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Virtual Family Gathering

Creating a Family Website

Set up a simple Web site or social-networking group to help you and your relatives stay connected.

Family Web Sites      

Instead, individualized family Web sites are a great option if you want to create a gathering place for all ages and technical skill levels. While some family members may not be up to social networking, most are willing to visit a Web site, as long as it's simple to use. Family Web sites offer some of the same features as the social-networking sites, such as photo-sharing, online discussions, and creating personal profiles, but family sites tend to offer more calendars and better ways to share your lore and history.

William Carter of Bel Air, Md., says his family uses its Web site to share news about vacations, birthdays, new babies, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, reunions, and updates when someone is in the hospital or sick. "Recently my uncle put up an announcement that their beloved dog had suddenly passed away. I was so glad to know, so I could send a note. I knew how important that dog was to them," he said. "I really like the Web site, because I get an e-mail reminder a week ahead when a family birthday is coming up. With 11 nieces and nephews, their children and a growing family, I have to jog my memory so I don't miss anyone."

The best news is that you no longer have to be a technology guru to create your own Web site. There are dozens of online tools and tutorials you can use to build your site. I tried 11 different sites to set up a family group or site on the Internet. While at first glance many of the sites seemed similar, I found there were differences in cost, disk space, functionality, themes, or templates for a site.

Sites such as Groupsite.com, Shutterfly’s Nexo and Qlubb include family as a type of group but may go beyond your needs. They cater more to other kinds of groups, such as sports teams, professional clubs, or schools. Other sites, such as myfamily.com, FamilyLobby.com, and MyGreatBigFamily.com focus on groups of kin. I found the simple features offered by the family-focused sites to be more useful for my family’s needs.

Most of the sites I tried were surprisingly quick and easy to set up. If it took me more than five minutes to create the basic site, I moved on. Getting started should be very simple: Create your profile, name the family site, and choose from a list of basic features. Once the basics are done, however, you can spend as much time as you want perfecting the site by adding calendar events, choosing additional design elements and inviting family members to join.

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