier this year:

“When we first started Twile in 2013, we had dreams and expectations of quick success, exponential growth and big investment. As it turns out, building a startup is a lot more than that. Along with my co-founder Kelly Marsden, I launched the company as part of the first Dotforge accelerator in Sheffield and quickly managed to close a small seed investment round from local angel investors.

We soon found that growing a consumer userbase with a small budget and an early product is not easy. We regularly worked 70-weeks with very little to show for them except a little more understanding and gradually improving product. We managed to maintain the confidence of our investors and they put more money in to two more rounds over the next two years, giving us the runway we needed to experiment, pivot and chase product-market fit. There were many times when we didn’t think we’d last long enough.

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Based in Yorkshire, it has been difficult to attract big investment and raise our profile in the tech community. While there are initiatives such as Tech North , to address the challenges faced by entrepreneurs outside of London, the capital is still very much the centre of the UK tech community.

To secure investment, you need to meet as many investors as possible and work to build long term relationships with them, keeping them updated on your progress and successes. With limited budget, it hasn’t been possible for us to travel to London regularly or spend large periods of time there. The fact that everyone involved in the business has young children has made this even more difficult. Of course, there are investors in the North, but from our experience most of them are lacking an understanding of the tech industry, especially web software. For example, it is fairly typical for a consumer app to prioritise growth over revenue at the start, but most investors we have met in the North East, for instance, expect to see a healthy turnover and strong balance sheet before they’ll even glance at the cover of a business plan.

Despite these challenges, our perseverance and hard work is paying off. In 2015 we started to gain recognition as an innovative visualisation tool for the family history market and started to acheive real growth.

We attended the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City in February and won two of the four innovations awards as part of the innovator showdown competition – returning to the UK with $16,000 in cash and another $10,000 in “in-kind” support. We are looking forward to returning to RootsTech in 2017.

On our return, we learned that we had secured investment and a partnership deal with Findmypast, one of the leading names in family history. This gives us the resources and support we need to grow Twile into a global brand.

In under three years, we have evolved Twile from an early concept into a robust, fully featured product that solves a real problem for our customers. We have made a point of talking to our users as often as possible and we’ve used their input to intelligently prioritise development. We’ve put a huge amount of effort into every phase of the business and we’ve acknowledged our failures as essential steps to success.

If there’s a moral to our story, it’s that our own hard work is going to deliver the results. It’s easy to blame market conditions, geographical location, lack of government support of any other external factors for the failure of a start-up, but we’ve seen a number of early stage businesses (including Twile) succeed in recent years and every one of them has put a lot of effort in to overcome the obstacles they’ve been faced with.

Fortunately, recent investment in the infrastructure for start-ups outside of London is beginning to amplify the hard work that entrepreneurs are willing to put in.

Organisations like Creative England, (who have been hugely supportive in our journey, backing us from the beginning) and Tech North and accelerators like Dot Forge and Ignite are making it easier to start and succeed. If this can be matched by investors with an appetite for opportunities outside of London, I believe we will see many more successful northern startups in the near future.”

The #CreateUK campaign this week reminds us that with hard work we can continue to thrive and take advantage of the new opportunities which are opening up to do business across the world. Why do we create? Because it’s our dream, our passion, our mission to succeed.

Relevant articles:

 

Invite family to explore your Twile timeline

Twile is designed for sharing. The timeline is a great way of letting your family (especially the younger ones) explore their family history and recent events online. You can invite your family to view everything easily and for free!

In our last blog, we spoke about the The power of pictures and how a picture can ignite emotions and spark a conversation that you otherwise wouldn’t have had! So share your stories and record new ones with your family now… remember that Twile is totally secure and private – only the family members you invite will ever be able to see your content.

How to invite somebody…

  1. Click the ‘Family Tree’ tab to load the family tree
  2. Move your mouse over the person you’d like to invite – a popup menu will appear
  3. Click ‘Invite Them’
  4. Enter the person’s email address
  5. Click ‘Send’
  6. We will send them an email with a link to join your family tree

It’s so simple…give it a try!

Click here to go to your Twile Timeline

For every member of your family that you invite, we will give you a free month’s subscription.

Watch the video…

 

Related articles:

 

 

The power of pictures

In our last blog post, we spoke about how adding words to your photos makes a story interesting.

Maureen Taylor, known as the Photo Detective, has been using Twile with her Mother to build their family timeline and found that uploading photos to the timeline and the conversations that followed became quite emotional. Thanks to Maureen for sharing her experience…

I believe that each photo is a story worth telling.

My work as the Photo Detective is proof positive of that fact. I find the family history in family photos by studying the details in a picture.

Images can help someone remember their past. For some looking at a photo is life changing. A picture can reveal where they come from and whom they look like. For others it’s the collection of images that fit together to tell the tale of their family’s past.

A research timeline is a great way to organize your information, but don’t overlook the storytelling possibilities that extend beyond the lifetime milestones to the photo memories. Pictures of ancestors (living and dead) expand our understanding of our family history. All you have to do is “listen” to the stories they are trying to tell.

