Miryelle Resek | Apr 28, 2017

4 Ways to Use Social Media in Your Family History Efforts

This is part two of a three-part series exploring how to encourage the rising generation to participate in family history. Read parts one and three.

You may not think that tweets, pins, and hashtags have much to do with family history. But according to Crystal Farish and Rhonna Farrer, social media can be an important tool for today’s genealogist.

“Remember that family history is anything but boring when you are engaging all ages,” said Farish in their RootsTech presentation. “You speak their language, look for answers together, provide uplifting activities, share stories and photos, use inspired technology, and your hearts are connected together.”

If you’re considering integrating social media aspects into your family history activities, consider the following ideas:

  • Post where the kids are
  • Create a private Facebook group
  • Create a family Pinterest board
  • Establish a family hashtag

Post Where the Kids Are


Snapchat, VSCO, and Instagram (just to name a few) are all places where the young generation goes to connect with friends.

Take yourself out of your comfort zone and join them on these platforms.

“If I take my stories and maybe share a photograph and I post online, that is a way that I can engage my kids, and my nieces and nephews. And they’re learning family history without even knowing it,” said Farrer. “And they usually respond if I do that in that way, and share snippets of my life, or just old photos of ancestors. So it’s a really fun way to just, even starting your own personal history, to share it on social media with your kids and your grandkids.”

Set up an account and start following your family members, and have them follow you. Then post your stories online. (Many available apps are intuitive and user-friendly, but ask for help if you need it!)


Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to send photos and videos to other friends using the app.

The sender can adjust how much time the receiver has to view the photo—up to 10 seconds. In addition, you can add the photo or video to My Story, which allows friends to see it for up to 24 hours.

Consider taking a photo of an ancestor, and write a short description of who that person is. Once you’re ready to send the photo, you can click on the blue arrow on the bottom right of the screen, add it to My Story, and send it to your friends.

You can get creative and add photos (or videos—just hold the circle in the middle down until you’re done recording) and write more. Creating a family history Snapchat story could look something like:

Post 1. This is my great-great-uncle Sam. In 1849, he went to find gold in California.

Post 2. By 1850, he found enough gold flakes that he was able to buy and open a shop in Nevada.

Post 3. A fire destroyed the shop, so he went back to California to try his luck at gold again.

Post 4. In California, he met my great-great-aunt Laura, and they were married shortly after.

Post 5. These are the lace gloves Laura wore at her wedding.

In five posts, you’ve told a story your children may not have known about. From there, family members can respond, and you can start a group discussion. You can also save the messages, photos, or videos.

VSCO and Instagram

VSCO and Instagram are two very similar mobile apps where users upload a photo and a description to the app, and the photos won’t disappear like they do on Snapchat.

One key difference is that Instagram gives users the option to comment on a photo while VSCO does not.

On these platforms you can take a picture of an ancestor or heirloom and explain it. Farrer says she likes to take a photo a day because then you can go back and check what day you took that photo. But even posting weekly, biweekly, or monthly can give the members of your family a way to connect with family history.

Private Facebook Group

Do your family members have Facebook? Use this social media platform to help them connect to family history.

Consider making a Facebook family group and add your family members to it.

Encourage family members to post stories about what’s happening in their lives, stories they remember, or things they think would be helpful for the group members.

Here you can consider posting photos of ancestors or memories you have, and you can ask for what others may remember that you may have forgotten.

Family Pinterest Board

Pinterest is a way you can organize photos by putting them on different themed boards. After creating an account, creating a collaborative family Pinterest board is a way you can connect with your family members as you do family history.

With a family Pinterest board, you can upload photos and a description, but you can also add collaborators to the board and give them the ability to post as well.

Family Hashtag

With all the different channels you can post to, make it easier for your family members to find stories about the family by adding a specified hashtag to the end of the photo’s description. A hashtag turns a word or phrase into a searchable link.

Consider things like:

  • #FaustFamilyFacts
  • #HansenHistory
  • #PedersonPeople

(No, you don’t have to use alliteration.)

By tagging your family photos or stories with a customized family hashtag, you make it easier for your family members to search and find the photos and stories you’ve written.

As Farish said, these are ways that your family can carry around family history with them wherever they go.

What are some ways you use social media to connect your family to family history? Tweet us @RootsTechConf with your tips. Join us next week for part three of this series.

Miryelle Resek

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