Review – tpstry


Last week, I received an email about a new online genealogy service called tpstry which, I have to say, is somewhat unique in its approach to gathering genealogical information. With the byline “Weaving life into family history,” tpstry takes the concept of a family group sheet – a form with which most genealogists are familiar – and asks that family members add information through a series of online questions.

How It Works

Once you create an account at tpstry – which is free – you should set up a profile and then create your family page and begin entering information about yourself.

You will be prompted to complete a series of questions such as “Who is the father of _________” or “Where was _______ born?”  The process proceeds in this manner and as you answer more and more questions, you can actually view the results as a family tree or even a timeline.

tpstry questions


How many times, as a genealogist or family historian, have you told yourself that you need to call up Aunt Tilly to get information on her children or her parents for your research? Or that you’ll send out blank family group sheets to your cousins and hope they’ll fill them out and get them back?

With tpstry, as long as family members have access to the Internet, they can participate in the project of adding information about the family.  When questions appear, you can type an answer or you can actually ask other family members for help.

In addition, tpstry allows you to create your own questions – which is great since each family is different. I could see this being used to verify certain family stories or events such as, “Did you ever attend the State Fair in Springfield, IL?”

tpstry – Not a Family Tree Site

While it might seem like a family tree website similar to Geni or others, in reality the family tree feature is just a means of displaying the information gathered from the questions.  The real strength of tpstry is the ability to prompt participants with questions that provide valuable family history information.

Some Possible Uses for tpstry

Always one to think “out of the box,” I’ve come up with some ways in which genealogists and family historians can leverage tpstry to expand the genealogy experience:

  • ancestor interview – this could be a fun way to conduct an “interview” of an ancestor and publish it as a booklet or blog post
  • family stories – use the create question feature for this and use open-ended prompts to get family members to enter their memories about specific events
  • interview scripts – if you were conducting an audio or video interview, you could use tpstry to help develop a script of questions to ask your family member being interviewed
  • client collaboration – for professional genealogists, this might be an easy way to have your clients provide the “known” information for your research project

In speaking with the creator of tpstry, Matt Johnson, I get the sense that he and the rest of the tpstry team are very open to exploring all possible ways in which the genealogy community will want to use tpstry.

One possible use is to solicit family health history / genogram information similar to what is currently done at traitwise. In the future, you’ll see more and more emphasis on family health and genealogy and I can see tpstry being used to gather this information.

I’ve also suggested the development of a widget that can be placed in a blog sidebar to entice other family members to join tpstry and provide information. Also, having the ability to embed the resulting family tree and/or timeline in a website would be useful as well.

I also hope that down the road there is an API or collaboration with other genealogy service providers to pull in their information to a family’s tpstry page. One example: let’s say your family was involved with the Boston Molasses Disaster in 1919. Wouldn’t it be great to pull in text and images from a site like GenDisasters as well as have your own family’s recollections be added to the content at GenDisasters?

Privacy Issues

As with any website that collects personal information, users will want to know not only what is done with their own personal account data, but the information entered by family members on the tpstry site. Tpstry is a “permission based” site which means that you, as the creator of the family page, must grant permission to other family members before they have access to the data and can answer questions. The information is never picked up by search engines such as Google and displayed publicly.


So far, I’ve enjoyed using tpstry and I think I may create new family pages for specific branches of my own genealogy research.  I also may try to use it with new clients for gathering the “known information” as part of the research process.

Right now, tpstry is a free service and a premium version – with a monthly subscription price model – is in the works. I’m excited to see what new features will be added and how tpstry can help others with their own genealogy and family history research.

tpstry might be a fun way to involve your family this holiday season to gather information about living relatives as well as ancestors. I suggest you take it for a spin and see what you can “weave.”

Don’t forget to follow tpstry on Twitter and Facebook!

Note: Later today I will be posting an interview with Matt Johnson, creator of tpstry, here at GeneaBloggers – stay tuned to find out more about Matt and his work.

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Disclosure statement: I do not have a material connection with tpstry or its creator, Matt Johnson. To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Review – Art For Your Sake

Art For Your Sake

I want to introduce the readers of GeneaBloggers to Art For Your Sake and a unique concept and gift idea that can help expand your family’s understanding of family history. Using the “digital photomontage” concept, its owner and resident artist Nancy Gershman can actually “recreate” pivotal moments in your family history especially when no photo or image exists. In addition, Nancy is able to “create” situations that never actually took place but might be vibrant and captivating “what ifs” and “imaginings” to help understand the people and places that came before you.

The Digital Photomontage Concept

Intrigued? Confused? Don’t worry – so was I when I first stumbled upon the Art For Your Sake site. But in reading and reviewing the various pages, you can get a better understanding of how Nancy works with a client to create these works of art.

In short, this is how it works: Nancy will sit down and help you focus on a family history story or episode and help memorialize it by gathering the “back story” and creating art work based on the story and any images you provide.

