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As social media use has become more mainstream, more and more users have found ways to make their accounts valuable resources for genealogists—either to share information or facilitate discussion.
We’ve gathered our favorite accounts that are fun and informative—and that provide opportunities to connect with experts and other genealogists like you. Social media is constantly changing, but these accounts are a great starting point for making social media a valuable tool for your genealogy research.
We could dedicate a whole article to Facebook groups for genealogy. Instead, we’ve noted a few of our favorites below and focused the rest of this list on just the Facebook pages we really “Like” (pun intended).
AccessGenealogy is a vast directory of free records and resources for US genealogy, especially Native American research. The AccessGenealogy Facebook page is a great way to keep up with the latest free resources and news from the site. Both the AccessGenealogy website and Facebook page are tools that every US researcher should keep in their back pocket!
Based on Elizabeth Shown Mill’s classic book Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Genealogical Publishing Co.), this page is a great resource for those who “use, cite, and seek to understand historical records.” The posts here primarily link to the Evidence Explained website, which hosts an impressive number of forums for citation issues, evidence analysis and more. The Facebook page functions as a sort of highlight reel of what’s going on in the forums, and is a great place to dive into the nitty-gritty of record use and citation.
Many people are familiar with the Allen County Public Library for its Periodical Source Index, or PERSI. But the library also sponsors a Facebook page that provides a variety of helpful tidbits and opportunities for genealogists.
The Center offers many free, virtual events on a variety of genealogy topics. Additionally, you can watch one of their short, informative videos on everything from finding records to preserving photographs. The admins are responsive and accessible, so this page is also a good place to bring your library research questions.
Get a “tour” of the index here.
Good for a laugh, historical intrigue and solid genealogical info, newspaper database GenealogyBank’s Facebook page is a great place to go for new record releases, research tips and more. You need a membership to access GenealogyBank’s record collections, but the site routinely posts links to its free blog, as well.
Other Facebook Groups for Genealogy
- DNA Newbie
- The Genealogy Squad
- Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques
- The International Society of Genetic Genealogy
- The Organized Genealogist
Twitter is the 21st-century “little birdy” who tells you the latest news and gossip. But with access to such a wealth of information, this little birdy ends up being more like a whole flock! The accounts that follow are our favorite tweeters whose songs cut through the noise.
Judy G. Russell (aka The Legal Genealogist) is a pillar of the genealogy community, and her Twitter feed is a great way to keep up with what’s happening over on her blog. Russell tweets about genealogy news, research and more, all with her trademark focus on the legal and civic aspects of the genealogical world.
Editor’s note: In November 2022, Russell tweeted that she’d be closing her account. Since then, she has posted much less frequently.
Melissa Barker is a professional genealogist and an archives manager for Houston County, Tennessee. She regularly posts helpful tips and how-to’s about all things archiving over on her blog, A Genealogist In the Archives. But she also is a regular tweeter. If you’re at all interested in archiving or preservation, her account is definitely worth a follow.
Historical photo accounts are hugely popular on Twitter—though some are more historically accurate than others. For a daily dose of factual history, Today’s Document (@TodaysDocument) is a great account to follow. Run by the National Archives, this account posts timely historical photos along with a link to each photo on the National Archives’ website.
A similar account where you can get your daily history fix is the American Family Immigration History Center (@EllisIsland), which posts historical photos of famous immigrants and other passengers, along with a screenshot of a record related to their journey.
This account is not only a reliable stream of useful information, but also a fun way of engaging with the nation’s recordkeepers. Beyond sharing interesting historical facts and helpful information on how to use their records, the US National Archives also hosts a variety of events on Twitter. You can participate by using the event’s specific hashtag (#), such as #AskAnArchivistDay or each month’s Archives Hashtag Party. (We were especially fond of October 2019’s party: #ArchivesAncestors.)
You can learn more about past events and how to engage with The National Archives on Twitter in the future by visiting this helpful page on their website.
There is no shortage of Instagram accounts that share useful genealogy research tips and tricks. However, because Instagram is primarily a photo-based platform, our favorite Instagram accounts are those that combine beautiful imagery with fun and/or valuable information.
This is the Instagram account for the David Rumsey Map Collection, which is a regular honoree on our 101 Best Genealogy Websites list. Like the site itself, this Instagram account offers stunning, up-close views of historical maps and charts from around the world.
While this Instagram account has a small number of posts relative to its age, each one is a work of art that users can easily get lost in.
Following The Newberry Library on Instagram is like getting a mini, behind-the-scenes tour of all the library’s hidden gems. This account regularly posts closeups of photographs, manuscripts, artwork and so much more.
This account also makes excellent use of Instagram Reels to give readers a sneak peak at what goes on inside a research library, including giving checkups to medieval manuscripts and splicing microfilm.
When it comes to historical photo accounts on social media, some caution is required. There have been several popular photo accounts that haven’t been entirely truthful. However, the Library of Congress’ Instagram account is a reliable source of historical photography, artwork and more.
