The character John Keating, in the award winning film, “Dead Poet’s Society” was asked why he stood on his desk. His poignant reply: “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”1 So too must we, as genealogists ‘constantly look at things in a different way’. Another way of saying this is we need perspective. Just as the world looks far different at the cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner than it does standing in the midst of a wheat field. Our family history looks much different when examined at “cruising altitude”. The most valuable thing Twile gives me as a genealogist is perspective.
If you are anything like me, when you discover a new document with your ancestor on it, you do a little dance (maybe not an actual dance, but almost certainly a mental one). If you’re like me, you take that document, examine it, take notes, smile, then examine it again, take more notes, then smile some more, and continue this cycle for several hours (let’s be honest here, it could be days or weeks, we won’t judge you). But if you’re like me, you’ll catch yourself, like the intrepid explorers of old, wanting to jump immediately to the next horizon, or in our case the next great document. But if you put down your pith helmet for one moment, and think about what the information in that document tells you about the context in which your ancestor lived, and change your perspective, you will find yourself on an equally thrilling and rewarding journey of discovery.
If only there were a simple, convenient way to organize information about your ancestor in a way that places it in historical context that could provide you with the needed perspective. Enter Twile. Twile allows users the opportunity to gain the aforementioned perspective, to see their family history in a different way but placing events and pictures in chronological order. For example, when I first used Twile and loaded just my parents and grandparents in, just three generations and I noticed something. My mom’s dad died before my parents were married. Not a super alarming fact. But until that moment on that day on the phone with Kelly from Twile, those two facts were complete and total strangers. Both living happy, but separate, lives in my brain until that glorious moment that Twile put them next to each other and introduced them. Just as when two people meet they generally ask questions to get to know each other, the same is true of facts. The first question out of the gate was, “Who walked your mom down the aisle?” What a wonderful question that I didn’t have the answer to. None of the documents I have would give me that information, and I had never thought to ask.
Twile does more than just allow you to present your family history in a format that is both engaging and easy to share, but also can help genealogists gain precious perspective. So get up on that desk (metaphorically of course) and explore how Twile can help you see your ancestors in a different way.
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You can also learn more by stopping by their booth at RootsTech next month.
1. Dead Poets Society. By Tom Schulman. Performed by Robin Williams. United States: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, 1989. DVD.