These genealogy sleuths used Facebook for family history when they responded to a plea to help return a family Bible to its family.
Back on March 21, Donna Whitten posted a video on her church Facebook page. Her post says, “How far would you go to get back something you’ve lost?”
She was talking about a 150 year-old family Bible she’d come across while antiquing one day in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her post says, “We want to find this family and return it to them! Can you help?” (Click here to see that post and video.)
That video post got 34,000 views, thanks in part to more than 600 people who shared it! Family history fans immediately stepped up to the challenge. They looked for names on Ancestry.com and reached out to tree owners. Within two days, several descendants were aware of the Bible and asking for copies. The bible eventually went to a woman in California named Carrie Robinson, who has been researching her tree for several years. It contained obituaries clipped from newspapers and handwritten vital family events. (Wouldn’t you love to receive that kind of family treasure?) Click here to watch the follow-up video about when Donna took the bible to the new owner.
Hats off to Donna and her team of sleuths who took the time to find Carrie’s family and return their past to them! I find a few take-home messages in this story:
Social media is a great way to cast your net wide, not just when you’re sharing family history, but when you’re looking for information. Click here to read more about gathering memories through Facebook.
You can watch for orphaned heirlooms in your path and return them to descendants. Click here to read tips on how to do that.
The video Donna created got attention on Facebook! Video is powerful. Use it to share your family history. (Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible. Thank you!)Click here to read about Animoto, a DIY-video making service I love that lets you produce your own professional-quality videos. Below is one quick video I created. Can you say shareable?!
Pinterest is a free, online bulletin board where you can collect content that you find on the web. It’s a kick-back to the old days when we found pictures of our favorite home decor or recipes and tore out the pages of the magazine. Do you remember doing that? No longer do we need to tear out pages and file pictures and articles of our favorite things in old binders. You can use Pinterest to keep all of your items organized and accessible at the click of the mouse.
Pinterest is not a piece of software or something you download. All you need to do is go to www.pinterest.com and sign-up using your email or Facebook to create a free account.
FamilySearch Family Tree works similarly with their “Memories” section. The Memories section allows users to collect and store family photos, documents, stories, and even audio. But that is just the beginning! Pinterest provides you with a way to put these items to work for you. Photos, documents, and stories you post on a FamilySearch memories page can be pinned to your Pinterest board.
Why is this so groundbreaking, you ask? When potential cousins Google your common ancestor, the list of results will include your Pinterest board, like the search example below that finds my own Pinterest pins:
Then, when they click that great photo of grandma or the WWII story of great-grandpa on Pinterest, they are automatically directed back to your FamilySearch Family Tree where they can see your pedigree chart…for FREE!
(You don’t need an account to see, use, or search within the FamilySearch Family Tree. If you were to try this technique using images you have uploaded to a subscription site such as Ancestry, those clicking from Pinterest would simply land on the log-in page to Ancestry. Without a paid subscription, they go nowhere. How frustrating!)
How to Connect Your FamilySearch Family Tree with Pinterest Pins
1. If you haven’t already set up a Pinterest account, you will need to do that first.
2. Create a board specifically for the purpose of family history. I chose to create a board for each of the surnames that I’m actively researching. I would love to make some connections with other genealogists on these! “Bowser Family of Clark County, Ohio” and “Cole Family of Lee County, Virginia” are two examples. (Notice, I added a county name and state. I wanted to be sure I attracted people who searched by surname and/or place name.) Do not add any pictures to your boards yet.
3. Create or log in to your free FamilySearch Family Tree with names and dates of your ancestors.
4. Click on an ancestor for whom you want to add a memory. At the “Person” page, click on “Memories” near the top. This will take you to the memory page where you will upload the photos, documents, and so forth for your specific ancestor.
5. Add a title and an accurate, thorough caption. An example of a title might be a full name or a story title like: “When Her Baby Died.” A caption needs to include more details: “Lillie Amanda West, Clark County, Ohio. Wife of George Henry Bowser and daughter of Edmund West and Lavina Wilson. Picture taken ca. 1897.”
6. Once you have uploaded everything you wish with your titles and captions, go back to the FamilySearch Memories gallery page by simply clicking on “Memories” again. If you hover your cursor over a picture, document, or story you uploaded, a little “Pin It” box will pop up. (Important Note: FamilySearch reviews all items uploaded to the Memories section for inappropriate content. Because of this, you may have to wait a few minutes before your items are able to be pinned.) Now, click “Pin It” and follow the prompts to pin the item to the Pinterest board of your choice. You will need to copy and paste or create a new caption for your pin. Click the little pen below the picture to edit the caption. (Remember, this caption will be what you want to be Google-searchable, so pack it with names and words that you think your long-lost cousins might type into the Google search box when searching for those ancestors. (Need help with Google search terms? Lisa Louise Cooke’s book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd Edition is your go-to resource.)
Cousin connections often bring to light new and exciting pieces of your family’s story. Try using Pinterest and FamilySearch Family Tree today as cousin bait to find long-lost family members anywhere in the world.
Those who write a family history blog are well-positioned to market their heritage to everyone who cares!
Recently, I read a marketing blog post on the power of blogging for businesses. Of course I immediately thought about what they were saying from the point of view of a family historian. We want to share–or market–our family histories so others will read and enjoy them! So I’ve adapted their concepts for why a genealogist should be writing a GREAT blog.
1. THE “COUSIN BAIT” EFFECT. Businesses that blog attract two-thirds more potential customers than those who don’t. Likewise, family historians who share their family history online can attract interest from lots of relatives, including those they’ve never met and those they never knew were interested in family history! Genealogy blogs are called “cousin bait” for a reason!
2. BLOGGING IS TIMELESS. Business blog posts can pull in new customers for businesses whether you wrote them yesterday or years ago. It’s worth updating older blog posts with more current information and keeping your current contact information on your blog, even if you’re not actively adding to it right now.
3. OUR RELATIVES ARE LOOKING ONLINE. By 2020, customers are expected to manage about 85% of business without even talking to a human. Wow! I think we’ll see some trending that direction in family history research, too. Increasingly, our relatives are likely looking for their family history online first—not as much by reaching out to distant relatives and relatives-of-relatives by mail or phone, though I still encourage that cold-calling approach that worked so well for Debra.
4. BLOGGING IS FREE. The only cost of blogging is TIME! This speaks for itself. No expensive mailings or printing copies of books and photos, hoping your relatives will pay you back.
5. SHARE WITH AUTHORITY. In the business world, blogs are considered a highly trusted source for accurate online information. The personal touch of a blog, together with your responsible research and the sources you cite, can help your relatives trust what you’re telling them. As you become known to your extended family as someone who prizes your heritage, you may also become the person that distant relatives or heirloom rescuers turn to when looking for a home for priceless family artifacts.
I share these thoughts–and oodles of inspiring blogging testimonials from Genealogy Gems listeners and readers–in the newest episode of the Genealogy Gems podcast. Click here to listen to episode #185–and learn how you could win a FREE year of Premium membership to the Genealogy Gems website.
More GEMS on How to Write a Family History Blog
Are you ready to launch your own blog, or recharge the one you’ve already got? Click here to see a BRAND NEW webpage I’ve created that’s packed with resources on how to write a family history blog that gets you found by others who care about your heritage.