Using Twitter for genealogy

Using Twitter for genealogyI love Twitter and have been on it since 2008. I primarily use it for marketing my organizing business and reading interesting things posted by the people I follow. But recently, I’ve been searching on the #genealogy hashtag and it’s been a revelation!

I find keeping up with genealogy blogs a bit overwhelming. (I tried using Feedly, but found I just wasn’t reading blogs with regularity.) What’s great about the #genealogy hashtag is that I see tweets about individual posts, resources, news bites or lectures in progress–all of them genealogy related–and I can click on the link and go directly to the post or resource. Tweets are only 140 characters long, so I can get a teeny bite-sized synopsis of the link. I can dip in when I’m looking for inspiration. It’s a really interesting way to go about finding current genealogy-related things to read about.

If you’re not on Twitter, you could join today (at no cost) and immediately start searching the #genealogy hashtag. You could also start tweeting and build relationships with people and grow your followers.  I hear from a lot of people that they just don’t “get” Twitter, which is fine. For the genealogist, using it as a gateway to genealogy information is reason enough to join Twitter, in my opinion. Follow a few a few genealogy luminaries and you’ll have a timeline full of interesting stuff. (But again, if you search on #genealogy you don’t even need to worry about following anyone or reading your timeline.)

Here’s a brief primer on joining Twitter and using it for genealogy:

  • Go to and create an account. You’ll need to choose a username, which will be your handle. It’s smart to keep it as short as possible, because of the 140-character limit in Twitter. (For example, I’m @janinea.)
  • Upload a picture of yourself into your profile (otherwise, Twitter will use an egg for your picture, which tells the world you’re a newbie)
  • Enter #genealogy in the Search Twitter box and see what’s going on at that moment in the world of genealogy
  • If you want, follow some genealogy folks. To get you started, here are some that I follow:
    • @geneabloggers (Thomas MacEntee)
    • @legalgen (Judy Russell)
    • @genealogyisfun (Jana Last)
    • @ancestry (
    • @amyjohnsoncrow (Amy Johnson Crow)
    • @megansmolenyak (Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak)
    • @familytreemagazine (Family Tree Magazine)
    • @vhughesauthor (Valerie Hughes)
    • @familysearch (Family Search)
    • @crestleaf (Crestleaf)
  • Feel free to create a Tweet, but don’t feel like you have to.
  • If you have your own genealogy blog, tweet your posts. If you don’t have your own blog, feel free to tweet links to great genealogy posts you read. (Most blogs have a Share on Twitter icon.)

If you’re already on Twitter, how do you use it for genealogy?

How orderly is your research desk?

cleandeskIf you can’t remember the last time you saw your desktop in your genealogy research space, perhaps it’s time to experience the joy of a clean desk. I know that time to do genealogy research is limited for most people and the last way  you want to spend your precious genealogy time is on cleaning up your desk. But it’s worth it. When you sit down at a clear desk, your mind is more clear and you can be more focused on your research.

But there’s good news: It doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. Here’s a step-by-step suggestion for creating some order on your desk, swiftly.

  1. Set your timer for 25 minutes.*
  2. Clear everything off your desk (and I mean everything except, perhaps, your computer). Put like things together into rough categories as you go. (For example, put papers together in a pile on the floor near your desk; put office supplies together, etc.) It might helpful to have some bankers’ boxes or plastic totes handy to hold the categories, but the floor will do too.
  3. Put away the items that already have homes. For example, put binders and books where they belong. If something belongs in another room, put it in a box or bin that you’ve marked “Relocate to another room” so you don’t wander away from the room you’re working on. At the end of the session, you can put all that stuff away.
  4. Go through the non-paper items and put back on the desk those things that deserve to take up such prime real estate. Only those things you use every research session should be placed within arms’ reach when you’re sitting at your desk (with the possible exception of items that give you great pleasure to look at). Relocate or discard the other non-paper items that were on the desk.
  5. Take all those papers and put them in a box of some sort. Mark that box “Backlog.” (I use a box similar to this one from IKEA for that purpose and I place that box on a shelf.)
  6. Every time you’re at your desk, set a timer for ten minutes and go through the papers in the backlog, discarding, scanning and/or filing as required. Do this ten minutes a day for as long as it takes to eliminate the backlog. (You might be surprised how few of these short sessions it takes.)
  7. Don’t add to the backlog box. Instead, at the end of each research session take the time (probably less than five minutes) to clear off your desk and put everything away. That way, you’ll start each session fresh.

