Saturday, 7 February 2015

A genealogist’s guide to using Pinterest

Social media allows us to connect and interact with family and friends across the globe, as well as people who share our hobbies and likes. It is also a great way to promote or share your genealogy posts. We have all heard the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” and Pinterest really brings that thought home.

Pinterest is growing in popularity among adults as well. The Pew Research Center conducted a recent survey regarding social media use for those 18 and older. Facebook is by far the most popular, followed by Pinterest and Twitter.  

A word of caution: do not just pin and move on. During a recent #genchat session one person commented “Love Pinterest but it will take me 3 lifetimes to implement all the ideas I have pinned.” My suggestion: Schedule a time each month – or week if you really get addicted! – to sort through and evaluate your pins. 

Setting up your Pinterest page

  1. Sign up. Obviously you will need to register and name yourself if you have not yet done so.
  2. Set up your profile. I know it is tempting to hop in there and start collecting pins and sharing pins but take the time to create your identity. Add your name and a photo. Choose your username. There is a character limit. Use the About You section to introduce yourself. The location is of course optional, though chances are you probably listed it on Facebook! Be sure to add your website too!
  3. Create a board. I currently have five boards: Genealogical Gems (which only promote my blog of the same name); Literary World; Social Media Tips; Places I’ve Been; and Maps (most of which have a genealogical purpose). To create a board, you simply click on “Create a Board.”  It will open a frame. Type a name for your board, for example “Genealogy Resources.”  Now type a brief description and select a category. There is, sadly, no Genealogy category. In this example, I chose “Education” since it will focus on resources. Now click “Create Board.” Your new board will open and allow you to add pins there. 
How to Pin from your blog

Pinning is also a great way to bring readers to your site. I use Blogger and after I post an article to my blog, Genealogical Gems, I click on the promotion tools, which includes Pinterest. So how do I go from my blog to Pinterest? It’s simple, really.  

For this example, I am using a post on my blog from last October titled “Mystery Monday: Who fathered George David Still.” This is a mystery I have been working on, on and off, for nearly 30 years now. I have made progress but I still do not know who my 4th great grandfather is. Again, I use Blogger so the example is done from there. 

  1. Go to the end of your article.
  2. Select the social media icon for Pinterest.
  3. A new window will appear. Pick your desired board and make any necessary changes to your description.
  4. Click “Pin” and you are done!

Pinning from someone else’s page

The whole concept of Pinterest is in fact to share. So essentially a good general rule of thumb is: do not post it anywhere if you do not want it everywhere! That said, let’s say you found a pin that you would like to add to your board. has a great pin about Social Security numbers that would be a perfect “Genealogy Resource.”  Backing up a moment, I found it simply by typing genealogy in the search field.

  1. Mouse over the pin you like and click “Pin.”
  2. Select the appropriate board (of yours) where you want it to go.
  3. Edit the description, if you choose. In the example shown here I m editing it to state where I found the Tip.
  4. Click “Pin It.” Simple!
You may have to refresh (hit the F5 key) if the new pins do not show automatically. 

Pinning Tips

Think vertical. When choosing an image, think how it looks vertically. Pinterest is widely viewed on mobile devices, such as your phone. A vertical image fits better. 

Always use captions. It does not matter whether it is your pin or a re-pin. Always use captions. This is easy to forget when repining. Unlike Twitter you are not limited to 140 characters, so make use of the space. Think of your caption as a teaser. It may be the deciding factor as to whether someone glosses over your pin or selects it. 

Think like a search engine. By this I mean simply, when writing your caption, ue keywords that someone might use when searching.  

Hashtags are not just for Twitter anymore. Twitter defines a hashtag as: “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” 

You can follow a person or a single board. I, by the way, am at:  Remember to make a widget for your blog!


Ever wonder who is pinning from your site? Pinterest has a simple tool for that. To find mine, I type and hit enter. Naturally you will replace “” with your site’s address. My pins – that is, from my site – seem to be mostly myself and GeneaBloggers. 

Share YOUR thoughts and suggestions

Have you started to Pin yet? If so, feel free to share your tips, thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below. Haven’t started yet? Still have questions? You can use the comment section below to ask your questions below as well.


  1. Hi jeanne, great first post. I have dabbled a little with Pinterest, your blog has given me food for thought. I must look at it again! Welcome, and I look forward to reading more.

  2. Thanks, Diane. It made me realize too that it is time to freshen up mine as well!

  3. Thank you, Jeanne, for such a helpful post. I started my Pinterest site last year and must admit I find it rather addictive. It seemed such a logical step from my interest in compiling scrapbooks from my childhood days. It does reflect my interests in history, travel, photography and the arts, but I had never thought much about its family history blog applications. I must have another look at it in the light of your suggestions.

  4. after pinterest went to a sign in/password site I quit using it. I MIGHT consider signing up IF I could find any genealogy information for my family. How do I look for it?

  5. Jeanne,

    I've found Pinterest to be one of my top referring sites for my genealogy blog.

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  6. Great post Jeanne. I've been using a Pinterest for a couple of years now. Yes, very addictive. Also, a great way to share blog posts. My boards can be found by this name @ancestorfinder.

  7. I have an Pinterest acct. If I link my genealogy blog posts there will I get more visits & therefore a greater chance of finding more cousins?

  8. I have refresh. I do PIN a lot but it was based on my personality and things I like. I just started to do a "Family History/Genealogy Board. Points well taken. Thanks.

  9. great entry!! I use Blogger also but have not found a really great resource for learning more about how to work to improve my site... What are your recommendations for greating great hlep working in Blogger?? Thanks,

  10. Thank you all very much for the positive comments. I'm in Pinterest as @jeanneeckman.

    T - you might find your specific ancestors. However, it is more likely that you might find resources to help you in your search.

    Marianne - It shows me your blog is not found. You have given me a nice idea though for a future article.

  11. This is great. I never could figure out how to use Pinterest for genealogy. I have used it for my various remodeling projects. But this is a great tutorial I will put into practice. Thank you.


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