Ponga Blog Post

Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash
October 6, 2022

Stories in context

Ponga lets you capture stories so that context can be shared and collaborators can build on what you've learned.

When you set about sharing tales from your own family history, sometimes the small details that add color and context can lead to a larger story. 

A good practice is to capture the sources for collected facts and stories as you find them. In other words, "keep the receipts"‼️

It can be a powerful way to ensure that the work you put into collecting the story isn't later dismissed as a fabrication. With your records protected in safe archives, you can also ensure that everything can be passed along to future generations. 

"Hold up," you might say, "I thought Ponga was just photo sharing."

Well, photos are powerful storytellers by themselves, certainly. But with Ponga, you can do much more than that.

Ponga gives you a unique way to capture stories in context with your pictures. In any picture, you can make a selection and add a comment. You can also add a link — ANY link, to ANY site, ANYwhere on the web. Your links can support your story with evidence, they might simply provide an opportunity for others to follow the trail you blazed.

💥 Kind of mind-blowing, isn't it? Here are a couple of examples. 

  • When you share a great-great grandmother's story about her Quaker ancestors and their role in the underground railroad, it's so much more compelling when you include pictures, objects, and evidence.  Here, including a link to a discussion of stereoscopic images to explain why the image appears as a pair. When you do that, you can focus on the more important family connection to this thread of national history.
  • When you retell your mother's story about your dad's return to military service you might include a link to your dad's military service record stored behind a paywall on a military site, or downloaded to your own archive on cloud-based storage you control like Google Drive or Permanent.org.
  • That same photo with its linked story takes on a new twist when your older brother adds his side of the story and describes the heart-to-heart he'd had with his dad the day he left. Your brother might add a link to an image of the letter dad left for him. 

The cool thing is that the external references you add as context can be anything digital and accessible on the web. For example, 

  • You know your grandfather's home address from the 1920 census and you believe that to be the approximate date of this photograph in front of the house. Is that house still standing? Why not add a Google Street View link for that address? Why not? See item 8 in the tip 12 Kinds of Content You Can Add to Your Picture in Ponga
  • You know your grandmother was a remarkable horticulturalist raising hybrid orchids in her Hilo backyard, why not add links to images of the orchids named for her. Just do a search, find good quality images and either download and drag them into the selection, or copy a link to the image and paste in the link. See item 2 in the same tip as above, 12 Kinds of Content...

Each tidbit you add becomes not only evidence to back up your story, it can also form a cookie trail for those who will read and follow your story. Perhaps a cousin's daughter is marrying an orchid hybridizer and they're interested in the personal connection? You never know.

Supporting statements with evidence has been key to genealogy for generations, but it's a powerful strategy for even the most casual family storytellers. Because family relationships are so intertwined, virtually every story can be retold from multiple perspectives. It's like your own familial Rashomon-effect — stories are a little different depending on who the storyteller is.

We've found that the more complex family stories often have layers that extend across cousins. Sometimes it can take a generation before everyone is comfortable talking about what really happened.

Family stories like families, can be rich with context. Ponga gives you a way to quite literally connect those details using the sticky threads of today's internet. 

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