Tyler Stahle | May 1, 2017

4 Tips for Using Instagram in Your Family History Research

This is the second of a two-part series exploring how to incorporate Instagram into family history. Read part one.

In last week’s article, we explored the various ways to use Instagram to share your family story. This week, we’ll look at why many genealogists enjoy using Instagram and how these experts use it in their research.

In her 2017 RootsTech presentation, popular genealogist Maureen Taylor spoke of the power of Instagram for family history purposes. “Instagram is great because you can choose how to filter [your] picture so you can improve the quality of it. You can include captions—short ones. You can include stories—short ones, again. You’re limited a little bit more than you are with a blog, but there’s a way to tell a story in a short amount of time.”

Taylor identified a few ways genealogists can aid their research and storytelling abilities by using Instagram. We’ve compiled a few of her suggestions here.

1) Connect with Cousins


Instagram isn’t just popular in the United States. According to a blog post from Instagram, nearly 80 percent of its users live outside of the United States, making Instagram a perfect platform to connect with relatives from around the globe.

“This is a great way to connect with those German cousins you’ve always wanted to find,” said Taylor. “Or maybe you have the German photos and they don’t. Maybe they have the US photos that you don’t have.”

To search for relatives or friends on Instagram, simply open the app and tap on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom. In the search bar, type in a name, hashtag, or location.

2) Crowdsource Photo Questions


As family historians, we appreciate every picture of our ancestors we can find. Seeing our great-grandfather’s face or looking at a photo of the first family home creates a connection between us and those who have gone before and helps us understand that we’re part of something bigger.

Unfortunately, not every vintage family photo is identifiable. We’re often searching to know when a photo was taken, who’s in it, or where it came from. If you’ve ever been stumped by a photo mystery, Taylor suggests turning to Instagram and seeking feedback or help from an online community.

For instance, if you’ve got a photo and you’re trying to identify where it was taken, try posting the image in question to Instagram and ask your followers and friends if they recognize the location.

“You might not know where it is,” said Taylor. “But your cousin or distant cousin might say, ‘Oh, that’s great-grandma’s house. We used to drive by that all the time.’”

3) Engage with Campaigns

Many companies have created social media campaigns by developing a hashtag and encouraging followers to share photos or videos using the same hashtag. For instance, if you were unable to attend the RootsTech conference in February, you could have used #NotAtRootsTech in your social posts and joined the digital conversation that was taking place amongst those who were watching the live stream.

Taylor said some of her favorite social campaigns to engage with are #TellMeAStory on Twitter and #photodetective.

FamilySearch is also running a campaign for users to share their favorite family recipes on social media using #FamilySearch. Learn more here.

4) Follow Relevant Accounts

If you’re looking for genealogy tips, information, or inspiration, there are plenty of Instagram accounts to follow.

For instance, if you’re interested in learning about 18th-century fashion, Taylor suggests following The Corseted Beauty Instagram account.

“This is where you will find actual dresses from different time periods,” she said. “Usually it’s dresses from paintings. But if you’re trying to figure out a costume, you can go on here and look.”

Other helpful genealogy Instagram accounts to follow include: @AfricanAncestry, @GenealogyCenter, @FamilyHistoryModernized, @FamilySearch, and @SaveFamilyPhotos

How do you use Instagram for family history? Tweet us your thoughts @RootsTechConf.

Tyler Stahle


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