* When your timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and take a five-minute break. Then set it for another 25 minutes and get back to work, unless you’re done.

8 reasons not to print

8 reasons not to print genealogy documentsWhen I started this blog in 2012, I printed everything. I did a lot of research online, but I would print out the documents I found online and read the printed version. Then I would  file them in my paper filing system after recording the information into my family tree software. Gradually, I’ve stopped that practice. I think the turning point was when I created an electronic filing system that I was confident in. Before that, I was afraid I wouldn’t find the document on my hard drive.

Now, the only paper that goes into file folders are documents that came to me in hard copy form. And even some of those are scanned and discarded.

In an effort to encourage others to consider giving up printing, I’ve come up with a list of eight advantages to going paperless:

  1. It’s less expensive. When you print, you’re using paper, toner (or ink) and electricity. And you’re creating wear and tear on your printer.
  2. It takes up less space. As your paper files (or binders) grow, they take up more space. (And certainly piles of unfiled paper take up a lot of space!)
  3. It’s easier to file. More effort goes into filing a piece of paper into a physical file folder or binder than into an electronic folder.
  4. Electronic documents are easier to find. If you misfile a paper file or leave it in a pile, it can take a lot of effort to find it.
  5. Electronic documents are searchable (usually). With a few keystrokes you can find all your electronic documents that share certain attributes (like a surname).
  6. Electronic files are easier to read. You can zoom, adjust contrast, brighten and do all sorts of things to electronic documents that make them easier to read. And that makes your research easier on your eyes. (I can’t remember the last time I used my lighted magnifier!)
  7. Electronic documents are easily backed up. I recommend using both an external hard drive and a cloud backup.
  8. Electronic files are easier to share. No photocopying or mailing necessary!

Do you have any reasons to add? I’m convinced, but I’d love to hear from anyone who would like to make a case for keeping paper copies of everything!

Photo of printer by Sir Adavis via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License. (Red X added using PicMonkey.)

SCGS webinars: The deal of the century

I live in Missouri. California barely makes an appearance in my genealogy. Yet I’m a happy member of the Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS). Why? Because of their amazing educational opportunities, available and pertinent to all.

SCGS offers twice-monthly webinars from big names in genealogy. For $35 a year, I became a member so that I could watch the webinars on demand. But here’s the great thing: You can watch the webinar for free, if you watch it being streamed live. However, you must register in advance. To do that, go to the webinars page, then click on the title of the webinar you’re interested in. That will take you to a registration page.

On Saturday, November 7, Cyndi Ingle (of Cyndi’s List fame) will be presenting Building a Digital Research Plan at 10 am Pacific time. Here’s a description of that webinar:

Using Internet databases and catalogs we will build a research plan to answer a specific research question. We will walk through the process of planning, researching for the plan, and keeping track of what has been researched.

I think that sounds tremendous (it’s right up my alley). If you invest $35 a year to be a member, you can view the webinar any time you want and you can also view archived webinars. You could have your own mini-genealogy conference in the comfort of your home.

Speaking of conferences, SCGS sponsors the Genealogy Jamboree in June in Burbank, California. I attended in 2015 and it was excellent. The webinar series is an extension of the Jamboree.

I am so grateful that the SCGS offers resources to folks all over the world. Membership truly feels like the deal of the century!