Sharing your family history

Our 4th twitter chat was on the topic of sharing your family history. Remember to visit our website to check out the whole chat or use the #ANZAncestryTime on twitter.

Again we had questions to guide our thoughts and comments. These chats are always fast paced and as well as comments to the questions there are replies to these comments so lots to take in over a one hour period.

ddimitrova / Pixabay

Question 1 – What audience are you targeting to share your family history? What methods are you using?

  • Pauleen: I share my #familyhistory to share the stories with others and maybe give clues for research, leave a breadcrumb trail for family and others. I share my #familyhistory to record my research process to reflect on in the future. It’s a working diary. I have written one #FamilyHistory and published it and have a couple of drafts on others. My blog is a great magnet for connecting with others.
  • Sharn: The intended audience for my public family history tree is anyone researching the same families. My blogs reach a wider public audience. I hope I am also leaving a record of the family history and stories for my children.  My audience is an important aspect of my family history blogs. Blogs have the potential to reach people with new information to fill in gaps in my knowledge. Because my blogs are public I cite my sources as accurately as possible. I am recording oral family history stories. I use Audacity to edit the recordings and I transcribe them into a private family blog. Some of this information might end up in my public blogs where appropriate. I have three public blogs intended for a general audience and one private which is just for family to read.
  • Carmel: Family, always family the target, have a blog and have used the blog stories in a small book. Also have an online tree which has elicited a couple of queries from distant relative. Have my tree on MyHeritage and gradually adding only direct ancestors to wikitree and FamilySearch – none of them were in either place.
  • Fran: The main audience I target is unknown cousins via Ancestry DNA and my tree at @Ancestry. I attach the ancestry sources to my tree so that it is useful to other researchers. I find my Ancestry tree is useful with the DNA connection. I am sure since I started adding lots of the @Ancestry sources I get more queries.
  • Jane: Family and DNA matches – Sharing facilitates collaboration.
  • Sue (me): I’m writing my family history mainly for me, but if I write a post about a close relatives ancestor then I will contact them to read the post. My blog is for telling stories and research. My trees on Ancestry, My Heritage etc are to make DNA connections with unknown cousins, also direct them to particular posts on the blog they might be interested in.
  • Hilary: I target anyone who might be a descendant of an ancestor or sibling of an ancestor which is why I am on free to access websites. I am finding I get most contacts using @WikiTreers but also #FamilySearchFamilyTree. I also have blogs for family stories and research methodology and discussion. I link to blogs I have written from WikiTree so anyone interested can follow the link.
  • Shane: I have a blog that’s not used much and some good Facebook pages. People I connect with are DNA connections – that are quite close and are keen genies.
  • Jennifer: The research on my blog is a work in progress and often prompts on the direction to take next. When I blog I’m mainly trying to connect with distant family members. I find the blog is a great way to reach out to them.
  • Seonaid: My audience for my family history is my family . . . We have a private Facebook group to share updates . . . new family members find us. I also have a public tree on Ancestry as cousin bait. My blog was another good way of sharing, but its “resting”.
  • Kylie:  I am targeting cousins through my blog and Facebook page.
  • Maggie: I try and target distant family members, to see what stories we can share. I should really blog more! My dad published a book last year on our family history (I helped with a little of the research), and it’s amazing how many people have been in touch after hearing about it or reading it. It’s also useful to go over what you’ve done – sometimes it’s not till I blog about my research that I see a gap, or trip over something I missed the first time.
  • Shauna: I use my blog to record answer stories but I am also doing draft family histories which I can PDF and put on my website as a permanent record.
  • Liz: I am currently targeting my mother and uncle as the audience for a biography of their mother which is being compiled in a written format, hopefully with photos. I anticipate a “second ed” for wider family audience when they give me feedback and info not included. My project will be about 20 pages in total and is aimed to be a Christmas present. Has been a lockdown project for me most weekends.
  • Melissa: I don’t have children, so I see my family history research as my contribution to our legacy! I mostly just share stories with interested family members, & use social media as cousin bait.
  • Dara: I share my #FamilyHistory on my blog, to share my research with known family, and to attract new cousins. I also appreciate the interaction with the #Genealogy#Blogging community. My blog is also a kind of research journal for myself.
  • Sandra: I share my family with family, close and distant. Trees on online and hope to collate everything in a book.
  • Dara: I changed my Ancestry tree to private when a pro-genealogist sold my research to a cousin. I use Ancestry for research, with some tentative relationships added,. I have a Direct Ancestor tree for DNA matches, so I don’t see all the CommonAncestor hints.
  • Brooke: I try to write a good enough story that my audience is anyone interested in historical non-fiction and family history (including my own family). I’m starting to put them on my website.
  • Margaret: I write for anyone who comes after me by adding to WikiTree & FamilySearch.
  • Liz: I have had family heirlooms passed down to me by my Mother and MIL including a ring which is another great way to tangibly share family stories.
  • Judy: On Ancestry I have a private tree (called Ask-Me-For-More-Info) linked to my DNA, & a direct-ancestors-only public tree. I also have a partial tree on MyHeritage & Findmypast & FamilyTreeDNA etc. I’ll soon put a corrected & greatly expanded tree online elsewhere.
jarmoluk / Pixabay

