Recently, I've tried video blogs. Occasionally I post family history related stuff to Instagram. I think my favorite social media platform is Twitter - there is a great family history community there. So, if you're a family history researcher and you aren't using social media to try to collect more family history information you are doing yourself a disservice. I was talking to a fellow researcher recently and she said that she had started making family groups on Facebook. She found that it was an excellent platform to post pictures, start dialogue, and have people share memories and other resources. So, I took her lead.
I found that starting conversations can be a little hard. People are busy. School is back in session. So here are five tips you can use to start a family history conversation for your family:
How to Use Social Media For Family History
2. Post pictures. This is really effective at starting a conversation. A lot of people are very visual and they LIKE looking at pictures (that's a lot of what social media is all about - um hello Pinterest!). When I start a group I also like to start a few photo albums and post pictures of different family members to them. This not only posts the pictures so that members of the group can see and interact with them, but it will also organize information so that family members that aren't that familiar with the structure of the family tree can find their loved ones. Photos are a wonderful way to start a conversation. A lot of my family members will look at a picture and it will immediately trigger memories for them (see number four). One of my cousins posted a story about the birth of her sibling because a picture of a different relative triggered the memory.
3. Post records. These can be postcards, report cards, census records, birth certificates and death certificates. These records can start their own conversations. They can trigger memories of school. They can help remind your family of the different places that your ancestors lived - and relatives that remember visiting them there. They can also provide insight into the lives that your ancestors lived. So often, the people that came before us are names and faces lost to time. Humanizing them, reminding your family members that they all attended the same elementary school or church can establish a great connection between past generations and current generations.
4. Post memories. Sometimes all it takes is for one person posting a memory they have about a loved one to start a conversation. This past week marks the sixth year since my grandmother's death. I wrote and posted a blog post of two of my favorite memories of her. It started a conversation - my sister shared some of her memories, a close family friend shared hers, a cousin shared another, a woman I attended church with as a child shared her memories as well. It was a wonderful post (one of my most far-reaching) and it proved to me the importance of creating a narrative. People love reading stories. So share one of yours and see what happens.
5. Ask Questions. I am constantly asking my family members questions. I'll ask questions about where people lived, who their kids were, where people lived, and most importantly - WHO IS IN THIS PICTURE! I love asking questions. Sure, it's pretty hit or miss. Sometimes people have the answers I'm looking for, and sometimes they still need to be discovered (that's why this is an Unexpected Discovery - family history is full of them!). Even if no one knows the answer, it's still a great interaction.
So...have you named your social media group yet?