Our five highlights from RootsTech 2017

The Twile team were at RootsTech 2017 last week, at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, one year after we won 2 awards there in the Innovator Showdown.

Last year there was a huge buzz around Twile, because we were pitching in the competition and because we were introducing Twile for the first time to most people.  And the buzz was still there this time – RootsTech is such an exciting experience for family historians and we love being among such enthusiastic people!

Here are our five highlights from RootsTech 2017:

  1. Twile is now FREE for everyone
    On the first day of RootsTech, we announced we were dropping the subscription fee for Twile and making it completely free for everybody to use.  Needless to say, this was a very popular piece of news and we had a lot of new customers very excited to start using our family history timeline.
  2. Family history infographic
    We showcased our new family history infographic at RootsTech, allowing attendees to sign up and get their free “My Family In Numbers” chart, based on their FamilySearch or GEDCOM tree.  Get yours for free at: https://twile.com/numbers
  3. Innovator Showdown
    Five teams made it through to the final of the Innovator Showdown competition on Friday, 10th February.  Congratulations to Old News USA (1st), Qromatag (2nd), Double Match Triangulator (3rd) and Kindex with the coveted People’s Choice award! As one of last year’s winners, Twile were invited back on stage to give an update on what we’ve been up to since then.
  4. LeVar Burton’s keynote speech
    The keynotes are a big part of the RootsTech conference and the highlight for many was LeVar Burton’s speech on Friday morning.  The actor, best known for his roles as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Kunta Kinte in Roots, gave a truly heartwarming talk about his relationship with his mother, his African heritage and slavery in the United States.
  5. The exhibition hall
    If you’ve never been to RootsTech, you’ll struggle to comprehend how big it is! More than 30,000 people visited the exhibition hall during the 3 days of the show and there was never a quiet moment on the Twile booth. We spoke with so many customers and made some fantastic contacts with exhibiting brands (big and small), forming the seeds of some really promising partnerships.

And Twile appeared on Utah’s KSL News as the exhibition was getting set up:

RootsTech 2018 is on 28 February – 3 March and Twile will most certainly be there!

Did you visit RootsTech this year?  Please add a comment below to tell us what your personal highlights were.

 

 

Twile is now FREE for everyone

We are really happy to announce that – as of today – we have removed the subscription fee for using Twile and our family timeline is now free for everyone!

When we started Twile, our vision was for it to be used by all family members, who would share and collaborate on their family story. We feel that our subscription fee was getting in the way.

This is why it is now free to do everything on Twile:

  • Build your family tree
  • Share and collaborate with family
  • Add unlimited milestones and photos
  • Import from FamilySearch
  • Import and merge multiple GEDCOM files

Whilst we will no longer be charging customers to use our core product, we clearly do need to make some money. We are planning to introduce some optional add-ons in the future, which will enhance the Twile experience.

We realise there are many concerns within the industry about privacy and we want to take this opportunity to assure our customers that we will never sell their personal data.

So Twile is now free for you and all of your family – go ahead and build an awesome timeline of your family story, together!

Introducing children to Family History at Riverside School

As part of our ongoing mission to make family history more engaging for the younger generations, we’re working with another Yorkshire school to introduce family history into the curriculum.

Last year I was delighted to go into a local school and speak to the children about family history. We had such a lot of fun and it was great to see the children so enthusiastic, enjoying conversations with their family about their ancestors and starting to record their own lives on Twile.

I recently accepted an invitation to go in to another school, working with the history teacher at Riverside School in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, UK. A group of excited 9 and 10 year old students greeted me and I have the pleasure of going along each week for six weeks .

In the first week, in order to introduce the children to family history, their teacher Mrs Patrick and I had a discussion with the class to get their thoughts on ‘What is family’, ‘Why is it important’, ‘What is an ancestor’.  She then asked the children to recall happy family stories relating to the Christmas holidays, where they were likely to have family gatherings.  Many mentioned seeing grandparents, aunts and uncles and discussed who was related to who and on which side of the family (maternal/paternal).

We then introduced the concept of the family tree, showing them the Twile version and asked the children to think about how their family was connected and draw their own trees.

As the children began this work, questions began to be asked such as ‘I don’t know my grandparents real names – they are just granny and grandpa’, ‘I don’t know if my uncle is my mum or dad’s brother’, ‘I don’t know my mum’s date of birth’ – We asked the children to write these questions down and take them home to find out more from their parents.

