You’ve heard of Google and Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. But do you recall the eighth-most famous website of all? Reddit, the so-called “front page of the internet,” is a not-so-well-hidden gem for genealogists. Let’s take a look at how you can use Reddit for genealogy.
How does it work? Reddit hosts thousands of forums (called “subreddits”) about specific topics or interests. Here, users can share text, images, memes, videos or GIFs with others. Subreddit topics range from hyperlocal (such as r/Cincinnati, which discusses local issues, politics and sports teams) to super generic (such as r/Pics, a dumping ground for the internet’s cute, strange, funny and silly images).
Posts in subreddits can be seen by the general public, who can then “upvote” content to make it more visible (similar to a like on Facebook) or “downvote” content to make it less visible. Critically for researchers, users can also comment on posts, allowing for dialogue.
You can create your own Reddit feed by signing up for a free account and subscribing to individual subreddits. You can also visit a particular subreddit by visiting reddit.com/r/[subreddit name]. (The default Reddit homepage will display the “default” subreddits, which are typically the most popular.)
With more than 11,000 active subreddits on the site, Reddit can quickly become overwhelming—and a bit scary, if you stumble upon the wrong subreddit. That’s why we’ve curated this quick list of the best six subreddits for genealogy:
This should be any genealogist’s first stop on Reddit. Here users are encouraged to share their questions and brick walls, with queries ranging from how to interpret DNA results to how to break scandalous research finds to family members. And with 15,000 like-minded subscribers, the Genealogy subreddit gives you a pretty good chance of having your questions answered.
Interesting retro pictures abound in this photo-driven subreddit. With a whopping 12 million subscribers, r/OldSchoolCool strives to show “History’s cool kids, looking fantastic,” featuring images that capture a time period’s unique fashion or attitude. Most posts are photos of users’ parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents, but posts occasionally depict particular areas or objects.
Despite the naughty name, r/HistoryPorn is a place for history buffs to share interesting pictures or facts. While the other history subreddits in this list focus on personal history, this one is more concerned with major historic topics. The subreddit’s strengths include wartime photos and portraits of historical people or events.
r/TheWayWeWere is a social historian’s dream. The subreddit hosts images and anecdotes of everyday life from decades past, allowing users to share family pictures/stories and feel nostalgic about the “good old days.” You can even filter posts by decade, making the subreddit a great place to learn what your ancestor’s life might have looked like.
We’ve talked before about the photo colorization trend, and Reddit gives it a dwelling place in this subreddit. Here users share the fruits of their labor as they use software to add colors to previously black-and-white images. Like r/HistoryPorn, this subreddit focuses mostly on historic events and people, so don’t expect to find images of everyday life.
Those looking for a more-immersive experience in their ancestors’ homeland should look for subreddits dedicated to that country. These subreddits typically serve current residents of these countries, but they can connect you with valuable history, travel and language resources. For example, r/Ireland features links to r/IrishTourism, r/PicturesOfIreland and r/IrishHistory, all of which might be of more interest to US-based genealogists. In addition to Ireland, Reddit has prominent subreddits for Germany (r/de), France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland (r/Polska), Italy and more. Note that these subreddits are usually written in the native tongue, so you may need to know some of the language (or use Google Translate) to navigate them.
Note: Reddit (which is mostly uncensored) hosts a ton of content—some you want to see, and some you don’t. As a result, be cautious when you come across posts or subreddits flagged as NSFW (Not Safe for Work). These likely feature graphic violence, nudity/sexual content or profanity.