A Living Example

I uploaded pictures and details of my mother’s life into Twile. I know her story (or so I thought) and since it wasn’t the first time I’d looked at the images, it was easy to arrange her pictures by date and occasion. Then I sat with her while she looked at them.

Her first reaction at seeing her life on the screen was, “Oh my, I’m old.” Looking at her baby picture through her wedding photos made her feel all of her 86 years. She’s a forward-looking person, but her wedding group portrait gave her pause. She whispered, “I’m the only one left.” She stared at it for a few long moments and then with a sigh she began looking through the other photos. The power of those pictures transported her (and me) into the past.

She focused on one in particular. Maureen

She’s the little girl in the white socks and beret crouched down in front. Flanked by her brothers with her parents in the back right. Center and to the back left is her oldest sister leaning her arm on her future husband. A simple question about her cute beret and the memories started flowing:

“Oh that’s me in the center. My sister Lauretta (to the back and left) and her future husband in the (center in the fedora) loved to dress me up and take me to the movies.”

“We saw everything. There wasn’t a Shirley Temple movie they didn’t take me to.”

When asked how old she was in that photo she said 5. That one picture was a door into her life at that time. She talked about a lot more of her life than just that moment.

Her relationship with her older sister: “Because she was so much older she was like a second mother to me”

Recollections of the first day of school: “I didn’t like it so I walked home. My mother took me back saying I’d just have to get used to it.”

And her parents: “There was a family gathering at our house every Saturday night with music. My mother played the piano and she and my father sang.”

All these jumbled memories from ONE picture. We still had a lifetime of pictures to go.

What will your pictures reveal?

Before it’s too late, add pictures to events in a living person’s life using Twile and sit with them while they reminisce. You might hear tales of bravery, lost loves or stories about warm summer days. I guarantee those pictures combined with the simple facts of that person’s life will be mesmerizing.

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maureen-taylor
Maureen Taylor, known as the Photo Detective, finds the family history in your picture mysteries. She’s been featured in top media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Today Show. To discover some stories behind your favourite family photos visit her website

 

 

Also: Family Tree Magazine – Photo Detective Blog:

Related Links:

Twile is now even faster!

You asked, we delivered: How your feedback improves Twile

In April 2016 we made some big changes to the invisible parts of Twile, which means that the whole website now runs faster and can handle any size of family tree. You will hopefully notice that everything loads more quickly, especially if you have a large family on the site.

Now that this work is complete, we thought you might be interested to have an insight into the challenges of building a website like Twile and keeping it running smoothly.

We build Twile in a ‘lean’ way, which basically means that we build new features as quickly as we can to get your feedback on them sooner. We don’t try to make everything perfect straight away – we could spend a very long time getting a feature just right, only to find that nobody wants it! Instead, we will build a simpler version of a feature and then make some changes and improvements to it over time, based on the conversations we have with customers like you.

The family tree is a good example of this. When we first built the tree in 2014, it was only designed to display 10-20 people (and GEDCOM was but a twinkle in our eyes). It couldn’t show multiple marriages, often displayed siblings in the wrong order and it didn’t look anywhere near as pretty.

But, it allowed us to collect feedback and prove that we were heading in the right direction. We’ve since improved the family tree gradually, adding new features. tweaking the design and allowing it to handle much larger and more complicated families.

The performance work we’ve done in April is the latest in a long and continued line of work on the family tree. The site can now comfortably handle any size of tree (we’ve tested it with 100,000 people so far).

All of this comes from the conversations we have with our customers. Some of the changes we’ve been asked for – and are still planning to build in – are support for adopted families, multiple trees and admin controls for the tree owner. These are all on their way.

The challenge of building a product like Twile is deciding what to work on first. We have a lot of customers asking for lots of different things, so we have to prioritise the ones that will improve Twile the most for the largest number of people. It is for this reason that we encourage you to give us your feedback – the more people that ask for a particular feature, the more likely we are to build it soon.

And in between the launch of new features, we’re always working on the hidden aspects of Twile – making it faster and more reliable. This is a never-ending task, as we have more users and more complex features every single day.

So we hope that you will be patient with us while we make Twile as amazing as we can. Our team is expanding, with two new developers joining the Twile team in May, which will mean that progress on some features will be accelerated. We ask that you keep telling us what you like, dislike and would like to see – in that way you’re helping us build the perfect tool for you.

Image by Freepik 

Related articles

 

 

 

 

Using Timeline Technologies in your Family History Research

If you were lucky enough to catch some of the workshops at Who Do You Think You Are? Live last week, Ron Arons spoke about ‘Technologies for Timelines’. It was a great presentation and we’re delighted that Ron agreed to do a guest blog post for us!

Twile and Mind Maps: Two excellent choices for building genealogical timelines, Ron Arons.

 

When it comes to Timelines, there are many technologies that fit the bill; I can tell you about two dozen different products and services which come in all shapes, sizes and prices. The good/bad news is that there are so many options. It can be confusing to decide which one(s) to use.

