Monday, December 28, 2009

Family Tree

Not too long ago, a friend of mine got me excited about creating my own "family tree". He showed me his own family tree, which was created by his grown adult children, on hosted software, software that organizes your tree for you on something other than a scrap of paper, and saves it for you, in a place other than the bottom drawer in the old desk in the back bedroom. As a few of my siblings have been interested in this project at various times over the years, and now that technology has created a product that will not only assist you with organizing and researching your family history, but will also save it indefinitely in a place theorectially accessible to anyone, I feel the time has come to put some serious effort into creating a long lasting testament to my family's existence. Therefore, I suggested creating such a cyber-tree to my siblings in a recent email, which may or may not have been read by any or all of my siblings, as some of them check their email about once every two months. Today, several weeks after I sent out that email, I have heard not a word from any of my siblings regarding my suggestion, which doesn't really surprise me.

But now, this morning, I was surprised. I found out from my youngest sister, my 16-years-younger-than-me half-sister with whom I am currently sharing space at my Dad's house over the year end holidays, that she has already started a family tree on one of those sites in cyberspace -- a year ago! And apparantly she told none of her other siblings in the family about her familial endeavors. And I thought creating family trees was all about sharing information and bringing the family closer together! Silly me! But to be fair and give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she is waiting to "complete" the tree before presenting it to the rest of the family. (Although, it could take years of research if one were to "complete" the family tree, as one tries to trace family members all the way back to, say, Lucy, the common denominator of all humankind.)

Apparantly, to fully participate, one needs to be a "member" of this particular family tree software society, and being a member costs money. In a way, it feels somewhat like a secret society; someone is spying on you and your ancestors and documenting your personal history, possibly for all the world to see eventually, and you are not even aware of it. I asked my sister if she would add me to her site so I could view the tree she has so far created; to merely view the tree would not cost me anything and I wouldn't be able to cut off any branches that my sister has already created. If I wanted to add anything or create my own tree, I would have to ante up $300 annually, a cost currently too steep for my budget.

Since my youngest sister is biologically my half-sister, she has only half of MY family tree in progress, my dad's side of the family. My biological mother's tree is yet to be constructed, unless some long lost cousin has put one together somewhere out there in cyberspace. I sincerely doubt any of my other siblings, or even my first cousins, have put together my mom's side of the family on cyber-software. (A year ago, a friend of mine set up a family website for my immediate family - my dad, my siblings and their spouses, and the grandkids. We siblings only had to maintain it, add photos to it, add comments, etc. Just before the domain name expired after a year for lack of the $4 annual payment, the website looked just the same as the day my friend first set it up. Members of my family are not usually the first on the block to take advantage of latest and greatest technology.)

My biological mother and three of her four siblings are long since dead, except for her youngest sister, who lives in the Chicago area, and with whom none of us have spoken in many years. Maybe its time to contact my mother's sister before her memory has faded into oblivion and before her children, my same-age cousins, remain even more unknown to us. Maybe its time to split the $300 annual fee across the remaining five siblings in my family and take this family tree thing a bit more seriously. Maybe the entry cost of a family project needs to be more than $4 per year; maybe if each of us contribute $60 a year to the project, each of us would have a more vested interest in seeing our family tree "branch out".

1 comment:

  1. It's definitely an interesting endeavour- my dad and some other relatives started trees and it's actually quite odd to see pictures of great-grandparents and even grandparents whose pictures you've never seen. My family is also from Russia so the pictures are even more surreal. (picture russian farm in the countryside in the year 1920)