Many of us feel the need to share our genealogy with others. It helps us make connections with others, gives us a sense of “paying forward” the efforts of those before us, and helps in our efforts to preserve our research. Ancestry has made it easy to share, but that shouldn’t be the only way that we do so. Here are some other ways that we can share our genealogy, and make more connections in the process.
Why You Should Share Your Genealogy Beyond Your Online Tree
Although Ancestry and other online trees make it easy to share our genealogy—our discoveries, photos, and stories—they shouldn’t be the only way that we share. There are two reasons for this.
Not all of your cousins are on Ancestry. Yes, they’re the biggest and most well-known. But not everyone has an Ancestry subscription, nor does everyone who starts on Ancestry stays there forever. If you’re sharing only on Ancestry, you’re reaching only people on Ancestry. It’s better to share in as many places as possible to reach as many people as possible.
Your Ancestry tree is not a long-term preservation strategy. When Ancestry announced its changes to its Terms & Conditions on August 3 and 5, 2021, I saw countless comments that the reason they have a tree on Ancestry “is so my research will outlive me.” Maybe, maybe not. There is nothing guaranteeing that the tree you post on Ancestry (or any other website) will be available in the long term. Businesses go out of business (even the ones we think of as “big.” Remember Blockbuster and Circuit City?)
For both of these reasons, I recommend approaching sharing like we should approach preservation and employ the LOCKSS principle: Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe. This preservation principle is basically not putting all of your eggs in one basket. It’s why we do backups of our computers and have those backups in multiple locations. (You do have backups and in multiple locations, right?) If one fails, you have another copy elsewhere.
The more places we share our genealogy, the more people we reach and the more likely that our research will be preserved.
So how can we do that?
Blog Your Family History
There are so many advantages to writing, and blogging gives us an easy way to both write and to share. While blogging is likely less permanent than a book or a (traditionally) published article, it does get the information out there, where it can benefit other researchers. (Check out my tips for starting your own genealogy blog.)
There’s also the advantage that people can find your blog via a search engine like Google or Bing. This makes it an effective way of reaching a wide audience. Also, if you do have a public tree on Ancestry, you can go to an ancestor’s profile page and use the “add a weblink” feature to add a link to your blog post.
Write an Article for a Newsletter or Journal
Speaking as a former newsletter and journal editor, I can assure you that editors are always looking for more content. When I say “article,” I mean just that. It could be a page or two about one specific ancestor. Maybe you’ve worked out how two people are (or aren’t) related. Maybe you’ve researched your ancestor’s military service.
You can share your genealogy without writing something “new.” Perhaps you have a family Bible that you’re willing to transcribe the family record pages or a letter sent to your ancestor. Those make great articles!
Contact a genealogy society in the area where that person(s) lived and ask if they would be interested in that article and if they have any style or formatting guidelines to follow. Not only will you be reaching the members of that society, chances are that that society’s newsletter (especially if it’s in the US or Canada) will be indexed in the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). That will allow even more people to discover it later.
Write a Book
I hope this one didn’t scare anyone off! A family history book doesn’t have to be a 400-page definitive tome of all of the descendants or ancestors of someone. Can you expand upon the bare facts of one particular family (the father, mother, and their children)? What about transcribing an ancestor’s diary, journal, or letters? How about one particular aspect of your family’s life (exploring their religion, occupation, or military service)?
Donate copies of the book to libraries and societies in the location(s) where that family lived. For even more exposure, donate a copy to major genealogy repositories, such as the Family History Library and the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library.
Donate Materials (or, At Least Copies)
Don’t feel like writing anything? Consider donating copies of some of your materials to relevant organizations. This is one of the most long-lasting ways to share your family history. I bet any historical society, genealogy society, or library would be thrilled to get a copy of a Civil War soldier’s journal from that area or copies of the family register from the family Bible.
Please note: if you ever decide to donate your unpublished research (notes, etc.) to a library or society, contact them first! Many (most) libraries have donation guidelines and cannot accept all donations of research collections.
Share on Social Media
Have you made a cool discovery in your family history? Consider sharing it on social media, like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Look for Facebook groups that are focused on where your ancestor lived (or some other aspect of your ancestor). It’s true that this method of sharing is rather fleeting, but it is a way to reach people.
Share with Your Family
Sometimes we overlook the obvious. When was the last time we shared something about our family history with our family? I don’t mean printing off an ancestor chart or giving them a copy of a random census schedule. When was the last time you told a story of an ancestor? When was the last time you shared a little tidbit? (If you’ve had bad experiences when trying to share with family members, check out my post “How Not to Bore People With Genealogy.”)
How about you? What ways have you shared your family history besides an online tree?
Excellent and varied ideas, with so many possible and effective approaches. My thinking is very similar, so I added a link to your post on my earlier post here: https://climbingmyfamilytree.blogspot.com/2021/02/save-family-history-for-more-than-one.html
I never trusted ancestry from the beginning. I said from the beginning that this is what they were doing. Now they are just admitting it. Thanks for letting other people know about it. Never paid a cent for it. It’s at the library for free. Never put one thing on it. Didn’t trust the people behind it. And findagrave. I don’t subscribe to facebook, either. Same reason: facebook works the same way, You don’t own what you own. They do.
Another thought that I had this morning. Ancestry will be charging you to join, will take ownership of anything you put on it, and then charge other people for your information. A win-win-win for them. What is it for the subscriber?
I’ve spent covid quarantine writing genealogical biographies for my parents thru my 3rd great grandparents. They fill 3 2 inch notebooks, copies are for my 2 daughters and 4 siblings. Some biographies are 10 pages or less, a couple of biographies run over 100. I used the money I would have spent traveling to D.C., Fort Wayne, for my printing costs. I’m fortunate to be retired and settled myself into writing during the quarantine.
I liked your suggestion to write a book about one particular family. That’s doable. Then maybe another family…
Thank you for your suggestions! I think my favorite was to “add a weblink” to my blog post on an ancestor’s profile page on Ancestry.
One year for Thanksgiving, I asked my parents and sibs if we could reminisce a bit about growing up on the farm. My niece got out the albums of old family pictures. That’s all it took! We started reminiscing about milking the cows and riding bikes around the country neighborhoods. My sister and I listened in amazement to our brothers’ stories about drag racing on those country roads. And the few times they took the curves too fast! It’s a wonder they made it to adulthood! Long story short, I recorded our conversations and then over the next few years, I typed up what we said. I had to organize all stories about each topic together. I added in pictures from my digital files. (Our niece and nephew had digitized old family photos a few years before and given us each a copy). Each one of us got hard paper copies of my little booklet and our kids got a digital copy for Christmas. Plus, I sent copies to some interested cousins.
Oh, Amy, I love this. We’ve been thinking a lot about contextual archiving… a means to archive history, stories, documents — and yes, trees — but to do so in a way that puts the materials in context.
At Ponga.com that’s key to what we’re all about! From our perspective, it’s always been important to engage in family history stories in any channel that makes you happy. This is what helps us expand the world of #genealogists to include the #geneacurious … of #familyhistorians to include the #familyhistorycurious.
BUT it’s always super important to keep a clear eye as to the invasive privacy risks of over sharing. This is why Ponga itself is always private, but the content you bring in can be public OR private.