Hashtags, Tweets, and Blogs: the New Language of Family History

August 1, 2014  - by 

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?



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  1. While I am knowledgeable on Family Search Family Tree, by dint of hard effort, I am woefully ignorant on social media. I’m even scared to join up, perhaps unnecessarily so. It seems i might have to try. How does a ‘retired’ person in his mid-70s find time for it all? I hear you laughing, but it’s a genuine dilemma. Thanks for your article.

    1. No one is laughing at you, Kendall! These social media sites are not requirements for doing your family history, just new techniques for those who enjoy using them. I’d suggest asking your younger relations (grandchildren, perhaps?) or teenagers in your neighborhood to show you how if you are truly interested. But it’s perfectly fine (and acceptable!) to stick with what you know and what works for you. Doing anything at all is better than nothing!

  2. This may provide some ideas for your family history project. lest us know how it goes.


  3. By virtue of all the good things you speak about in this article you have managed to put a lot of “old” folks out to pasture who have dearly loved doing family history and cannot not possibly keep up with the younger generation and all the modern technology. I feel that all my past efforts and any feeble efforts I might continue to make are really good for nothing.

    1. LuJeane, we appreciate every effort made to contribute to the great genealogical work, no one is better in the grand mission of this work. These new tools will help the next generation get interested in and help us with this process.

    2. All your past efforts now serve as a beginning place for others. Nothing you have done is unimportant. I am not good at social media, but I wasn’t good at Family Tree until I learned how to do it. I am certainly another “old” person and keep learning new things all the time. Some of the stuff is harder to learn than other stuff, but none of it is wasted.

  4. I am the Editor of our local genealogical society’s newsletter, which is published 4 times a year. May I copy and print this article in our Camrose (Alberta, Canada) Genealogical Society’s newsletter, the November 2016 issue? I will give all credit to you. We are trying to get our local youth interested in genealogy.
    Thanks, Joan

      1. Hi, Jesse;
        No, not using it to make money…but now I can’t find the post about promoting interest in genealogy for our youth. Can you help with that? It was an older post, should have copied it and then waited for your permission.