In the second week, the children came along to the class with more information about their family, ready to put it into Twile.

After showing the children how to log in, they set to work adding their family tree findings online.  The children got to work enthusiastically and found Twile easy to use.  By the end of the first part of the session the children had added their immediate family members and began adding aunts/uncles and their cousins.

The children took photos of themselves using the iPads and imported their photos onto the ‘profile’ on their trees.

We watched two videos: the first to illustrate how the family tree is pieced together. The second was the first part of Who Do You Think You Are – JK Rowling:

At the end of the 15 minutes, the children were asking to watch more – they were completely enthralled in the journey that JK Rowling was being taken on. They couldn’t believe it when she learnt that the grandfather she thought she knew about was the wrong person!

We had a class discussion following the videos – the children were keen to tell me their own stories learnt from the last session about their history – stories were told about soldiers in the war and an ancestor that had sailed on the ‘Mayflower’ from the UK to America in the 1600s!! I was quite taken by the enthusiasm the children displayed and clearly the parents’ involvement in helping the children learn – children had also found out the names of their grandparents and now knew the dates of birth of their parents. One child in particular discovered they had a well-known ancestor – Edward Jenner – who discovered the vaccine for small pox!

After the second session, the children were asked to choose a family member and write a story about them – find out their name, date of birth, what relation they are, what their occupation is/was and something interesting about them. They will bring a photo if possible, ready to ‘create a story’ about that person in next week’s lesson.

Their excitement was contagious and I can’t wait to go back next week!

Add your review of Twile in the FamilySearch App Gallery

If you are a FamilySearch user, we would really appreciate a review in the FamilySearch App Gallery.  This will help to let other FamilySearch users learn about Twile.

To read our reviews and leave a review yourself:

  1. Visit https://familysearch.org/apps/product/twile/web
  2. Scroll down and click the blue ‘Write a review’ button
  3. Log into FamilySearch if asked
  4. Scroll down, click 5 stars 🙂 and then enter the text for your review
  5. Click ‘Submit’

It takes a couple of minutes, but will be really helpful in raising our profile in the App Gallery and spreading the Twile word.

Thanks!

Do you ‘overshare’ photos of your children online?

It’s so easy nowadays to share photos of our children and grandchildren online – with the ability to almost instantly post photos in places like Facebook and Instagram, it’s worth thinking about who can see them and what the longer-term implications might be.

We recently read a study by Nominet, which reports some interesting and thought provoking figures. Their poll of 2,000 parents reveals that:

  • The average parent shares 1,500 photos of their child before their 5th birthday!
  • Less than a quarter of parents knew how to find and amend privacy settings online.
  • On average parents upload a picture of someone else’s child nearly 30 times a year.
  • The top 3 destinations for sharing are Facebook (54%), Instagram (16%) and Twitter (12%).

This got me thinking.  Do I know where to find and amend privacy settings in my online accounts?  I’m not sure that I do.  We’ve spoken to a lot of parents over the years who complained that privacy settings on sites like Facebook are not intuitive or transparent.

Also, how many times have my friends and family members uploaded photos of my children without me knowing, from events like birthday parties and school plays?  Do those people know how to control their privacy settings?

It seems to me that there are some important things to consider when sharing photos online:

  1. When did you last review your social media settings? Here’s how to do it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  2. Remember that when you post a photo of your child, you could be inadvertently posting a photo of another child and their location.
  3. Photos you post now may be online forever.  Will your children appreciate the stream of embarrassing photos when they’re in their twenties?
  4. Why are you posting the photos to a social network? If you want to share with family or record a child’s life, a Twile family timeline might be a better choice – everything on Twile is private by default (so only visible to your family) and it creates a meaningful timeline of each person’s life

Twile Integrates with FamilySearch

OK, so this is exciting! Today we have launched our FamilySearch integration, which lets you import your FamilySearch tree into Twile to automatically create a rich, visual timeline of your family history.

Twile now connects securely to FamilySearch to import your tree and generate a timeline, made up of key milestones such as births and marriages – onto which you can add photos and more recent events to bring it to life.

The integration means that – for the first time – FamilySearch customers can now share their research privately with other family members. The family’s non-genealogists can then explore their ancestry through milestones, stories and pictures – and add content of their own, such as their own life events and recent photos. Families can start to collaboratively record not just the past, but the present and future too.

