Famicity – A Scrapbook for the 21st Century

Famicity is described as a private social network designed for families. It is that, but it is also a beautiful way to build a scrapbook of your family’s history – current, near past and distant past. Those of us researching our family history have collected all kinds of photos, ephemera and stories about our ancestors. Famicity offers a beautiful platform to show off all those wonderful things along with their stories.

Famicity Screen

In this view, I’ve posted individual photos from my family collection. Each photo has fields to include date, place and description. The description can be a simple caption or a story. You can also add tags to each entry. These tags can be useful to quickly display all photos and stories associated with a particular tag. You can tag a person, a place, an event or whatever keyword will help you organize the elements you post at Famicity.

Each item you include in Famicity can be assigned permissions. This makes it possible to include friends as visitors but limit their access to certain entries. It could also be used to limit the younger family members access to photos or stories that aren’t appropriate for their age. As the owner/manager of your Famicity network, you control who has access and what they have access to. The Tree element also serves as the “profile” for each member. As the site manager, you can also organize individuals into groups. Groups are useful for quickly assigning permissions or sending messages to a certain group.

Albums and video in Famicity

I love the albums component. It’s the perfect place to celebrate an event, vacation or family collection – both past and present. You can tag and comment on the album and on individual photos within the album. You can also include captions to each photo.

Don’t ignore the video element either. Capture and share those special moments like a baby’s first steps. You can share videos from platforms like YouTube or Vimeo, but that means the video is still visible to the world. When you are posting a “private” video – one you don’t want to share with the world – you can post the video file directly on Famicity. You would need the Famicity Premium account ($4.99/month) which includes 50GB of storage with 1GB for each member.

In addition to photos, videos, ephemera and stories, Famicity also includes a private messaging space where members can communicate with each other. Using the Inbox, only the people in the conversation will have access to those messages. Each person has a profile page which also serves as an address book for members. The profile information on each member includes email address, birthdate and a photo. Famicity is set up to send birthday reminders to Famicity members using the profile information. Send your birthday greetings as a private message or as a graphic birthday “card” on the Famicity timeline where members can share their greetings with everyone using the comment element for that card.

There’s a lot more Famicity goodness just waiting for you and your family to enjoy. One very nice feature is its cost – nothing! To learn more and get started on your own Famicity network, visit them at https://Famicity.com.

Famicity – Getting Started

Famicity is a private social network designed for families. It’s designed to provide a safe way to share news, photos and videos. It’s also a great place to stay connected in a secure environment that won’t sell your information to the highest bidder.

How do you get started with Famicity? Actually, it’s quite easy.

Go to Famicity at https://www.famicity.com/en/welcome. Take a few minutes to get a feel for the site. When you are ready, click the Sign up button in the upper right side of the screen. When the sign-up screen opens you will see several registration options. You can register using your Facebook login (not recommended), your FamilySearch login or create your own with your email address and a password. Before pressing the Start key, it’s a good idea to review the site’s terms of service.

Once you click the Create Account button, you will be taken to a page where you enter your name, sex and date of birth. Once that’s done, you are ready to start building your family tree and trying out the various components of Famicity.

Sample Famicity screen

You won’t have any stories or photos yet, but it won’t be long before you’re adding photo albums, videos and stories. Right now, you need to check out the toolbar running down the left side of the Famicity screen. The News button at the top of the bar displays your Famicity site’s timeline. As you invite others to join Famicity, this is the place to view all the latest posts to the network.

Story area

The Story button takes you to your profile screen. It contains information about you along with each of the items you have added to the site. This could include photos, videos, photo albums and stories. The name “stories” is a bit misleading. While writing stories about yourself and others are always encouraged, stories will often include short captions, announcements and news. You choose what your stories will be.

Albums are just that . . . A place to display multiple photos associated with a particular event or topic.

Famicity also includes a family Tree. You can either build it from scratch or import a GEDCOM. The tree is used to show your Famicity members how they fit within the family structure but it is also used to invite family members to join your Famicity group. The birthdate information maintained in your family tree is also used to automatically announce birthdays in Famicity’s News section.

The Inbox makes it possible to communicate with your family members via private message.

Contacts is the directory of members. This can be used by members to contact each other. It is also used by administrators to send family members an invitation to join Famicity and it is used to organize members into groups – like the Florida group and the California group.

The My family section contains a directory for all the members of your Famicity family. The directory can be used by members to find contact information. For network administrators, it is a great way to manage groups and invitations as well as contact information.

