Using Twitter for Genealogy

The first question might be “just what is Twitter anyway?” Well, simply put, Twitter is a social media venue that allows access to instant information. The information is shared in small bursts of conversation known as tweets. These tweets are limited to 140 characters in length.

Twitter is a great way to get information on newly released genealogy records, connecting with genealogists  all over the world, discovering new resources (who is digitizing records and making them available, who is creating new research facilities, who is holding conferences or workshops.). Twitter can be a valuable resource to genealogists of any calibre.

Here’s how you can get started:

First, you need to create an account. To do this, go to the Twitter website:  Here you will find the sign up box. You will be required to enter your full name, email address, and to create a password. Once done, hit the “sign up for twitter” button. Next, select a username. Choose something that is unique to you and that will make it easy for others to identify you. Mine is @genealogytours because my business arranges genealogy tours to Scotland. ALL Twitter usernames have the @ symbol at the beginning.

Finally, click the “create my account” button. Once you have done that, Twitter will send you a confirmation email. When you receive that, click on the link in the body of the e-mail to confirm your that you really did want to sign up. You will be re-directed to Twitter.

From here, you can begin to “follow” tweeters who might be of interest to you as you research your family history. You can do this in the search bar at the top of your homepage. Simply type in the things you are looking for “genealogy”, “New England genealogy”, “Civil War Genealogy” etc. You can also look for people you think might be able to provide information that will be helpful to you as you research. Type in their names and a list will be generated. You do not need to know their Twitter user name for this part. Twitter will show them via their first names. Once you find who you are looking for, click on their user name, and once on their homepage, you can choose to “follow” them. This means that any tweets they issue will be automatically shown in your stream on your homepage. You can follow as many people as you want. If you are more interested in learning than in communicating, you don’t ever have to tweet. The real benefit of Twitter lies in being able to access real-time information that matters to you.

Using Hashtags

One way of weeding out other, less relevant information in your stream, and concentrating on a specific subject is using the hashtag. In old school terms we called this the “pound symbol” or the “number sign”

Using hashtags This is particularly helpful if you want to follow along on “as it happens” events like the airing of new #WDYTYA episodes. Interestingly, the producers, WDYTYA  and often the stars themselves will live tweet during an episode. It gives a whole new dimension to the experience.

We can also follow along on what is taking place at conferences we can’t attend by searching for and following along on their hashtag –  #rootstech2015 for instance.

There are regular genealogy “tweet-ups” These are generally one hour conversations among a large group with an interest in genealogy. Two particularly helpful ones are #ancestryhour – every Tuesday at 2pm EST and #genchat which takes place on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of every month.

Give it a try: