Top 10 Social Media Sites for Family Historians – Revised 2014

I think that social media was made for family historians. We are different from other people – we actually enjoy finding distant relatives and keeping in touch with them! Social media helps us to find relatives and old friends in ways that were not possible in the days of mailing lists and message boards.

CarolesCanvasThe first time I said that was more than four years ago, in this post. Four years is a long time on the internet, and things have changed. Some of these sites have fallen off my radar so it’s time for a revision. The image shows the cover of the first edition of my book Social Media for Family Historians with screenshots of my blog Carole’s Canvas, Youtube and GenealogyWise, a network I never really found a use for. The second image is a more recent screenshot of Carole’s Canvas. The main difference is the emphasis on pictures, as well as the general simpler and cleaner look. Pictures are what make a blog, or any social media post, more engaging.

Here are 10 social media sites that are not directly related to family history (except one) but are nevertheless important for communicating, sharing and collaborating with other family historians, and family in general.

In alphabetic order:

Blogger is the best-known of the free blog hosting sites. Writing a blog about your family history and the discoveries you make is one of the best ways of getting young people interested, and attracting other asyet-unknown relatives. It is owned by Google so you can use your Google ID to log in and create as many blogs as you like.  The address of your blog will be You can choose from a large number of designs and options, and posting is quick and easy.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site. You can save bookmarks to sites as you find them and categorise them however you wish. You can also find sites that others have similarly categorised, which can save you a lot of time when researching a topic or place. I no longer Delicious, and imported all my bookmarks into Evernote.

Facebook is a social networking site used by 500 million people around the world to connect with friends and family. It is easy to find people and for them to find you, if you want them to. As long as you change the privacy settings as soon as you join, and don’t click on anything you don’t understand, you will be safe from harm.

FamilySearch Wiki is a collection of over 80,000 articles (up from 40,000 four years ago) on many aspects of genealogy research around the world. Articles can be added and changed by anyone, making it progressively more comprehensive. It’s the best place to start if you find you have to research a country you aren’t familiar with.

Flickr is a photo and video sharing website. You can share as many photos as you like (within reason) with as many or as few people as you like. Photos of ancestors and places of historic value can be made public to attract others interested in the same people and places, and uploaded to the National Library of Australia’s Picture Australia (now part of Trove).

Google Docs is a free office suite of applications that allows you to share documents and collaborate with others. Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms are all available. They are accessible to you anywhere as long as you can connect to the internet. You can keep them private or make them available to others to view or edit.

Pinterest is a popular place to collect and share photos and ideas. It is wonderful for gathering ideas for projects such as crafts or home decorating. It is fabulous for drawing together images on topics of historical interest, on your own family or local history in general. Pinterest has come a long way in four years, and is a new addition to this list.

Skype is a free program that allows you to make secure voice and video calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world over the internet. You just need an internet connection and a computer with a microphone and speaker such as a laptop, or an inexpensive headset. You can also buy a Skype phone to use like a regular phone, and make calls to regular phones, although they charge for this service.

Twitter is a ‘microblog’, where you can make short posts of 140 characters or less to give links to photos, websites, blog posts, or just ask questions and hold conversations. Twitter posts, or tweets, are searchable so you can find people interested in the same things as you. So many people and organisations use Twitter to let us know what they are doing that you can always learn something useful. Twitter has proved itself as the first place to get breaking news about local or world events. It also now displays photos directly in your feed, making it more engaging and immediate.

YouTube is a video sharing site that allows you to upload videos and share them with a few people or with everyone. You can search for videos on family history and other topics from archives, libraries, genealogy record companies and many other organisations.

I use most of these sites on a day-to-day basis. Many of them are now part of my daily life. I talk to my immediate family; share documents and photos; save bookmarks; read blogs and check Twitter on a regular basis. Although my own blogs are not hosted by Blogger, prefering to use my own hosting, I recommend it highly for first-time bloggers.

Try some of these out; do some searching, and see what you can find. You might be surprised. And hooked!

Google Reader was removed from the original list, as it was discontinued by Google. I have much less time to read blogs than I did four years ago, and I find that the only time I read them is when I see a link that interests me from another network such as Facebook or Google+.

Social Media for Family Historians, 2nd edition

Social Media for Family Historians 2nd editionThe second edition of my book, Social Media for Family Historians, is now out. It explains what social media is; what use it is; and introduces you to more than 25 social media sites that can help family historians to communicate, share and collaborate with other family historians and with their own families.

It has been expanded and updated, with some sites removed that I no longer consider useful, and new ones added, such as Google+. The section on getting started with Facebook in particular has been greatly expanded, demonstrating the new privacy settings and layout.

You may discover new ways to communicate using Sykpe and SecondLife; social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+; blogs and microblogs such as Twitter; sites for sharing family trees such as Ancestry and MyHeritage; sites for sharing photos and videos such as Flickr and YouTube; and community information sites such as wikis and social bookmarking.


1. Introduction
– About this book
– My experience
– A warning
2. What is social media?
– The internet
– Self-publishing
– Social media
– Mobile computing
3. Why use social media?
– Advantages
– Disadvantages
4. Communication
– Chat
– Social networking
– Blogs
– Microblogs
– Virtual worlds
5. Sharing
– Family trees
– Photographs
– Videos
– Social cataloguing
6. Collaboration
– Wikis
– Documents
– Questions and answers
7. Dangers
– Risks
– Some simple rules
8. What are you waiting for?
Appendix 1. How to get started with Facebook
– Sign up for Facebook
– Using Facebook
Appendix 2. How to get started with Blogging
– Find a host
– Create an account
– Name your blog
– Set security
– Create your profile
– Select a design
– Start writing!
– More advanced blogging

You can buy it from Gould Genealogy, and I hope you do!

Genealogy on Wikipedia

Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of Evidence! : citation & analysis for the family historian and Evidence explained : citing history sources from artifacts to cyberspace has rewritten the definition of “Genealogy” on Wikipedia, or at least the first two paragraphs. Her text, as she informed* the mailing list of the Association of Professional Genealogists, was as follows:

“Genealogy (from Greek: ?e?ea, genea, “family”; and ?????, logos, “knowledge”; often misspelled “geneology.”[1]) is the study and tracing of families. Because many unrelated individuals can share a common name, modern genealogical research is more than a collection of names affixed to pedigree charts. Rather, genealogy involves identifying living and deceased individuals, differentiating between individuals who bear the same name in the same place and time, establishing biological or genetic kinships, and reassembling families. By modern standards, reliable conclusions are based on the quality of sources (ideally original records, rather than derivatives), the information within those sources (ideally primary or firsthand information, rather than secondary or secondhand information), and the evidence that can be drawn (directly or indirectly) from that information. In many instances, genealogists must skillfully assemble circumstantial evidence to build a case for identity and kinship. All evidence and conclusions, together with the documentation that supports them, is then assembled to create a cohesive “genealogy” or “family history”.[2] Traditionalists may differentiate between these last two terms, using the former to describe skeletal accounts of kinship (aka family trees) and the latter as a “fleshing out” of lives and personal histories. However, historical, social, and family context is still essential to achieving correct identification of individuals and relationships.

“Genealogists begin their research by collecting family documents and stories, creating a foundation for documentary research by which they may discover ancestors and living relatives. Genealogists also attempt to understand not just where and when people lived but also their lifestyle, biography, and motivations. This often requires – or leads to – knowledge of antiquated laws, old political boundaries, immigration trends, and historical social conditions.”

  1. ^ The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, in conjunction with the Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2000), Standards 1-72; National Genealogical Society, American Genealogy (Arlington, Virginia: NGS, rev. 2005), lesson 15, “Interpreting and Evaluating Evidence”; Val D. Greenwood, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 3d ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000), Chap. 1, “Understanding Genealogical Research.”
  2. ^ The mythological origin of English kings is related in a number of derivative sources, such as The Scyldings, an article at Ancient Worlds. In this article one primary source cited is the “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”. The following passage appears in the entry for A.D. 449: “Their leaders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa; who were the sons of Wihtgils; Wihtgils was the son of Witta, Witta of Wecta, Wecta of Woden. From this Woden arose all our royal kindred, and that of the Southumbrians also.” In this context “royal kindred” refers to English kings. Reference: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Part 1: A.D. 1 – 748, part of The Online Medieval & Classical Library. Accessed 2005 March 11.

Of course, Wikipedia can be changed at any time by anyone, and what she has written has already been changed as I write this. You can read the full Wikipedia article here.

Does it sound like what you do? I’d like to think it’s what I do, collecting original sources with primary information and drawing conclusions  from the evidence. That’s what it boils down to, in the end – can we back up what we say with reliable evidence? Do we record the source of each piece of data we collect so that we know where we got it? Could we find it again, or let others know where to find it?

And are we building family trees or family histories? Do we collect names and dates, or do we try to “flesh out” what we know about our ancestors with the interesting details that make up real lives?

That’s the question that most interests me!

* Mills, Elizabeth Shown, Re: [APG] WIKIPEDIA; email message to on Tue 11 December 2007 at 11:25am (Eastern Daylight Time in Sydney, Australia).

My apologies if I haven’t cited this correctly.