Can you use Pinterest for Genealogy?


Pinterest is almost completely visually oriented, so whether or not Pinterest would be useful for genealogy would seem to be a really good question. Pinterest is the one of the newest social networking websites, but has grown rapidly into one of the most popular sites. The basic concept is similar to a bulletin board, where you can post pictures that remind you of things you are interested in learning about or buying. It is heavily oriented towards fashion, food and home decorating. The main difficulty for those who are not overly interested in the main topics is filtering out all of the extraneous material. At first, looking at Pinterest may seem confusing because of the unrelated collage of photos, but for each individual, there is a way to organize your “pins” or individual selections.

Unlike blogs and most other social networking posts, the content of Pinterest, although user generated, is not original. The pins consist mainly of images selected by the users from a variety of websites. Because of the eclectic nature of the images, it was difficult to determine if there was a place for any serious genealogy related information. Ultimately, there seems to be a valid reason for posting on Pinterest, even if your interests are counter to the main stream of images.

Signing into Pinterest is rather simple. The program allows you to use your Facebook information to sign into the program. By using Facebook, you automatically end up “following” all of your Facebook “friends.” In reality, both “followers” and “friends” are terms used to describe those individuals who are connected by the program. The results of having either friends on Facebook or followers on Pinterest is that you see anything that those individuals post on your stream. The term “stream” is used to refer to the constant posting by the users. If you want more control over the content of social networking sites, you can do this simply by limiting the number of people with whom you are connected, either as friends or followers, depending on the particular program.

Once you sign up for Pinterest, you are given a set of “Boards.” These are places you can use to pin your content. You are not limited to the standard boards and you can delete any you do not wish to use, rename them, or add your own selections. Most Pinterest users organize their pins by having multiple boards. If you are using Pinterest for genealogy related items, you can create one or more family or genealogy boards. For example, you could create a board for a particular ancestor or surname. I found that it was another place to post your scanned copies of mystery photos or those photos containing people you cannot identify. Although the Pinterest users are decidedly younger than the usual demographic for genealogists, it is possible that by posting a scanned copy of a mystery photo, someone could identify the individuals in the image.

The real use of Pinterest is that each image is associated with its website of origin. So if you are the type of person that remembers things visually, you can use the pins or individual images as reminders of the content of the original websites. It is also possible to do “research” on Pinterest on a given topic. If you search for a particular topic, the results will show all of the pins relating to that topic. Each of the images is really a link to the website where the image originated, so by clicking on the images you can effectively go directly to that website. In this way, Pinterest becomes just another way of organizing and finding content on the Internet.

If you need a place to store genealogically related websites you encounter on the Internet, you can pin an image from the site and then you will have a visual reminder of the site on your Pinterest board. This may ultimately be more useful for finding content, especially if you are a person who thinks visually. Also, if you run across a photo of family members on the Internet, you can pin the image and not only capture the image, but also a link to the website where you found the image.

Unlike Facebook or Google+, Pinterest is not particularly a place to keep up with the activities of family or friends. Its main attractions seems to be capturing ideas and sharing those ideas with others in a completely visual way.

It remains to be seen whether Pinterest will evolve into a valuable genealogical resource. Presently, it seems to have promise but only time will tell.

This article was written by James Tanner

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