Question 2 – What collaborations, photos, meetups etc have come from sharing?

The Sorell historical society have a Facebook page which has lots of sharing of photos and stories from people around the world not just the Sorell municipality – Sue

I’m always amazed by the people who contact me via my #familyhistory blog or via knowing what my research interests are – Pauleen

I’ve met up with many distant cousins through sharing my family history. We have been able to share research info and photos – Jennifer

My father’s Newfoundland cousins found us on Facebook, and have added photos of family members for us, the local church and village. We shared photos of us & our English family. Two English cousins visited Newfoundland village & cousins – Seonaid

A man in the UK found a trunk of his father’s records mentioning my g uncle which supported the suspicion he was a spy in WW2. The man’s notes indicated sabotage of aircraft being repaired by my g uncle’s company – Sharn

I have met cousins through @WikiTreers and we have got together we enjoy collaborating – Hilary

It relies on some keen people from different families but working through the local family history society would be the starting point I think – Shane

I found a cousin (distanced) who had the family bible of my GGG grandmother from Ireland. When I visited I took photos and was allowed to hold it. Quite moving and definitely worth contacting collateral lines. Who knows what is out there? – Shauna

Just last week I was connected with a cousin through the Toowoomba society who know my #Kunkelfamily interest. She has filled a gap that I hadn’t been able to close in my tree! Yay for connections! – Pauleen

I’ve run a few family reunions back in the 80s and 90s, mostly done on paper for family members to add info on, then I put on database on my home computer. Last reunion I took computer with me to print out family descendant charts etc – Sue

I use to blog on Hunting Ancestors, I wrote about how Uncle George died at sea during WWII. A researcher found it, sent me a photo of the vessel my Uncle died on. The crew list was written on the back, in the crew’s own handwriting – Seonaid

A new DNA match had their own website so we could share what we both had me in England he in Australia – Hilary

I’ve met the family who inherited the land from my Co Clare ancestors, and cousin descendants of my 2xgreat grandmother’s siblings in Ireland and kin in Australia – Pauleen

A blog I wrote was found by a diver who had discovered the wreck of my g uncle’s super yacht Warrior in the English Channel. he sent me a small piece of the yacht and photos of the wreck. Sadly Alan died diving on the wreck – Sharn

Through my blog and my website I was contacted by someone who also matched me with DNA – she sent through photos of my GG grandmother’s sisters. They all looked alike. Wonderful connection – Shauna

I have had a bible and photographs of family from strangers from having information online – Hilary

Had a number of gatherings through sharing photos and information on a Facebook group. Unfortunately, that group was taken down by the person who started it – Sandra

A blog I wrote about my Irish g g grandmother reached family in Ireland I did not know who had seen her name in her grandfather’s will but not known who she was. We exchanged information and swapped photos and family documents story – Sharn

Found a distant cousin on a FB local group for the Welsh town where my 2xGGs lived… She had PHOTOS!! – Melissa

