Ancestry.com recently announced that it will soon close the popular MyFamily.com web service. (See http://wp.me/p5Z3-lk for the details.) The outcry from MyFamily.com users has been loud. However, all is not lost. Several other web sites offer similar services to those previously offered by Ancestry.com’s subsidiary at MyFamily.com. Anyone who has been using MyFamily.com will want to check out the alternatives available.
This week I took a look at MyGreatBigFamily.com and must say that I am impressed.
MyGreatBigFamily.com supplies family web sites that are preconfigured with most everything you need to connect online with your relatives around the world and to preserve your family history. The web site proclaims, “We’ve made it so easy for you to customize & manage a professional looking website. All you do is add the content. No need to understand web publishing tools or be a web wizard.” After using the site for a while, I believe that is an accurate claim. In fact, I was so impressed with this service that I am now a MyGreatBigFamily.com customer. Details are given near the end of this article.
Building a family tree with MyGreatBigFamily.com is easy. There is no need to understand web publishing tools or to be a web wizard. The person who created the account can either do all the work alone or can share the labor with other family members, if desired. When the account is first created, the family web site will contain “templates” that can be used for adding information about past and present family members. The templates include pre-defined historical facts (birth, death, immigration, burial location, etc) that you can add to a family member history record. You also can create and add your own custom facts. The system also makes it easy to add sources and notes, and to attach images (gravestones, wedding pictures, etc).
Another option is to upload a GEDCOM file. (Not all competitive family web site providers can accept GEDCOM files.) You probably have a lot of your genealogy data already stored in a genealogy program, such as Mac Family Tree, Reunion, Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Heredis, The Master Genealogist, AncestralQuest, or some other genealogy program on your computer. All of these programs and almost all other modern genealogy programs can easily export part or all of your genealogy information as a GEDCOM file. Once you do that, the GEDCOM file you create can be imported into MyGreatBigFamily.com. This saves a LOT or keyboard work!
Anyone who possesses minimal technical expertise can build the family web site with this service. MyGreatBigFamily.com uses browser-based administrative screens. If you can navigate the World Wide Web and perhaps can use Facebook and your bank’s online banking service, you probably can create and maintain a family web site with MyGreatBigFamily.com. If you can type and upload images, you can handle everything on this service. You don’t need to have a web wizard in the family.
As your family’s web site administrator, you may:
Customize the look and feel of the site
Administer all the site’s features
Pick site colors
Add custom banners & images to personalize the site
Add, update & delete site content with ease
Create family member homepages with a simple click
Maintain family member relationships for family tree
Create additional photo galleries and message boards
Assign feature moderators
MyGreatBigFamily.com provides many options for making your web site as public or private as you like. For instance, a single individual can do all the work alone and then allow selected relatives to view the results online without changing any of the posted information. Another option is to allow a few trusted family members to add information, photographs, and more. (The family’s web site administrator still needs to approve all changes.) All web sites created with MyGreatBigFamily.com remain private: only invited users may access the site by using a user name and password previously approved by the family’s web site administrator.
Of course, any family web site can be used for multiple purposes. Documenting a family’s ancestry is one popular use, but I suspect more family members are interested in keeping in touch with grandchildren, cousins, and other members of the extended family. All this is easy to do with a web site built on MyGreatBigFamily.com. The demos show dozens of photographs as well as news and notes posted by many family members. Examples include one person announcing that he has just retired from his job of 32 years; another person posted a picture of his new automobile; one woman announced the birth of her new son; and still another family announced they are relocating to California. Of course, a major feature of any family web site is a discussion board where relatives can chit-chat as much as they wish.
I was drooling when I read the recipe for apple streusel squares posted in the “Family Recipes” section of the demo site for the Pearson Family.
The MyGreatBigFamily.com’s web site lists the following features as already available:
Unlimited member homepages
Online family tree
– 9+ generation views
– Icon based navigation
– Add predefined facts
– Add custom facts
– Relationship manager
– GEDCOM 5.5 importer
– Ancestral tree views
– Descendant tree views
– Hour glass tree views
– Search engine
– Member history reports
– Family reports
Member contact list
Live chat room
Photo gallery creator
Member news / blog
Did you know
Family story archive
In memory of
Admin control panel
Mass email family
Photo & message screening
Assign feature moderators
Optional Euro date format
Hosting and domain name
Store 1000’s of photos
& much more…
Detailed explanations of many of those features may be found at http://www.mygreatbigfamily.com/features.php.
The family’s web site administrator may add or delete the available sections as he or she sees fit.
Of course, any family web site is only as good as the on-screen display of the information that others see. I do like the screens displayed by MyGreatBigFamily.com. I am especially impressed with the “Clickable Filmstrip” that displays thumbnails of random photos on your site. A site visitor may click on any photo in the filmstrip, and it will take the visitor directly to that photo, where he or she can then view the full size image along with other photos in that photo album.
To see examples of the many features, look at the three different family web site demos by going to http://www.mygreatbigfamily.com and clicking on any of the “Family website demos.” See the screen capture below to locate those links.
One thing that I like is that you can use your own domain name for the family site that resides on MyGreatBigFamily.com. That is, you can use a web address such as http://www.SmithFamily.com or http://www.JohnsonsOfBoston.org. (Those are fictitious addresses I am using as examples.) You can have your family’s web site appear as whatever domain name you wish as long as no one else has already purchased that domain name. The address of “MyGreatBigFamily.com” does not need to appear in your family’s web site.
MyGreatBigFamily.com is not cheap. It costs $139.95 per year for web site hosting or $249.90 for two years, roughly a 10% discount. That strikes me as a reasonable price for hosting a web site with unlimited pages and storage space for unlimited photographs and also a service that offers easy-to-use templates for building a family web site. Somebody spent thousands of hours creating those templates. You can find cheaper family web site providers but I doubt if the cheaper services will offer as many features as found on MyGreatBigFamily.com. You will also note that there is no setup fee, and the company offers a 14-day free trial.
The one fee covers everyone and everything. There are never any per-family member fees. Add as many family members as you want—parents, grandparents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins can all get in on the fun for one family fee. Of course, the hosting expenses might be shared amongst family members or perhaps by a family organization. However, sharing of expenses needs to be done outside of MyGreatBigFamily.com as the company does not include any built-in accounting method for sharing expenses.
One question that any former user of MyFamily will have concerns reliability. Will the company remain in business and online for years to come? Nothing is ever guaranteed on the Internet but MyGreatBigFamily.com has been providing family web sites for ten years. With that track record, I suspect they will be more reliable than a certain multi-million-dollar corporation headquartered in Provo, Utah.
Again, I am impressed with MyGreatBigFamily.com. It is a very powerful, yet easy-to-use, method of creating and maintaining family web sites for any number of purposes.
In fact, I am so impressed with MyGreatBigFamily.com that I signed up! Yes, I pulled out my credit card and paid for a web site hosted on MyGreatBigFamily.com.
I am now building a new family web site that will soon appear at www.EastmanFamily.com. It will be available by invitation only to all my father’s relatives. If it works as well as I think it will, I will also pay for a second site for my mother’s relatives in the near future.
NOTE: If you are a descendant of Washington Harvey Eastman (born 1810) and his wife, Cynthia Tyler, or of Henry Deabay (born 1852) and either of his two wives, Suzanne Roy or Elinor Levesque, drop me a note and I will give you access to the site(s) when available.
If MyGreatBigFamily.com interests you, I’d suggest you go to http://www.mygreatbigfamily.com and spend some time exploring the many features available.