Additional Applications for Family History Fun
The Family History Technology Lab (FHTL) at Brigham Young University (BYU) has added two new activities to their lineup of fun applications that leverage your FamilySearch data. “Wheel of Family Fortune” is based on the classic game complete with spinning wheel and word puzzles. “AncestorGames” provides five different games you can play including: Matching Game, Ancestor Coloring, Crossword, Word Search, and Word Scramble. Let’s learn more about family history fun with these apps from the FHTL.
Wheel of Family Fortune
Wheel of Family Fortune is a web-based game patterned after the TV show. It automatically generates puzzles based on people in your family tree. As an alternative you can enter a FamilySearch PID to use a deceased person’s tree. The game allows you to be play by yourself or with up to four players. All four players use the same interface.
After starting a new game you are presented with a puzzle which is the name of one of your ancestors. There is also a hint at the top of the screen stating when the person was born. Click on the wheel to spin and take your turn. It has a fun animation of the spinning wheel, giving it a realistic feel.
It is easy to learn and fun to play. This is a game that can easily be played with any school-age kids. Knowing surnames in your family tree will give you an advantage in racking up points and guessing the puzzle – but that is kind of the point of the game! A minor complaint is that I wish all the letters were capitalized like in the classic TV game show. In Wheel of Family Fortune it uses the names exactly as they are entered in FamilySearch.
When you think you know the name you can choose to Solve the puzzle. When you do this it pops up some boxes where you can type in the missing letters. Remember, if your ancestor has alternate spellings to their name, the game will use the “official” name as stored in FamilySearch. Try Wheel of Family Fortune with your family on game night or any other time!
AncestorGames is the newest addition from the FHTL. It provides 5 different games or activities to help you make family history fun.
Matching Game is a simple game that uses photos from the Memories section of FamilySearch to create cards that you match like “Concentration.” When you first select this game it asks you to select from 1-4 players. You can give each player a name. You can then choose from 3 levels of difficulty. Easy has only 4 matching pairs in a 4 x 2 grid. Medium has 9 matching pairs in a 6 x 3 grid. Hard has 16 matching pairs in a 8 x 4 grid.
I selected hard and was surprised at how long it took to generate the board for me. I counted off about 45 seconds. So just be patient!
I liked how it put the name of the person on the card after you found a match, so you can learn who these people were. I think my daughters, aged 5 and 10, would both love playing this game. A nice addition to your personal portfolio of family history fun.
When you choose this activity, you are given 4 different options for uploading pictures. I expected this to be an online coloring activity, but it actually turns your photos in to coloring pages you can print!
I chose the option “Find Pictures on FamilySearch.” It took about a minute, but it pulled photographs from the Memories section of FamilySearch. It appears to have grabbed the first photo, or the Preferred Portrait for each direct ancestor back at least 6 generations.
The app gives you a couple of controls to adjust the results. You can use a slider bar to adjust the “Contrast” or the “Blur.” I didn’t spend a lot of time, but playing with the controls didn’t seem to make the image any better. They seem to have found the optimal level for their algorithm. The result is not as clean as I would like for a coloring page (like removing background noise). For a free tool that is fast and easy, though, I was impressed.
I did notice that they climb your tree without regard to whether they had found that person before. Meaning that if you have common ancestors on multiple lines of your family tree you will see them duplicated on this page.
The final step is to select the check mark if you want to save it, then go to the bottom of the page and print the selected coloring pages.
CrossWord generates a puzzle based on your ancestors’ names in FamilySearch. You can work on the puzzle online or print the puzzle out! I was pleasantly surprised it offered a print option. This makes it an activity that can be printed out prior to a road trip, for example.
The ability to print, however, was the last pleasant surprise I had with this activity. I chose to play online. The first thing I noticed is that there is a timer. Perhaps some users would like this feature, because they can compete against the clock to finish as quickly as they can. However, it just added extra stress for me.
The next thing I noticed was the clues. I literally laughed out loud at the “Your mother’s father’s mother’s mother’s father” type of clues! Really? Even if you really know your tree keeping track while you navigate the tree in your head is very hard!
If those were my only complaints I would probably say it is still fun, and offer a few suggestions for improvement. However, I found blatant errors in the puzzle. One clue was “It’s you.” That one is pretty hard to get wrong. No combination of my given names or last name equals 8 characters.
This one seems only half-baked. My recommendation on this is to pass for now!
Word Search was pretty fun. I have always liked word searches since I was a kid. the puzzle was created very fast, and I liked the classic look of capital letters and a sans serif font. Selecting words you find was easier than I expected. Simply click the first letter and then click the last letter and it highlights the word. Words only appear horizontally and vertically, forwards or backwards. You cannot select a word diagonally. When you find and mark a word correctly it is highlighted in green. It also strikes through the word down below which is quite satisfying!
I found it interesting that the words could be a first name, a last name, or a combination. I was disappointed that the words were not in neat columns. Rather they were kind of bunched up underneath the puzzle area. It looks like it just lists them left to right and then wraps to the next line when it runs out of room. This ends up looking kind of messy.
Word Scramble also lets you play on the web or print the scramble puzzle for family history fun online or off. As the name implies, it scrambles names of ten of your direct ancestors. Spelling and capitalization come directly from the FamilySearch record. The capital letters give you a clue as to the first letter, of course, but that isn’t so bad.
Also, note that in some cases it will give first and last names or more. In these cases don’t include the space.
If you want to play again before you finish the puzzle you have to click the Home link in the top right corner and then start over. It does generate a new puzzle each time, so that is good.
I am a big fan of anything that gets family members interested in their family history. These games make family history fun. They can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and can encourage questions and conversations about the people included in the puzzles. After all, the name doesn’t mean much without stories of the people behind the names! So, have fun and share your experiences in the comments below!