I’ve found when I’ve blogged about my DNA some of my Ancestry DNA connections have contacted me and we have ongoing collaboration – Jennifer

My six siblings shared photos I didn’t know existed once they started reading my blog – guess I hadn’t previously asked the right questions – Carmel

It is important to cite your sources as accurately in public blogs. The National Library of Australia archives family history blogs on their Pandora site. One of my convict blogs is in the NSW Education curriculum for primary students – Sharn

Meeting cousins but also #localhistorians can also make a big difference to your research discoveries – Pauleen

We have a semi-regular cousins meetup for one side of the family, and I’ve have had family bibles, photos and stories shared from connecting through my blog posts – Maggie

Too numerous to mention, but I’ve received lots of photos of great-grandaunts and uncles, In return, I provide research on their family lines. We’ve few surviving photos on my branch to share. I’ve met up with about half-dozen previously unknown cousins – Dara

Have also had photos from a cousin who had a whole album to share complete with details on a spreadsheet – Carmel

I share mostly with the UTAS Alumni group – and I just started the Strathclyde Masters course so should be some new contacts there (about 9 Aussies doing the course at some level) – Shane

I managed to make contact with “lost” cousins in Australia and New Zealand (and USA). Through them I’ve learned missing parts of the family story but they’ve also shared photos including one of my GGgrandfather. None survive in Ireland – Tara

It was fascinating to see how they’d preserved memory of “place”. New Zealand cousins, for example, named their dairy herd after the Irish townland they’d left more than 100 years earlier – Tara

notnixon / Pixabay

Question 3 – Sharing of sensitive information – guidelines, problems, feedback

  • Jennifer: I don’t blog about the living either stories or photos without their permission. If info is publicly available it’s probably ok to share but I still don’t share it if there are living close family connections.
  • Fran: I try not to share information online that I think might be upsetting to some person. However with DNA matches people do find out things they might not have known previously.
  • Sharn: I do not share sensitive information that concerns living people or their immediate descendants. If it happened back the 1800’s I might share it depending on its nature.
  • Seonaid: Sharing depends on who & what you are sharing. Some people believe the stories they believe and you can’t change their minds. We should check whether our families want to know everything – good or bad. Be sensitive around illegitimacies or other “scandals”.
  • Pauleen: For me this question has to be addressed within the context of a timeframe. And what is “sensitive”? If it’s in the public domain eg an “early” birth then it may be sensitive but doesn’t have to be hidden. Are close family members still alive? There are some things I wouldn’t share while close elderly family members are alive. I don’t think it’s up to us to bust open family secrets eg adoptions, scandals etc when the people most closely involved are alive. Record but not disclose.
  • Shauna: Never thought after 40 years of research that this would be a problem – a DNA test revealed that Dad’s biological father was not Granddad – I have talked about the impact on me and I have traced his biological family – I have made no attempt to contact them.
  • Maggie: I don’t blog about the living, unless it’s about genie conferences. I tend to err on the side of caution when sharing sensitive information.
  • Sue: My dad is my problem child with bigamous father, illegitimate mother, half cousins etc so always ask first if he wants anything published on the blog.
  • Melissa: I think the American NSG has some excellent guidelines re: sensitive info sharing.
  • Sharn: Know the PRIVACY LAWS where you live and how they relate to sharing sensitive information. Privacy law relates only to living people. I try to present sensitive information about the past in a thoughtful but accurate manner.
  • Hilary: I think it is important to record the truth if it is different to the record but not disclose it publicly.
  • Kylie: I’ve made mistakes in my zeal to find and share info so now I try to share a brief outline or hint to something and offer more info privately.
  • Liz: I do have a number of examples of sensitive info I have unearthed in my family history. I do not make it public online. I have shared it with other family researchers who I know are genuine, interested and respectful.
  • Shauna: DNA is a game changer and we should always make sure that people may be aware of potential surprises.
  • Melissa: I’m very conscious of the fact that there are things my mother & her generation might not want shared, due to differing values. It’s a dilemma, ‘coz I also think my own values are right.
  • Sandra: I don’t share sensitive information online. Maybe sometimes with family who I trust. So far I’ve only told my siblings who our dad’s father was.
  • Dara: I’m very careful to only blog about things that won’t cause upset. Genealogy is my hobby – for fun – I want it to be fun for everyone who comes across it. I never name the living. If anything is controversial, I only blog about it if their grandkids are dead.
  • Pauleen: Treating our ancestors with the same respect and non-salacious attitude as we’d hope for is important. Privacy legislation is critical.
  • Sharn: We cannot rewrite history and we all have skeletons in our family closets but I believe family historians have an obligation to tell the stories about the PAST truthfully. Discretion and privacy is needed if living people are affected.
  • Fiona: Not online. If writing a family history share a draft with descendants before publication so they can give feedback on their part of the book first.
  • Pauleen: To comply with privacy legislation I got every living family member to sign off on their entry in the book. No signature, no entry..they got three notices. Some weren’t happy but c’est la vie.
  • Brooke: When I figured out who my “new” 75yo aunt’s father was, I drafted a very sensitive letter to his daughter. Then I got impatient & simply cold-called her in UK. Thank goodness she didn’t hang up. She’d known for over 50 years she had a sister. I reunited them.
  • Sue: Knowing about copyright with your blog and other online social media -a great post by a current teacher but applies to us all
DarkmoonArt_de / Pixabay

