by Maggie Huff
Family history research is never complete. There are always more records to be discovered, photos to be identified, and additional connections to uncover. But maybe you’ve reached the point when you want to share what you’ve learned so far.
You may have emailed the odd document to family, and perhaps even invited them to view your online tree, but there are other ways to showcase your research if you are hoping for something more. The following suggestions will help you reach and engage with more members of your family, easily update them on your research progress, and create something lasting that you can be proud of.
And, even if your creations don’t last forever, the connections you created and the information you shared will have lasting impacts on those you love.
Here are 4 Ways to Share Your Genealogy Research with Others
1. Start a Family History Facebook Group
Best for: Interacting with family, gathering information and sharing your ongoing research
A family Facebook group is a good place to share photos, documents, and ask questions without cluttering up your personal timeline or having it buried other people’s news feeds. Creating a group and adding members takes only a few minutes if you already have a Facebook account, and only a little longer than that if you have yet to create one.
Here is a quick how-to from Facebook on creating a group.
The title of your group and who you invite should depend on the group’s purpose. Think about how everyone in your new group will be related to one another and give it a name appropriate to this connection. It might look something like this.
- Smith Family Genealogy Group
- Descendants of Walter Scott and Emma Reola
- The Garrison Sisters’ Family History
- Grandpa Cohen’s Ancestors
- Updates on Martha’s Longbridge’s Family History Research
If you’re really serious, you may want to create more than one group, as your maternal grandmother’s side of the family probably doesn’t care to know about your research about your paternal grandfather.
Once the group is active, connect and engage:
- Start with a pedigree chart that will help members to identify their relationships to their ancestors.
- Share photos and documents.
- Write posts for ancestor birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
- Ask people to identify who is in a particular photo (whether you know or not) or ask them to guess when or where a certain photo was taken.
- Share what you’re researching. Reach out for help.
- Ask for company on your upcoming library or cemetery visit – and be happy to have whoever you recruit!
- Thank members when they share anything. Like their comments and contributions. Be sure to back up photos and documents in your own personal files – Facebook may not be around forever.
- Ask group members what questions they may have about your family’s history.
- Dispel false family stories. For example, if everyone thinks your family came to America on the Mayflower because of their last name, but your Bradfords did not arrive in the United States until 1902, post the immigration documentation and pique people’s interest in your family’s origins. The truth is often more exciting than myth.
- Encourage others to use the group to write about upcoming family events. The more active the group is, the better.
You can also explore existing Facebook groups that have to do with your family by searching by surname or location. If you find one of interest, request to join. See this post about using Facebook for genealogy.
2. Assemble a Genealogy Binder
Best for: Sharing research in person, sharing family history with kids and older people, creating a lasting and physical product
Compile the readable highlights of your research into a family history binder and take it to family events and holidays. Children have an easier time connecting with their family history when they see it as part of a fascinating book. And, for older people who are not comfortable with computers, this can be a great way to share what you have learned and encourage them to discuss their memories.
The binder should include any of the following for your ancestors:
- Family tree/pedigree charts
- Birth certificates
- Sacramental records
- Marriage records
- Military records
- Death certificates
- Newspaper clippings
- Immigration/naturalization records
- Biographies (see #5 below)
You probably won’t have space to include everyone in your tree so consider choosing a specific family line. Make it interesting by including family stories, such as your baseball player great-grand-uncle who was called up from the minor leagues for five games.
The arrangement of the binder is ultimately up to you, but some combination of folders, dividers, and pages protected in plastic sleeves works well. An order that reflects how you have your computer files stored may be best.
The binder should also have:
- A cover page or label. You may have a different binder for every branch of your tree, so the binder should be identifiable. The outside sleeve should have the name of the family as well as your name and be sure to include your name and contact information with a note to please return it to you if found.
- Secondary copies only. Do not include original documents or your only copies!
- Sticky notes. People should mark the pages they want to be emailed or copied instead of pointing them out to you.
- A blank page or two. You need this to collect contact information and take notes when others have questions – or answers.
- Put a caption on the front or back of each page with the names, locations, and the electronic file name and location so you can easily find the document on your computer. It’s better to make copies from electronic files than to make a copy of a copy.
This project can be completed by hand as a scrapbook, or digitally and printed off. There are many wonderful photo book services online now where you can compile documents, photos and notes together and have one or more copies mailed to you or others.
3. Create a Family History Blog
Best for: Meeting researchers with similar interests, easy ongoing updates to a large group, sharing your research beyond family
The blog, like Facebook, allows you to share your work online. While Facebook is a good place to touch base with the family, one blog can cover a range of topics and be found by interested researchers you’d never encounter otherwise.
You can title the blog after your family or give it a more unique name. Write about different topics – particular ancestors, churches, towns, occupations – and post them. Tag your posts with the appropriate keywords of names and locations. Google will index it and make it possible for other researchers to find it – or you can keep it private.
WordPress and Blogger are just two platforms you can use to write about your family, and each offers free and paid plans.
Read our guide to starting your own family history blog right here for help.
4. Write Biographies of Your Ancestors
Best for: Creating a finished product, adding more depth to your ancestors’ stories
Take all that research you’ve compiled and produce short biographies of your ancestors. Select an ancestor and start writing a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Incorporate the color of any oral history interviews you’ve done, as well as photos and records. Be sure to include your full name and a list of citations at the end so the information can be fact-checked.
Do this for every ancestor from a particular branch of your tree, or only those you find particularly fascinating. Be sure to mention spouses, children and other relatives whose bios are not included if choosing to cover only some people – their stories can be woven together with an ancestor you have more information about.
Share your biographies in your Facebook group, in your binder, on your blog, or collect them all together and print them as a book. Look for “print on demand book” services for this purpose, do it all at home on your printer or just create a doc or PDF file.
You can also submit them to memorial records on Find a Grave and any other sites you use. Other researchers and family members will appreciate your efforts.
You’ve worked hard on your genealogy research, knocked over some brick walls and now you get to share your findings with a wide and interested audience across various platforms. Have fun with it!
You might also like:
- How to Turn Your Research Into Beautiful (Free!) Family Tree Charts in Just a Few Clicks
- Sort, Scan, Share: How to NOT Drown in Family Memorabilia
- 4 Unique Family Tree Templates for Genealogy, Craft or School Projects
Maggie Huff is a librarian and writer. She became enthralled with genealogy when she learned that one of her ancestors was murdered. Ten years and many skeletons later, she’s searching for the answers to various family history mysteries. She lives in Missouri, where she frequents cemeteries and historic house tours.
1 thought on “Beyond the Tree: 4 Enduring Ways to Share Your Family History Research”
Thank you for this super article with plenty of useful and doable advice. I’m in the UK and this piece is just as relevant to me as to those in the US. I’ve bookmarked the article so I can refer to it again and again!