by: Treelines Team
Whether you already have a tree or are about to create one for the first time, this tutorial will cover everything you need to know.
This tutorial assumes you're already comfortable with the basics of the storybuilder covered in our previous tutorial. If not, we suggest you read that tutorial first and then come back here!
As you read, you may want to keep this tutorial open in this window and work on your story in a second window to use this as a step-by-step reference.
If you chose to start a new family tree on Treelines, every time you start a story you'll see it in your list of choices.
Family trees created from scratch on Treelines are marked with acorns to differentiate them from trees you uploaded to Treelines.
This is what the storybuilder will show to confirm that your new story was connected to the tree you created on Treelines.
You can always click on the other button to upload a new tree.
Uploading a tree to the Treelines website means uploading a family tree file in the GEDCOM (.ged) format from your computer.
If you're not familiar with what a GEDCOM file is or how to create yours, take a look at our help page about GEDCOM files.
Once you have your GEDCOM file on your computer, click on the "Upload a new tree" button and follow the instructions there to submit the file to the Treelines site.
Depending on how large your GEDCOM file is, it may take a while for us to upload and process it... perhaps much longer than you're used to waiting for things on the web. Please be patient, and don't leave the page while it's processing!
We name your tree the same as the file you uploaded, but you can change the name to something better by clicking on the "Rename this file" link.
Also, if you are one of the people included in the family tree you just uploaded, start typing your name and pick yourself from the list of options that appears in the dropdown. We'll show you later why this is useful.
When you're ready, click the "Start my story with this tree" button.
Just as before, we arrive at the storybuilder for this new story -- now linked to this tree!
From now on, whenever you start a new story, you'll see this tree on your list of options.
You can upload multiple GEDCOM files if you'd like. They will also be added to this list.
We recommend that you connect all stories to a tree to tag people quickly and keep your stories organized. Even if you do not have a pre-existing tree, you can continue to use the Treelines family tree (marked with an acorn) that the site helps you create.
But back to the storybuilder, now that our story is connected to the tree we uploaded, there are a few useful things we can do.
We start by clicking on the green plus sign to start the first page of this story.
Let's say I want to write about my grandmother, Dorothy Yorker Davis. As we saw in the first tutorial, when I start typing her name in the person tagging form, a list of matching people in my tree appears for me to choose from.
Once I select her, the TreeWizard recommends other people related to her that I might also want to include!
Of course I have all of my Grammy's family memorized, but for further-flung branches of the tree, this feature is really helpful to jog my memory for the names of family members I know less well.
And just as we saw in the previous tutorial, I can add new people to my tree as they appear in the story I am writing.
If I want to connect Harry to more people in the tree, as the previous tutorial showed, I can click on his name in the right bar, select the "Update bio" option from the menu, and then add the additional relationships.
Now when I tag Harry in a page of my story, the Tree Wizard correctly suggests his son and father.
But this is only a small part of what the Tree Wizard can do for you.
If you have a family tree, you know that beyond just the names of people, it includes everything you've learned about their lives -- lifecycle events like births, marriages, and deaths; life changes like immigration and moves; and professions from censuses and draft registration cards.
Great family stories rely on these events and facts. Why should you have to copy over all of that information if you already have it organized?
Remember those screenshots from earlier in the tutorial showing the sidebar of the storybuilder? Those mysterious "Start Tree Wizarding" links automatically generate stories for you from your family tree!
Here's how the process works for a favorite story from my family: how my great-grandfather and his family immigrated to the U.S.
The screen that appears when I click the "Start Tree Wizarding" link is called the People Picker. Here I'll choose the people I want in my story -- my great-grandfather, his wife, parents, and siblings. I'll also include my grandmother, since it will help my family better connect themselves to these more remote ancestors.
- Browse the tree by using the navigation within the tree box or by searching for a person by name
- Select people by clicking on their names in the tree or in the TreeWizard suggestions
- The selected people are listed in red under "People you've added"
(Remember when you selected yourself in the tree earlier? We use you as the root person whenever we draw your tree.)
The second and last screen in this process is the Event Chooser. Here we see each person's Treeline with circles representing the life events we imported for that person. The goal is to pick the events that will form the basis for the story.
In my case, I want the immigration events for everyone in the story and the births, marriages, and deaths for just the most important people. One event will correspond to one page in the story. (It will be clearer on the next page of this tutorial.)- Mouse over each circle to see what event it represents.
- Select and unselect events by clicking on the circles.
- Repeat this process for each person you selected on the previous screen. Click "Next person" to move on until you've gone through everyone.
- Finally, click the yellow "Finish!" button at the bottom.
And voilà! Here is the story I built!
Hopefully now it is clear how each one of those event circles turned into a page in this story.
Not only are the story pages here, but:
- All of the people, dates, places, and sources are tagged
- Pages also have thematic decorative elements
Each of these Tree Wizard-created story pages is meant to kick-start your story telling.
When I think of my great-grandparents' wedding, there is so much more I want to share. With this page and all of its tags in place, I can turn my attention to the creative side of storytelling!
You can read the sample story I just created by clicking here.
Notice that the Treelines animate perfectly as we go. The Tree Wizard does all of the work for me -- all because of the great data I already had in my family tree file!
This is only the beginning of my story, though -- an outline to get me started.
The basic plot is in place -- the story of how my great-grandfather and his family immigrated to the U.S. -- but there's so much more I want to say!
I want to add in historical events for context, explain my theories of cause-and-effect, point out some surprising and moving details, and add my favorite photographs and records. Most of all I want to make sure the story is fun to read and not just a boring list of facts.
And you can see how I expanded upon my Tree Wizard'ed story here!
One more tip before we wrap up this tutorial:
As we discussed in the first tutorial, you can edit the information you have for a person in your tree by clicking on their name in the sidebar of the storybuilder.
You can also update their information by clicking on their name in the Treelines when you are previewing your story.
For you and your family, the end result of all of Treelines' wizardry and your storytelling effort is a beautiful story about something important in your family history!
Behid the scenes the Treelines software is keeping track of the people and events you've included in stories. Coming soon are even more awesome features to help you take advantage of that!