Saturday, 14 June 2014

Do you use Twitter for genealogy?

What social media do you use to keep in touch with other genealogists and family historians?

You could be passing on tips, asking for or giving help, alerting your geneamates to new resources, talking about your successes (and setbacks), reporting from genealogy conferences, sharing a joke, having a grumble, just saying ‘hi’... the list is huge.

My favourite ways include blogging (no surprise there), Facebook and Google+, thought I admit I’ve been away from them for a while because my non-genealogy life has been mega-busy recently. I like Pinterest, though I don’t use it much for genealogy, and HistoryPin is a great idea. But today I’m going to think about one which has become central to my social and family history activities.
Photo by freakgirl on flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
I realised that today is my third Twitterversary. Yay! I can’t believe I’ve been tweeting for so long. It took me a while to join, because I’d got the impression that it was all about meals you’d eaten, or how much you love a band/celebrity, or trolling people you disagree with. And yes, that does go on, but not in ‘my’ Twitter. Which is one of the reasons I like it.

Twitter is so customisable. When I started out, I had a shortish list of people I followed: genealogists, bloggers, family history sites, a couple of fun ones and some friends. I was using Twitter specifically to communicate with the worldwide genealogy community, which is why I tweet as @ARebelHand instead of using my real name.

But I soon realised that if I wanted to follow any more tweeps (Twitter people), I’d need to get organised. And my goodness, there were enough great people to follow! So I sorted them into lists. One for general genealogy, one for Australia, another for Ireland, a fourth for the UK... you get the idea. And I could just look at tweets from people in that list, if I wanted to, instead of seeing everybody’s in my timeline. You can put someone in any number of lists, like you can put people in more than one circle in Google+. It’s a good way to manage all that information rushing down your timeline like a flooded river.

Then I discovered #hashtags. Of course, you don’t need to use them, and a tweet with too many hashtags can look a bit desperate for attention, but they’re a great way to get a picture of what people are saying about one particular subject. It could be general #genealogy talk, or reports on an event like #wdytyalive (Who Do You Think You Are Live in the UK) or #rootstech in the States, or Australia’s #unlockthepast cruises. Just type # plus the topic (all one word) into Twitter search, and... shazam! Lots of tweets from all over the world, from familiar names and from new ones you may end up following.

Twitter genealogy family tree © A Rebel Hand 2014 for Worldwide Genealogy
Larry the Twitter Bird's family tree? For credits see end of post
Another way to manage timeline overload and get some focus is to concentrate on one person you’re interested in. See a retweet (RT) and wonder about who the original tweeter is? Click on their username (begins with @). A new window will pop up with a profile summary, which contains a short bio and their two most recent tweets. If you want to find out more, scroll down to the bottom of the summary window and click on ‘Go to full profile’ and you’ll be able to read their tweets and retweets, and follow them if you want to.

The best thing for me about Twitter is that it works as my personalised news feed. If I’ve got some time to spare, I do love just letting my timeline wash over me, following up all the interesting-looking links and finding wonderful gems I never imagined existed. Of course this does waste pass quite a lot of time, but it’s as self-indulgent as a box of chocolates and totally non-fattening.

And if you thought genealogy was addictive (I’m willing to bet you do), here’s a warning – so is Twitter. That’s one reason why I’ve been focusing on ways to manage that seductive stream of 140-character goodies.

This isn’t even an attempt at writing a guide to Twitter, by the way. It’s just a snippet of some of the ways I use it. I’ll add some useful how-to links at the end.

The genealogy community is wonderful for passing on information, helping one another and providing support and laughs. I know some of my fellow bloggers here on Worldwide Genealogy are great at posting on Facebook and using the facilities of Google+. We’re a social bunch. So I’d love to know what social media you use for genealogy, and why. Pull up a chair and have a slice of cake!

Useful links about using Twitter: 
... and Cyndi's list of links for Twitter and genealogy 

Image credits for Twitter 'family tree':
Dark blue birds, top left: Ceridian Index, via Creative Commons
Three cartoon birds, top right: freedesignfiles, via Creative Commons, attribution 3.0
Twitter logos by Twitter


  1. I love Twitter! I really do need to organize my lists though. A great post :)

  2. I like twitter as well, thanks for the tips on lists! Really enjoyed your post!

  3. The only time I really enjoyed Twitter was during the "Arab Spring" when things were happening right there in real time. Maybe with organization I could get more out of it but I feel like I am already spending so much time on social media in the form of facebook.

  4. Interesting post.

    I find that I am using Twitter less and less as a newsfeed but I find it most useful for communicating from events or for following an event's hashtag to see what's happening there. It is the tool in my social media toolbox that I use mostly for following events.

    My fave social media tool is Google+. I find my RSS reader, inoreader organises posts nicelt so that I can keep up with news from blogs efficiently.

  5. Thanks for the Twitter organizational tips! My timeline is getting a bit overwhelming, but I've had some very interesting exchanges with people. Just last week a tweet about Scottish marriage customs led to "meeting" a person who's ancestor murdered his brother! What a story, revealed 140 characters at a time. ;)


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