The old saying “Three’s a crowd” is generally a not-so-gentle hint that someone is in the way and ought to leave. But crowds are great for some things, such as crowdfunding, flash mobs and group selfies. Add solving genealogy problems to that list: If two heads are better than one, just imagine what three heads—or 20—could do.
1. Find like-minded folks on Facebook.
Genealogists flock to Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, and to network and swap information with colleagues. The most popular social networking site, it gives your posts the broadest potential reach. You’ll get more-focused results when you join groups and pages that let you reach those who share your genealogical interests. For starters, download the free PDF listings of Facebook groups by Katherine R. Wilson and Gail Dever (this one includes French-speaking groups and pages).
2. Broadcast your questions.
Genealogists have long used the term “brick wall” to describe a seemingly unsolvable research problem—wherever we look, we find no answers. In the past, you might hit an impasse, and hope you could eventually uncover clues by finding someone by mail, telephone or an online message board who could help you find those answers.
3. Look for collaborators.
It’s no wonder why genealogists call blogs “cousin bait.” A blog is a fabulous way to share your research finds, family stories and brick wall problems. When others run web searches for ancestral names and places you mention, they’ll find your posts. You may discover a cousin to exchange genealogical information with, or someone may offer suggestions for research problems you write about.
Because so many people search online family trees, scatter more virtual breadcrumbs by posting your tree at sites such as Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage and WikiTree.
4. Seek guidance in online chats.
Perhaps you’re old enough to remember the “party line”—a multiparty, shared-service phone line that would let you talk to multiple people at the same time? Party lines were a source of entertainment and gossip, as well as a way to quickly alert entire neighborhoods of emergencies.
5. Put a pin in it.
Pinterest lets you “pin” images you find online or upload yourself to themed bulletin boards. It’s known for popularizing tempting recipes and impossibly perfect craft projects, but genealogists use it to create boards for ancestral families, old photos, research tips, historical maps and more. You can search Pinterest for a surname, place or other term to find related pins; then follow other pinners who share your research interests. Always add a description to your pins, MacEntee advises. This will help your pin show up when others search for words in the description. “Pins with comments get read and repinned more often,” he adds. You’ll see hashtags on Pinterest, too: #genealogy in a pin’s description becomes a link you can click to search for the term genealogy. A few suggestions for using Pinterest:
• Pin your blog posts (you’ll need to include a photo in the posts you pin) to help them reach a wider audience.• When you find online research tips or a resource you want to revisit, pin it to your Genealogy Tips board so you can easily find it again.• Set up boards for each surname. Pin records, photos and finds from genealogy websites.• Set up boards for ancestors’ hometowns, with photos, maps and historical information you find online.• Start a board for unidentified photos. Include what you know about each photo in its description.• Create an ancestor timeline to showcase your research. <b><a href=”http://www.geneabloggers.com/creating-ancestor-timeline-pinterest”>Learn how to use Pinterest to “storyboard” an ancestor’s life.</a></b>
6. Join genealogy crowdsourcing projects.
Participating in other genealogy crowdsourcing projects can inform you about genealogical resources, give you valuable practice reading old records, and put you into contact with a body of knowledgeable genealogy enthusiasts.
Social Media DOs and DON’Ts
2. Carefully read the Terms of Service (TOS) for any social media site or genealogy service you sign up for, and click “accept” only if you really do accept them.
3. Use strong passwords to protect your social media accounts from being hacked. Avoid clicking on suspicious-looking links or videos in other posts.
4. Write blog posts that are at least 600 words to avoid having search engines flag them as spam.
5. Add relevant hashtags like #genealogy or #familyhistory to your tweets, pins and posts—but overdoing the hashtags can be annoying, so keep it to one or two.
2. Include research or information from someone else on your website or online tree, or in a book, without both obtaining permission and acknowledging the person’s contribution.
3. Ignore messages from researchers responding to genealogy information you’ve posted online.
4. Overshare. Posting too much personal information, such as addresses of living people, could be risky for you and your family. Avoid posting anything about relatives who would object to being named online.
5. Use social media as a “research crutch” or a replacement for conducting a thorough search on your own.
• Family Tree Magazine on Pinterest
• Tools for research collaboration
• Genealogy organizations to follow on Facebook
• Online privacy tips
• Managing your technology intake
• Ways to share research finds
• How to Tap into the Genealogy Community guide
• Using Pinterest for Genealogy
• Jumpstart Your Genealogy with Social Media on-demand webinar