The really good news is that you don’t have to select just one approach, even if you are under a limited budget.

One way of deciding among the many choices is to consider how you want to use a timeline.

  • Do you want to create a beautiful report for yourself and others to show off what you have discovered as a result of all of your research efforts?

Or

  • Do you want to use a timeline for analysis purposes?

The really good news is that there are products and services which fall into each category.

Twile’s product/service falls into the first category. It is a unique product in that it allows you to build visually stunning timelines with superior graphics, including images (think family photographs, etc.)  The Twile folks make it easy to add family members to the timeline, whether you type information in directly or, better yet, import a GEDCOM (industry standard genealogy database) file. While relatively new to the market, Twile’s product is very capable and I know that they have great plans for the future with feature enhancements, e.g. video, on the drawing boards.

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By contrast, a mind map is a different animal altogether. The notion of mind maps has been around for centuries and software programs to create them have been around for nearly twenty years. Mind maps are used in companies of all sizes for brainstorming and creative thinking. In the education field, teachers use them with their students. Attorneys use them to layout their cases both for their clients as well as for juries. Writers use mind maps to plan their stories.

If you are a visual (or non-linear thinking person and have never tried them, you should really give them a shot.

Mind maps are radial outlines that start with a central theme or concept, e.g. a person or a question. From the centre, you expand the mind map with several branches. Each branch can be expanded with more specific details in sub-branches, sub-sub branches, etc. For example, the following mind map provides information about my great-grandfather, a criminal and consummate liar.

Isaac Spier1iMindMap

Better yet, you can make connections across the map using connector arrows/lines. It is this latter capability that I found so useful in my own personal research to help analyze two very difficult problems that haunted me for more than fifteen years.

The themes for my various mind maps were individuals. I created a first level of branches which represented the many different genealogical documents that I found for that individual (or other related individuals). I then organized the documents in clockwise, chronological order, effectively creating a timeline. Next, I populated sub-branches with details of each document. Finally, I used connector arrows of different colors to connect specific “facts” I saw in common across the various documents. I found that this approach “lit up” my brain, allowing me to “see” things that would have been much more difficult to notice and comprehend if I just looked at the original documents, comparing two at a time. You can see an example of a timeline mind map (without connector arrows) about my great-grandfather on my website here: http://www.ronarons.com/isaac-spier-mindmap/

So, you CAN have your cake and eat it, too!

You can use mind maps to help with the analysis portion of your research and a great product like Twile’s to spruce it up and make it look pretty to share with your relatives.

Regardless of which direction you take, I wish you the very best of success with your family history research. Happy hunting!

Ron Arons, lives in Oakland, California and  is a veteran genealogist, speaker, and author’
Ron Arons, lives in Oakland, California and is a veteran genealogist, speaker, and author.

We’d like to thank Ron for this insightful blog post. If you like this mind map approach to timelines, consider Ron’s book, Mind Maps for Genealogy, which discusses using mind maps for timelines, using the Genealogical Proof Standard, and implementing the FAN (friends, associates and neighbours) technique (also known as “cluster” research).

17 Things that happened on March 17th: Saint Patrick’s Day

Today is Saint Patrick’s day – a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the day that Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland died. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years although it has become an international festival with people celebrating Irish culture around the world with parades, dancing, special foods and a lot of green!

But did you know that, on 17th March:

  • 45BC Julius Caesar defeated the Pompeian forces of Titus Labienus and Pompey the Younger in the Battle of Munda…his last victory.
  • 1658, A Pro-Charles II plot in England was discovered
  • 1755, The Transylvania Land Company buys Kentucky for $50,000 from a Cherokee chief
  • 1762, The first St Patrick’s Day parade was held in NYC, US.
  • 1776, British forces evacuated Boston to Nova Scotia during the Revolutionary War
  • 1800, The British warship Queen Charlotte caught fire; 700 died
  • 1842, Indians landed in Ohio, a 12 square mile area in Upper Sandusky
  • 1842, The Relief Society, a philanthropic and educational women’s organisation and an official auxilliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) was founded by Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois, USA.
  • 1871, The National Association of Professional Base-Ball players was organized
  • 1891, The British Steamer “Utopia” sunk off Gibraltar killing 574
  • 1901, A showing of seventy-one Vincent Van Gough paintings in Paris, 11 years after his death, created a sensation.
  • 1921, Lenin proclaimed New Economic Politics
  • 1943, Physician Willem J Kolff performed the world’s first ‘hemodialysis’ using his artificial kidney machine in the Netherlands, however the treatment was unsuccessful and the patient died.
  • 1953, The US performed a nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site.
  • 1957, The Dutch ban on Sunday driving was lifted.
  • 1973, St. Patrick’s Day marchers carried 14 coffins commemorating Bloody Sunday.
  • 1995, The Sinn-Fein leader Gerry Adams visited the White House

How many of your ancestors would have been involved with any of these World Events?