Before you start inviting your family to join you at Famicity, post photos, videos and even a story or two. This will help you get a feel for how things work in Famicity and it will give your family something fascinating to look at when they first view the site. The Help button in the toolbar takes you to the Famicity help center where you will find detailed instructions on how to use the many features available.

Once you are comfortable with the site it’s time to start adding others. As they get comfortable with Famicity, start encouraging them to add their own photos and stories. You’ll be surprised how quickly they will settle in.

What’s Your Family Story?

Famicity is a private social network designed as a way for families to share their stories. It’s a beautiful way to document both today’s family and our ancestors.

Famicity screen on iPad
Famicity on an iPad

Famicity combines stories, albums and even videos with a family tree, internal messaging system and address book to make it beautiful way for families to stay in touch and share special family moments. For the family historian, it is also a creative way to share the stories and memorabilia of our ancestors.

Famicity is available on Windows and Mac desktops as well as iOS and Android phones and tablets. It costs nothing to create a Famicity account and, once created, you control who to invite to your private Famicity network.

They describe themselves as a “private social network designed to protect, share and continue your family’s legacy.” It is that – and more! You can post photos, build albums, post videos and stories. There’s plenty of options for comments and conversations too. You can access Famicity using your web browser or using the free mobile apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets. All the content you post in Famicity is encrypted and stored on their servers.

Tap the “hamburger” icon (the three green horizontal lines) at the top left of the Famicity screen to display the menu you see on the left. You are looking at the News screen where the most recently posted content appears at the top of my timeline. As you scroll down the screen, you go futher back in the timeline. Note that the photos shown here show who posted this item and when. When posting a photo, once it has been added to an album you can tap the photo to display an overlay making it possible to add a description and date for that photo. In the example above, the photo on the left was edited to include the date but the photo on the right was not so the current date was automatically displayed.

When viewing an album, you’ll see a panel similar to the one shown here. In the column on the right you see the title and description of this album along with icons to Like, Comment or Tag the photos in it. You can also use the comment box at the bottom of the panel to ask questions or share thoughts. Each comment is displayed in date order in this panel.

Tags are used to identify the people included in your album or story. If you are creating a story describing a vacation or holiday get-together, you can tag everyone present at this event. Use the Tag icon in the album, story or photo to set your tags.

Inviting family and friends to your Famicity network is quite easy. All you do is enter the email address of the family member you want to invite. There is also a place to include a message to add to your invitation. You can use this to add friends as well. Sometimes you will want to limit access to specific content to just your family or a specific set of friends. Famicity supports organizing your network into groups. This, combined with Famicity’s permissions feature, makes it easier to define who can see what within your network. There are two permissions – “Share with” or “Do not share”. You add who can and can’t see that item. By using groups, you can assign one group to share an entry rather than having to list each member by name. There’s no limit to the number of groups you create. You may want a group for your family historians and another for your Georgia cousins. It’s up to you.

The Inbox component makes it possible to send private messages to individuals within your Famicity network. Messages can be addressed to one or more individuals or to a specific group.

Famicity also has a family tree component. You can build your tree on Famicity or import it via GEDCOM if you already have one. While your family may not take to the tree at first, the stories, photos and ephemera posted to the network might just inspire them to see how they “fit” into the their family’s history. When you create a story or album in Famicity, add tags to identify who all are part of the event or photo. When you tap on an individual in the family tree, then select the option to see their story, Famicity will display a timeline for that person including every story and album where they have been tagged.

Famicity is a delight to use. Right now I am collecting stories, albums and ephemera telling our family’s history – recent and historic. Once I have a nice collection to capture their attention, I will start inviting the family. This will give us all opportunities to share the many wonderful family events, vacations and precious moments unique to our family without having to wade through the trash, trivia and advertisements found on most social networks.

Life is good!

To learn more and get started building your own network, visit Famicity at https://www.famicity.com. Got questions? Use the comments box at the bottom of this post to ask questions or share tips.

Digital Scrapbooks

A digital scrapbook is created using digital tools like scrapbook software and digital photos, images and design elements. The results can be printed on you local printer, sent to a print service, published as a book or presented online. Online scrapbooks can include additional media like music, narration and audio clips and video.