Although they post shop-related posts somewhat frequently, this is a good source for your once-a-day dose of historical photography, complete with detailed captions and citations.
More than just cupcakes and wedding dresses, Pinterest is a great platform for anyone looking for inspiration. Our favorite pinners are people who not only provide helpful research tips, but also give us creative ideas for how to celebrate and share family history.
This account is a boon for crafty family history projects, research tips and more. Explore boards for ideas on genealogy scrapbooks, family history websites, DIY family history games, greeting cards and much more.
Instead of simply labeling boards “photo crafts” or “scrapbooking,” this account builds its boards around a certain theme. For example, users can find pins on family history postcards in the “Connections” board, or family reunion checklists in the “Celebrations” board. There’s a lot to explore, and you’re sure to find some great new ideas.
Pinterest is great for crafts and inspiration, but it is also useful for quick visual references (not to mention a powerful search engine for images). This account is a good example, sharing photos of historical clothing items in its Fashion History boards.
Photo sleuths and historical fashion lovers will especially like this account. Because the boards are organized by era, it’s easy to browse images of historical garb from specific time periods: 11th–14th century, 15th century, and so on. But the modern boards have much narrower time frames (1800–1825, 1825–1850, etc.).
Nicole Dyer, the daughter in the mother-daughter duo behind FamilyLocket, shares great tips for those looking to engage kids or grandkids in family history. Find pins for family tree templates and coloring pages, as well as family history activities for teachers. Dyer also has a board for teen-friendly genealogy activities. In addition, users can explore her DNA Genealogy board for helpful charts that allow you to visualize genetic inheritance.
Once known for funny cat videos, YouTube has surpassed Facebook as the most widely used social media platform. Free tutorials, historical film and quick history lessons are all a click away on this giant video-sharing site.
Ancestry.com has a robust YouTube channel that offers educational videos on how to use its products and services—as well as some genealogy entertainment. The Barefoot Genealogist, Crista Cowan, has a whole playlist dedicated to walkthroughs and tutorials. You can also watch bite-sized segments of a variety of Ancestry.com-produced shows including “My Family Secrets Revealed,” as well as watch the full 2019 Sundance film “Railroad Ties.”
British Pathé, originally known as Pathé News, was a leading producer of newsreels, documentaries and other films in 20th-century Great Britain. It has since become an impressive film archive, with its digital videos available on its website and on YouTube.
Users can browse a library of over 100,000 videos, including (among other historic newsreels) interviews with Titanic survivors. Similar channels include Universal Newsreels and a channel of restored archival footage simply called “guy jones.”
Host Matt Baker first created UsefulCharts as a line of helpful history wall charts. On YouTube, Baker takes viewers on a tour of his charts while simultaneously giving handy history lessons.
This channel is a treat for any history lover, and it makes complex historical families and lines of succession easy to understand. Popular UsefulCharts videos include “Line of Succession to the British Throne” and “Who would be King of America if George Washington had been made a monarch?”
For more fun, visual history lessons on YouTube, check out Crash Course (especially the channel’s US history playlist). Also be sure to check out the channels selected by Family Tree Magazine editor Andrew Koch below.
It’s not just for Gen-Z and “Generation Alpha”! Family history has come to TikTok, the latest viral social media app that combines the addictive scrolling of Twitter with the video-focused algorithm of YouTube. TikTok videos are often short—maybe even just a few seconds—but can be widely spread across other platforms, like Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. And the more you scroll and interact in the app, the better the “For You” algorithm will suggest videos. Some notable accounts for genealogists are:
- @GenealogyExplorer: Enthusiast Megan helps followers with thorny family history problems: damaged family photos, record updates and more.
- @ManicPixieMom: Caitlin Abrams cleans tombstones, then shares the stories of the people buried there. She was interviewed for the May/June 2022 issue of Family Tree Magazine and the June 2022 episode of the Family Tree Podcast.
- @MyGrandmasDiaries: A user reads their grandmother’s day-by-day journals from nearly a century ago. Accompanying voice-over and visual aids (such as contemporary photos, records and music) provide an entertaining (and often, moving) window into the past.
- @TheFormidableGenealogist: Professional researchers share how-to advice for genealogists of all experience levels.
- @TimeRewindRadio: Watch “this day in history” videos with slickly edited archival footage.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention our own social media channels, where we share our best genealogy advice as well as breaking news.
- Facebook (Family Tree Magazine)
- Instagram (@familytreemag)
- TikTok (@familytreemagazine)
- Twitter (@familytreemag)
- Pinterest (Family Tree Magazine)
- YouTube (Family Tree Magazine)
A version of this article appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Family Tree Magazine. Last Updated: June 2023
FamilyTreeMagazine.com is a participant in an affiliate program through Genealogical Publishing Co. It provides a means for this site to earn advertising fees, by advertising and linking to affiliated websites.