Question 4 – Brainstorm some of the ways we could share our family history

I am on an excellent FB page but its focused on a locality (Tarana NSW) which allows lots of families to contribute rather than page for each family – Shane

I have also compiled small heritage scrapbooks with photos (not originals), journaling and decoration which are great for sharing with all ages and a fun manageable way to share family stories – Liz

Digitally scrapbooked books to share with family – Fiona

Other ways to share family history is giving talks to community groups. I have spoken about my research on a plane crash on my grandparents property in WW2 – Liz

Sharing more trees in different places online. Social media – like Pinterest, Facebook Groups for families. Tools to make sharing more eye catching Animoto & Canva for making images – Fran

Has anyone produced a family history newsletter or organised a family reunion? These are ways to share family history. I also write an annual Christmas Letter and sometimes reveal interesting stories uncovered that year – Liz

Blogs, online trees, giving talks to local societies or at conferences – I am always amazed when someone comes up and says you mentioned my person or place – talk about your ancestors whenever you can – Shauna

Christmas present booklets, crafts, scrapbooking, make video or audio recordings of family stories – Kylie

Simple family group sheets are a simple way to share family history research or gedcoms for serious researchers you want to collaborate with – Liz

One day I would like to write a book. But for now, I barely have time to do my own research. I don’t have enough time to blog. I guess its the old saying about the mechanic and their car, or the builder and their own house – Seonaid

I’ve done a variety of things: little photo books of ancestors for the grandkids and bigger one they take when the topic comes up at school – Pauleen

Scrapbooks can be collaborative, get kids to contribute jokes, art work etc b/c it can be about the new babies and current family members as well as our ancestors – Liz

Write Family History Blogs, publish Family Histories, Print Family trees for family members, share family history in a family Facebook group, create a family Website – Sharn

I gave my mother a pedigree tree for her birthday, and have since had requests from other family members for their own copy! Looks lovely framed, and pretty easy to do – Melissa

I enjoy preparing presentations for talks – sometimes gives me the opportunity to research my own family to use as case studies. Justifies using work time, I’m often too tired when I get home from work, too busy at weekends. Looking forward to retirement 🙂 – Seonaid

My friend Crissouli writes poetry about her recent family’s history -very evocative. Others I’ve seen write up an ancestor’s diary (oh we can wish!) – Pauleen

I printed out our family tree for my son. Then joined it all together and pinned it on the curtain. It has become a real talking point when family come to visit – Sandra

Presentations, blogs, displays, gifts for family of personalised family trees – Fiona

Someone shared an old autograph book on YouTube by showing the pages as different people read out the messages, poems, etc. A beautiful way to share the words of our ancestors – Brooke