Scrapbooking Software

  • Memory Mixer [Win – $30] is a delightful platform for scrapbooking. Kits are well-organized and easy to browse, the work area is quite intuitive and the sharing options are impressive. You can use design elements from outside kits, but it will take a bit of effort. Make sure you subscribe to their blog or newsletter to keep up with both some great tips and sales on kits or services.
  • Craft Artist 2 [Win – $40] intrigues me. It looks to be in that sweet spot between the simplicity of a scrapbook program and the flexibility of something like Photoshop. Unfortunately for me, it’s Windows only.
  • iScrapbook [Mac – $50] is a very nice app, but they hide the contents of their kits so you can only find them from inside the app and make it difficult to use design elements from outside sources.
  • Keynote (Mac) and PowerPoint (Windows) are not designed for scrapbookers, but do make a very good platform to create scrapbook-style pages. Both make it possible to export your “pages” as a PDF document for easy distribution.

Scrapbook Elements

There are a number of online stores for purchasing digital scrapbook kits and design elements. The terms of use for these sites often limit use online or embedded in PDF documents. The sources listed below have terms of use that support digital family history projects. Note that individual artists may have their own terms of service for their work. Make sure you read and understand the terms associated with any product before you purchase it.

  • pixelbooking.com offers lots of kits and elements packages. They appear to be expensive until you realize that many kits have two or three times the elements found in most kits. (See license page for details.)
  • Memory Mixer kits and packages are designed to work with the Memory Mixer software but can be used in projects created using other applications. They automatically install inside the app system, but it’s quite easy to find the graphic files for use in other projects. (See TOU.)
  • Scrapper’s Guide provides tutorials, templates and design kits for building scrapbook pages using Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. (See TOU in FAQ page.)
  • There are a number of scrapbook design shops at Etsy offering interesting design elements and kits – often with quite favorable terms of use.
  • Font Squirrel offers free fonts that are licensed for commercial use. Many font designers do not allow embedding their fonts in PDF documents which limits there usability in most family history projects. Each font has a text page included in the download stating the terms of use for that font.

Media Resources

When working on multimedia projects, background music and sound effects are always a plus. However, to stay out of legal trouble, you’ll need to stay away from a lot of popular music. Don’t worry, you’ve got options:

  • There’s a growing market for affordable royalty-free music.
  • As more and more artists decide to bypass the big recording companies and do it themselves, you’ll find they are offering more flexible licensing of their music. Check out Creative Commons. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Reimagining the Scrapbook

Did you keep a scrapbook in your childhood? Was it something like this – black pages with all kinds of ephemera pasted or taped to it?

old scrapbook page
Childhood scrapbook

It was always a delight to pull out an old family album or scrapbook and take a trip down memory lane. It’s even more exciting when we get our hands on an ancestor’s scrapbook. Unfortunately back in the day we never heard of anything like “archival quality paper” to preserve precious childhood treasures. Today some of those treasures are in pretty sad shape.

It dawned on me a while back that my family history blog had turned into a sort of scrapbook. It wasn’t anything I planned. It just happened. I thought for a while and decided I liked it. Apparently my family does too. My subscribers list is growing and many of them are family with a surprising number of childhood friends too.

What does it take to build a scrapbook blog? Not much. My Moultrie Creek Journal blog is hosted at WordPress.com using the personal plan ($36/year). This gives me a domain name along with 6GB of storage for images, movies and PDF documents along with a broad range of site themes. I’m using the Fictive theme which has a simple, but eye-catching design and supports post formats – a different look for each post type (text, image, video, quote, etc.).

Sharing an old photo on my family history blog.

What really makes WordPress a great platform for a family history scrapbook is its social networking integrations. Family and friends can subscribe to receive new posts via email or newsreader and WordPress will “announce” each new post at my choice of social networks where family members are known to hang out. WordPress also has an impressive commenting system that works much like Facebook so visitors can add their own comments, photos and other ephemera to the conversation.

One of the very nice things about blogging your family history is that it will attract more than just your “close” relatives. Blogs are very search-friendly and it’s not unusual to have a distant relative discover your online scrapbook. They may even have useful information to pass on – like who is that unknown person in a family photo.

GGGGreat Grandmother

Using a blog as a scrapbook doesn’t limit your creative urges either. I like to create collage-style graphics like the one you see above and use them as the “focus” image at the beginning of a post. It attracts attention and provides time and place for the story that follows.

Blogs are surprisingly versatile and a great place to get creative. Even better, it can attract attention and start conversations you never expected. It’s definitely worth a look!