What comes to your mind when you think of a professional genealogist? Probably not a peppy, young 25-year-old woman with a knack for social media. Likewise you probably don't think of Facebook or YouTube when you think of family history. But Hannah Z. Allan, genealogist for the Oregon Historical Society, wants to change your way of thinking. At the annual BYU Family History Conference (held July 29-August 1), Allan showed a roomful of teenagers, and a few adults as well, how to use social media to bring family history into the 21st century.
Youth today are fluent in the language of hashtags and tweets, but many are not so familiar with the world of indexing or fan charts. When asked how many people in the room had been on a social media network sometime that day, nearly every young adult's hand went up. “You're already on social media,” Allan said. “Why not use it for something good, like family history?” She then gave tips for incorporating social media sites into family history research. Here's what you can do:
- Create a family page or group
- Post old family photos to share with or be identified by family members
- Create family reunions and events
- Connect with genealogical societies, organizations, and groups
- Find and connect with distant cousins or family members in foreign countries
- Create a family history channel
- Upload and share family videos or photo montages
- Watch how-to videos about family history research
- Watch videos about places your ancestors lived or events they went through
- Create a family history hashtag or username
- Use key words or ancestors' names for hashtags
- Share hashtags with other family members so everyone can see their photo shares
- Post photos of ancestors
- Post photos of current family history activities
- Create a family history hashtag or username and share with family members
- Share posts about current family history activities and needs
- Connect with family history organizations and libraries
If you're reading this right now and wondering what a “hashtag” or “tweet” is, don't despair! Ask your children, your grandchildren, or the teenager next door to tell you. Chances are they'll be happy to bring you up to speed and teach you how to use this new technology. What can you then share with them?
Think of how family history technology has advanced so dramatically in the last few decades. In the comfort of our own homes we can now research our ancestors' names, expand our family trees, search through archives of photos, explore countless genealogical websites, do indexing, download digital images, upload stories of our ancestors, and share instantly what we find with family members who live thousands of miles away, to name just a few. We can even “tweet” about it to our friends, blog about it, or post our finds on Facebook and Instagram. With so much technology at our fingertips, shouldn't we be taking advantage of it?