This week I was asked to try out a new social networking site called Rootsy.com. As soon as I discovered that it was a genealogy tool and a way to track my family history, I was instantly intrigued.
My mother’s cousin, Bill Israel, has gone to great lengths to track her family’s history and has traced it back to the 1700s. He has documented all his findings and they are astounding. Our family started with a patriarch named Solomon Israel, who came to America from Amsterdam and declared “I am named Solomon and I am Jewish” when he arrived. However, in his younger days, Solomon was married in St. George Episcopal Church, Nassau or Hempstead, New York, giving rise to a rumor that he really wasn’t Jewish after all. But Bill found his son, Michael Israel, moving to Albemarle County, Virginia in about 1758, when he obtained a land grant. Separately, he found a historical record of the first synagogue in Charlottesville, the nearest settlement to Michael’s home in Albemarle County. He found the name of the current rabbi of that congregation and wrote an email. He returned his email almost immediately, with a reference to a document that described the early history of Judaism in Albermarle County, confirming our Jewish roots.
It didn’t stop there. Bill went on to document every family member and you have to see the family tree he has put together to believe it. It is thorough and tells the story of my family’s history. It is both colorful and overwhelming to be a part of something so grand. He holds family reunions every two years to celebrate our clan and he updates the tree every time new children are born.
He instilled an interest in my family tree years ago and when my grandparents were alive, I asked as many questions about their lives as I could. I wish I had asked them more. Bill must have done a zillion hours of research to find all the information he has under his belt.
With every family reunion, we get a letter requesting any changes in our family history – births, deaths, and milestones. With today’s technology, you can only imagine how much easier it is becoming to track genealogy and, naturally, along has come Rootsy.com, a platform to look back at family history and track what is happening today. It enables all family members to join in and share information about their families so that everyone can keep up with each other’s lives and so that younger generations can learn more about where they come from. What’s nice about it is that it’s private, only for you and your family members, so you don’t have to broadcast your personal story all over your network. You can share photos, videos, stories and shared events and not have to worry about them getting seen by your entire list of friends/family (like on Facebook). Plus, you can share with the knowledge that the people that you are connected with genuinely care about you. These are not superficial relationships.
All you have to do is login to the site and set up an account to start building your family tree. I was amazed at how easy it is to do. The tree starts with you and helps you build it out by adding relationships within one degree. I started with my parents, husband, kids and I am moving onto other relations. The site supports a variety of relationship types, including deceased family members, divorces and same-sex couples. The image below is a sample of what the tree looks like on the site, please note that it is not mine.
Once a family tree (or partial family tree is in place), the main activity on Rootsy becomes sharing among family members. There are currently four types of content that can be shared: photos, videos, stories and events. Content can range from special events like weddings, graduations, and family reunions to everyday moments that the family may find interesting.
I’m really looking forward to delving into the platform further and getting my family involved. I did send several members an invitation, which I think they might have found confusing only because their inboxes are cluttered with invites and messages everyday. I think that it might require a phone call to explain the significance of joining me on this site. It is much more meaningful than being on Facebook or Twitter. You’re sharing a life full of real experiences that relatives want to know about in a more focused spotlight.
Disclosure: I was not compensated for this review. I wrote it because I am truly excited about this new social networking tool and wanted to share it with my readers. If you use it, please let me know what you think.