Create Family History ‘Tours’ using Google Earth. Plot locations and add stories, photos and documents to share a visual story with family – Sharn

Do not overlook the importance of digitising photos and records as these can be easily shared with others – Liz

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year with the goal of writing up my notes on my first settler ancestors in NZ. 70,000 words is doable… I hope – Melissa

I’ve found one advantage of being self isolated due to covid is pretending to be retired and having time for research and writing – Jennifer

Always try to include and interesting graphic or photo in blog posts, use Canva, Photofunia and Photomapo apps – Carmel

Always enjoy preparing presentations where one can include family findings as examples, never know who may be in the audience – Carmel

Create a family history recipe book with family recipes, (or ones from the relevant time frame) anecdotes and photos relating to ancestors to share with family members – Sharn

Found one sad life from scanning the old photo album. One photo confirmed my great aunt’s marriage. That ended up badly and she died in an asylum. All found in Trove – Margaret

I like to put the relationship between myself & the main subject of my blog post at the end of the post – Brooke

Sharing stories using Adobe Spark to add photos and narration – Hilary

I have found that hooking my computer up to a big TV is successful. Nothing prepared so we jump all over the place as people ask about their ancestors. They always ask if I will do it next time I visit – Fran

I put together #PlanToPublish this year to encourage sharing of family history and to get it out of computers and shared with our families – Fiona

When my grandkids visit I show them the heritage items they are going to inherit and explain their significance. I just hope it sinks in. I really need to do a heritage items photo book with notes – Pauleen

Another possibility is to use the A to Z blogging theme each year to put them together – a family story booklet or a recipe booklet – Pauleen

Have shared folders in Google Drive for different branches of family where I put all the documents and photos – they don’t have delete access! – Carmel

Your descendants need to know your story as well record it whilst you can – Hilary

I think video is way to go. Not sure if anyone saw that MOOC “WW1: A History in 100 Stories” it told a lot of stories with just few slides – very simple and direct – Shane

Post stories in your personal Facebook account, interview rellies at short notice and record on the phone, collect family recipes, advertise your research interests, post photos to @Flickr or a slide show to @YouTube – Liz

When people were still excited about Zoom meetings (!) I put a powerpoint about #My8Great grandparents together for my siblings. Captive audience in lockdown – Brooke

I share my research on two global trees. I email cousins and send them records. I’ve helped 3 people find birth fathers. I’m breaking down brick walls by DNA matching – Margaret

I talked to my aunts/uncles as 2 grands were gone and the other 2 too far away. Now Mum and Dad’s generation are all gone, and my younger cousins are slowly finding me to tell them their stories. Compiling from my blog to make a PDF book to share – Sir Leprechaun Rabbit (SLR)

If doing things with your grandkids here are some apps to use – Photography, video making, other video making options- Sue (once a teacher, always a teacher)


Blogs of #ANZAncestryTime members

Sharn – FamilyHistory4U

Pauleen – Family History across the seas

Brooke – Brooke Wooldridge

Sophie – The Parchment Rustler

Shane – 1808-1884 – From New England to the Riverina

Did you take part in last weeks Gravetales geneameme organized by Carmel? Here are some posts published by Carmel, Pauleen and Fran.

Tools to help share the family history

Carmel has written a post about some of the tools below.

Audacity for recording stories, can be used on most platforms, has a manual to help with problems

Clanview website – publish your family history online to be viewed online in 3D

Animoto – great for video making, the Learn area has tutorials, blogs, help section

Canva – great for poster type info eg annotated maps, includes tutorials and help

Photofunia – edit and add features to your photos

Photomapo – using your photos and maps

PicCollage – add lots of photos in the one collage, great when travelling

Adobe Sparkcreate graphics, webpages and videos easily

Readers: How do you share your family history? Public or private, only family or open to the world?

One thought on “Sharing your family history

  1. Sue, Another fantastic summary for #ANZAncestryTime. So much easier to read through your blog for sharing ideas than to scan through Twitter. Also thanks for sharing my post on the Cemetery Geneameme started by Carmel.
    See you on Twitter on Tuesday.

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