We have been working on the integration since our success at RootsTech earlier this year. It’s taken some time to build, but we have a passionate community of FamilySearch users who have waited patiently while we built it. Some of our users have helped to test it over the last few weeks, so a huge thank-you to them. We’re delighted that it is now here and ready for you to use!

In a press release issued today, Steve Rockwood, FamilySearch CEO said “FamilySearch is always looking for fun, engaging experiences that help our patrons make new personal discoveries and family connections. Twile’s rich, custom timeline of key family history events does exactly that!”

We are delighted to be working with FamilySearch and we will soon be adding support for FamilySearch’s memories and photos, plus an automatic synchronisation that will keep the Twile timeline up to date as FamilySearch records change.

If you are a new FamilySearch user, simply register for Twile at www.twile.com to start your free trial – plus, our new Twile Free package allows you to add up to 10 events and 10 photos every month with no subscription fee.

Presenting Twile to The Duke Of York

We were honoured to have been selected to present Twile to HRH The Duke of York in Sheffield this week, as part of Pitch@Palace On Tour.

Sheffield is where our journey began, in the first Dotforge Accelerator in 2013.  We are the only remaining startup from that first cohort, but we’re extremely proud to have got this far.

What is Pitch@Palace?

Pitch@Palace offers startups the chance to showcase their products in front of a global audience of influencers, including investors, press, industry leaders and other entrepreneurs. We have written previously about how difficult it has been to raise big investment and raise our profile in the Yorkshire tech community – so we were delighted to have had this opportunity.

Our CEO and Co-founder Paul Brooks had 3 minutes to show how awesome Twile is, before a few hours of networking and discussion.

Related posts: Twile supports #CreateUK   / Twile Wins Two Awards in the Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2016

 

(Image: Dan Taylor, Heisenberg Media)

New Milestone Types: Military and Legal & Justice

We’ve just added a number of new milestone types to Twile, including two new categories: “Military” and “Legal & Justice”.

Milestones are events that you can add to your family timeline to tell the story of each person’s life.  Most people on your family tree will have key events like birth and marriage, but adding more detail can help you and the rest of your family understand what their life was really like.

Now you can add military milestones – such as conscription, awards or even court-martial – and legal milestones – such as arrest, sentencing and execution! We’ve also added a few extra milestones into other categories, such as wedding anniversary and blessing.

To add a milestone to your timeline:

  1. Login or register for Twile at www.twile.com
  2. Click the ‘Add’ button at the top of your timeline
  3. Click ‘Add milestone’
  4. Choose the type of milestone you’d like to add
  5. Choose the person you’re adding the milestone for, enter the date and other details
  6. Click the ‘Add’ button to save the new event

Watch our video for an overview:

All of the new milestones we’ve added have been requests and suggestions from our customers, so please keep those ideas coming – you can add a comment to this blog post or send us an email to help@twile.com.

Behind the scenes: What we’re building now

Since expanding our development team over the last couple of months, we’ve been working hard to build the new features you’ve all been asking for.  We thought you might like a sneak preview of what’s coming soon.

Recent additions

Here’s what we’ve added to the site over the last couple of weeks…

  • Inventions
    You can now add our new ‘Inventions’ stream to your family timeline to see big inventions from history alongside your own family story.  What was your family up to when the automobile was invented?
  • Questions
    We’ll send you questions about your family each week to help you fill the gaps in your timeline.
  • GEDCOM merge
    You can now merge any number of GEDCOM files into your Twile family tree to keep it up-to-date and to combine research from multiple members of your family.

Coming soon!

And here’s a couple of exciting features we’re working on right now…

  • FamilySearch Integration
    If you’re a FamilySearch user, you’ll soon be able to import your tree into Twile, which will automatically generate a timeline of your family history for you to share privately.  More details later this month!
  • New Streams
    Following the launch of our inventions stream, we’ve had so much feedback and many requests for different history topics. We are currently working on streams for the American Civil War and War of Independence.  If you have a specific request for a new history stream, please add a comment below or send us an email to help@twile.com

We will be posting more information soon!

Five Tips For Scanning Your Old Photos

If your family is anything like mine, you have hundreds or thousands of photos that will never be seen again.  We have boxes filled with old photos (typically hidden in the attic); everything from black-and-white pictures from the early 1900s through to colour photos of me and my brother growing up.

Even if we open up those boxes and look through them occasionally, that doesn’t help the family who live elsewhere.  I have cousins living around the world who, of course, share the same grandparents – of whom we have a lot of photos.  The only solution is to scan the pictures and put them somewhere we can all access.