What if you don’t have a photo of your great-grandmother as a bride, the one who was a dance hall girl and married the Standard Oil executive? No worries – she can take existing images and add elements to create an “imagining” of that special day or event.

Art For Your Sake Christmas

The image above shows a Wedding Anniversary “dreamscape” that Art For Your Sake created for a client. As Nancy describes it:

SUSAN & DAVID’S DREAMSCAPE: Susan loves fun socks; her husband David loves cruises and Hawaiian shirts. So for this anniversary photo gift made from childhood photos, I thought, why not have Santa sit on a beach instead of inside a department store?

Note also how I’ve created a new pair of arms for David so Susan won’t slip off his lap. And those arms are not even his!

After giving her husband this photo collage portrait, Susan W writes: “To quote my husband of 10 years, ‘this ROCKS!!!!’ I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the process, the anticipation and the end result. This is a gift we will cherish always! Thank you from the bottom of my overflowing heart!”

Another unique approach – which I love – is how Nancy can actually take images of your ancestors and place them at a current celebration such as a bar mitzvah or wedding.  Haven’t you had a special day in your life where you wished a parent or grandparent could be there? With Art For Your Sake you can capture a moment that you’ve imagined using photos and other elements.

For Celebration

Many of the works that Nancy creates at Art For Your Sake are in commemoration of a special event such as a birthday or a wedding. These can be events in the present day or very near past or even those that took place over a century ago. And as described above, even if you don’t have a photo of that event, such as your grandparent’s wedding, Nancy can help recreate it!

For Healing

Many clients will have a photomontage created to help them heal from a loss or recover from an addiction. Have you ever felt “stuck” in the past or had regrets over a certain situation? Or perhaps a photo depicts a certain difficult time period for an ancestor but you want to show the healing and recovery that took place in that person’s life? Art For Your Sake can work with you to create what I call “healing images” that will help you process the situation for you and your family.


If you want “special” or “unique” in terms of family history-related gifts this season, then take a closer look at Art for Your Sake and contact them. The end result will be not just a photo – it will be a work of art that your family will admire and others will stop and ask, “What is this? What does it mean?” and you’ll have yet another opportunity to share your family’s story.

Follow Art For Your Sake on Twitter and Facebook.

Note: Later today I will be posting an interview with Nancy Gershman, owner of Art For Your Sake, here at GeneaBloggers – stay tuned to find out more about Nancy and her work.

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Disclosure statement: I do have a material connection with Art For Your Sake and its creator, Nancy Gershman: she has offered to create a digital photomontage for me in exchange for social media and genealogy industry advice which I have provided to her and her company. To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Review – Oddball Family Tree

Oddball Family Tree

Are you looking for unique and unusual genealogy-related gift items this holiday season? And ones that are reasonably priced? Look no further than Oddball Press and their Oddball Family Tree which I located during a search on Etsy.

What is Etsy?

On a side note, if you haven’t checked out Etsy yet, then realize it is like Ebay only with handmade and vintage items sold by crafts persons and collectors.  A search for the term “genealogy” brings up this list of items including family tree charts, handmade jewelry, and even wall decals!


Oddball Family Tree

One item that stood out for me was by Oddball Press and the name stuck with me: Oddball Family Tree. How many of us have felt about our own families that way, especially after researching their history?

This is a letterpress executed print in black and green with great silhouette images and can be completed by hand. There is space for your own name (or the gift recipient) and three generations.

Oddball Family Tree

I quickly placed my order because I figured for $10.00 USD (plus $5.00 shipping) I couldn’t go wrong with such a neat item. There is a substantial shipping discount if your order more than one item from the Oddball Press store on Etsy.

When it arrived, I was impressed with the shipping and packaging – it arrived quickly and was well-protected from any destructive forces.  And when I opened it up, I was not disappointed – great acid-free paper, the print colors were vibrant and consistent.

Ultimately, I made this a gift to myself – I filled it out by hand (with acid-free ink) and am now having it framed for my office. But I could see the Oddball Family Tree being a gift for a friend or family member or even a client! You could let the recipient complete the chart themselves or fill it out for them.


I’ve always been pleased with my shopping experiences on Etsy but I realize that the level of customer service depends upon the store and the store owner.  Kati at Oddball Press has not only a great selection of items but she is very attentive to her customers. All during the purchasing and shipment process I was updated as to what was going on, when the item was being shipped etc. I hope you’ll check out the Oddball Family Tree as well as the other Oddball Press items, both at Etsy and on their website.

Note: Later today I will be posting an interview with Kati Hanimagi, owner of Oddball Press, here at GeneaBloggers – stay tuned to find out more about Kati and her work.

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Disclosure statement: I have no material contacts with Oddball Press or its creator, Kati Hanimagi. I purchased my own copy of Oddball Family Tree for my own personal use. To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee