Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Finding a place for global family reunions

So, you're the one that inherited the old family photo album. Your distance cousin has the family bible. Is it possible to create an online archive to preserved and share these family treasures without hiring a professional web designer and going to great expense? Yes! You can even hold private meetings where family can join from virtually any spot on the face of the earth with a computer and Internet access.  This month we'll discuss setting up a Google+ Community. Next month we will get into how to host a private Hangout on Air.

It's all about improving communication with your distant family members.

IMAGE: Horydczak, Theodor, approximately 1890-1971, photographer
from the Library of Congress collection.

Set up is surprisingly simple, and since most have Gmail account, your family members are half-way there. There are just three steps to creating the family space:
  • Create a Google+ Community.
  • Add photos, videos and scanned images.
  • Invite family members individually.

1. Create a private Google+ Community. (You want it private to avoid unwanted guests in this space.) You'll log in here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities and click the "Create Community" button shown below:

Next be sure to make the community private, and select "No, Hide it from searches" in response to the question "Can people search for your community?" as shown below.

Follow the screen prompts to name your community, add a "logo" graphic for the community, etc.

2. Add photos and scanned images of a few important documents to get things started and build up content. With 10-15 individual posts of interesting photos, your family members will see the value of this new space. Unlike Facebook, Google+ does not restrict your members views of posts by 94%. This is a screen shot of Grandma Pat's Musings, the Google+ Community I created to share stories and pictures with my grandchildren. I am careful to refer to my Dad as "great-grandpa" since that is who he is in the eyes of my grandchildren, my target audience.
  • Point A - I chose a casual pic with my husband to be the "logo" graphic for the Gramma Pat's Musings community on Google Plus. 
  • Point B - You may add videos that reside on YouTube or elsewhere on the web. In this case, my 3-year old granddaughter loves the Disney movie Frozen, and so she got a big kick out of the song "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" parody "Do you want to Drive My Tractor?" Naturally, this belongs in our private family space on the web. 
  • Point C -  One may add categories and rearrange the left nav bar in communities they own.
  • Point D - One may elect to "pin" a post to keep it at the top when people arrive at the community. In this case I pinned a photo of my parents, because of a wedding anniversary coming up.

Notice I keep the story short and sweet, just two or three lines. If I have more to tell, I can add additional text as comments below the image. I'm trying to attract youth. If we were to scroll down through the community you'd see I have current and old photos of each grandchild, and funny images of their parents as children.

3. Invite  - Once you've got your private Google+ Community organized and filled with intriguing content, you'll want to scroll to the top right to find the "Invite people" button, circled in green in the screen shot above. Up pops a dialog box where you can compose a sentence or two for the invitation. Notice the "logo" photo shows up in this invitation. You may invite family members by Google+ profile or email. If they don't yet have a Google Account, they will be invited to create one.

WORLD WIDE PERSPECTIVEFew have the privilege of living in multiple generation households. Employment takes some family units halfway around the world. Creating a private (read that safe) family space on the web to share old family photos, kids' soccer pics, recipes, etc. brings families closer together.

Google+ Communities are free, and easy to set up. Let us know how you've decided to organize your private family community.

Pat Richley-Erickson,


  1. I love that you have created a space for your Grand children, enabling them to explore their genealogicL past. I was lucky growing up in the 1970's that I did live in a household with multiple generations. Of course as a child it was not especially "cool" but as I look back I realise that I was fortunate to do so and I value those memories.

    The time Grandparents spend with their grandchildren is special, I valued & loved spending time with my Grandparents, and I am sure you feel the same about your grandchildren, what is different is that we can use technology to do so, bridging the physical miles between the generations.

    Put it into context. In 1953 when Queen Elizabeth was crowned my Mum was 6 years old. She told me they went to a neighbours house to watch the Coronation on the box (TV). I was born in the late 1960's to a household that had a TV - so within a bit more than a decade we had moved with the times.

    Here we are, almost half a century later from when I was born, living in a dual world - our physical existence & a real yet virtual one. A world that lets you create a video & add it to an online space, a medium that enables you through a Google hangout to talk to your Grandchildren. That is incredible technology which is something that 50 years ago would have appeared in a SiFi movie.

    Times are surely changing.

  2. Welcome to WWG.
    You are my Hangout Hero, Pat. This post demonstrates what a useful tool Hangouts can be.

  3. Great post, a great resource to return to again and again.

    Welcome Pat. Great having you here.

  4. Welcome to WWG and being my genimate across the months. I hadn't thought about a world-wide hangout for a reunion before but it's definitely one that could be used many ways including with One Place Studies. You've made setting up a private community so clear...thanks! I also love the idea of having this kind of space for the grandkids to see. Mine are nearly old enough so I may have to encourage their parents to get on G+.

  5. I love this Idea....It's always me trying to secure families emotions with security on these things. You made a Great Presentation on what we could be doing as a portal for family connections until we all see each other again. I enjoyed that. We started one on FB as a Private Group for our Family Reunion. So far so Good!

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World Wide Genealogy Team