Those of you who are researching your own family history are probably familiar with several online genealogy resources. We all know about FamilySearch.org. Many of us subscribe to Ancestry.com. We may even dicker over which of several other family history websites are superior to the rest.
When it comes to asking people about using Twitter for genealogy, though, it seems that question still draws blank stares.
Twitter—that one hundred forty character microblogging service—is something often relegated to the mobile phone crowd. “On the go” hardly seems to suit the image of the serious researcher, holed up in the back reading room of a major library.
However, if you’ve never considered building your network on Twitter, I invite you to experiment with this resource. It has all sorts of possibilities for the synergy of crowdsourcing your family tree.
Obviously, I’ve got a Twitter account (see, I’ve even included my Twitter handle over in the left hand column) and certainly invite you to follow me if you are on Twitter. If you choose to do so, you and I and many other family history fanatics can share resources with one another.
Think that wouldn’t be useful? Here’s two examples of how Twitter has helped just this past week:
- My post on Wednesday included a link to a list of Google Reader alternatives. How do you think I found that article on Author Media’s blog? Yep. Twitter. I follow @AuthorMedia.
- Fellow blogger Jen Baldwin put out a plea for help in locating a missing historic headstone feared vandalized or stolen. Combined with a blog post and even a news report on a local station, she tweeted her message, along with a link to the television news clip. A follow up tweet was out the next day: missing headstone found!
Not only does Twitter facilitate people-to-people connections between those with similar interests—just type in a hashtag (example: #genealogy) before any subject you are interested in searching on Twitter to see how many results you can find—but it also can be used to connect with other genealogy groups.
Just recently, on behalf of our local genealogical society—you do belong to a local genealogical society, don’t you?—I set up a Twitter account. We are just starting this project and it isn’t fully set up the way I’d like, but you are welcome to visit it. Just type in @SJCoGen to get there.
The beauty of putting your genealogical society on Twitter is that it becomes a way to spread the word about your organization and its mission that will reach an entirely new audience—the next generation of genealogists!
An added benefit comes with utilizing Twitter’s capacity for list building. While I’ve yet to polish my lists up on our society’s Twitter account, the task is off to a promising start. So far, I've built a list of all available state genealogy societies that I can find on Twitter. Lists for local societies, national societies, professional genealogists, special interest groups, genealogy businesses, and historical societies will follow.
Take that a step further: do you know that you can subscribe to follow other people’s lists? That’s a great way to discover who else is out there on Twitter—and follow them! For instance, take a look at @michaelhait and click on “Lists” on the left column, which will show you all the lists this genealogist has either created or been included in. You can even subscribe to his own lists—or follow any of the resources he has listed there.
You can take a look at the Saint Louis Genealogical Society’s lists on Twitter, too, for an example of what one genealogical organization is doing with their tiny 140-character cyber-property.
Of course, input is not the entire picture. Twitter becomes your mouthpiece to share what you are accomplishing with your own research or blogging, too. Frankly, although all these Google Reader replacements we discussed yesterday are important, I sometimes will more quickly click through to a link I’ve seen on Twitter—including announcements of fellow bloggers’ latest posts. I’d love to see yours mentioned on Twitter, too.