Scanning in old photos is a BIG job – especially if you have as many as we do – so I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned while working through our old photo collection.  Here are five tips for scanning in old photos…

1. Choose your device

The first decision is whether to use a flatbed scanner or your camera (or smartphone) to digitise your old photos.  Using a camera is certainly the simplest option – it is far easier and quicker to snap, snap, snap your photos than it is to load them one-by-one into a scanner and wait while it scans.  It probably takes an average of 60 seconds per photo using a flatbed scanner, versus maybe 10 seconds using a camera.

But the quality of the scan from a scanner is far superior to what you’ll achieve using a camera.  Scanners are designed for scanning flat documents, while cameras are designed for taking photos of 3D things in the real world – and the difference shows.

With a camera, curled paper edges, lighting glare and lens angles can all diminish the quality of the final output.  With a scanner, these problems are all removed.

Whether you invest in a scanner and spend the extra time it takes to use one depends on the quality you want in the digital versions of your photos.  I’d suggest you try a camera first and see if the output is good enough for what you need.

2. Don’t aim for perfection

With the choice between scanner and camera in mind, it’s worth noting that any digital version of your photos is better than nothing at all.  Your family and your future self will be delighted just to see the photos, even if they’re a little skew or there’s a little glare in the top-right corner.

It’s tempting to spend a lot of time perfecting the scanning process, but your main aim should be getting your paper photos onto a computer.  The longer it takes to arrange photos, align them, adjust lighting and everything else, the less likely you are to finish the job.

It takes a little experimentation to see what you get from different methods, so have a play and find a compromise that you’re happy with between speed and quality.

3. Sort the photos first

It’s a lot easier to organise the paper copies of your photos than it is to do it on a computer.  It’s also a lot more enjoyable – you’ll find yourself spending a few moments on each photo, either enjoying your own memories or trying to solve the mysteries therein.

I suggest grouping photos by date primarily.  In some cases you’ll have an exact date written on the back of the photo (or imprinted in the photo itself in some more recent pics).  Otherwise, you might need to make a best guess on the month or year or maybe just decade.  

Organising your photos before scanning makes it much easier to store them in appropriate date-based folders on your computer later. For example, you could scan photos in date batches, so that all photos from 1973 go into one folder.

It’s also an opportunity to remove any that aren’t worth scanning in. Underdeveloped shots or the seventeenth photo of the same anonymous landscape might not be something you want to spend time scanning in.  

4. Check your scanner settings

Most scanners, cameras and smartphones will offer some level of customisation for the resulting image.  You’ll want to get this setup correctly before you start.

There are three considerations: image settings, resolution and file type.

The image settings include options like brightness, colour levels and contrast.  You may find that the default settings are perfect, otherwise you may want to adjust them until you get the image output you’re looking for.  I found that my colour photos looked a little too blue by the time they reached the screen, so I adjusted the colour balance to fix that.

The larger the resolution of your scanned-in photo, the higher its quality (and file size).  Bigger is always better, but there is a maximum to the quality you’ll actually be able to use.  It may be tempting to reduce the resolution to save disk space, but if you go too low you’ll end up with photos that aren’t good enough to print – and you may regret that one day.  I’d recommend a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch), which will give you more than enough for viewing on a screen and emailing and plenty to produce quality prints if you ever need to.

You can often select the file type that you want to create during scanning, such as JPEG, TIFF, PNG or PDF.  For most purposes you’ll want to choose JPEG, which is a good compromise between quality and file size.  It’s the most familiar type of image file and can easily be used for viewing, emailing or printing.

5. Scan multiple photos together

Whether you’re using a scanner or a camera, you can save time by scanning more than one photo at a time.  A typical flatbed scanner can accommodate at least 3 typical photos and you’ll probably fit 3 or 4 into the viewfinder of a camera at a reasonable distance.

The downside of scanning multiple photos together is that you need to crop the resulting image into 3 or 4 photos.  Fortunately, there are a number of software solutions and apps that will do this automatically – and many modern flatbed scanners come with appropriate software as part of the package.

We’ll be reviewing apps and photo software in the future, so watch this space!

Add your photos to Twile

Once you’ve digitised your photos, don’t just leave them hidden away on your computer – upload them to your Twile timeline so that the rest of your family can explore and enjoy them.  Twile is totally private, which means only the family members you invite will be able to see the photos you share.

Click here to create your Twile Timeline