Top 12 Tips For Using Pinterest For Family History

Top 12 Tips For Using Pinterest For Family History

What is Pinterest and how can you use it for Family History? According to their website’s description, “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” 

Pinterest allows you to organize, plan, dream and collect your interests. You can browse pinboards created by other people who share your interests.

 Browsing boards is a wonderful way to get inspired, learn and organize your collections.  Once you capture a vision of how to use the site for Family History, you will be hooked and can be addictive…you have been warned.

I have noticed a few fellow geneabloggers check out Pinterest, they create a few boards…then they drop off. I don’t think they have realized Pinterests potential.

I admit, it takes a while to know how to not just waste time scrolling through pins. With a few of these insiders secrets to Pinterest, you will get you started off right and will be a Pinterest pro in no time.                                

Pinterest is technically a social site, though I do not use it as a social tool. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, there is no pressure to respond if someone repins a pin or “likes” a pin. You are free to be as social or unsocial as you choose!

I use Pinterest like a visual Bookmarking system. I remember pictures better than words. Each “pin” or image is linked to the site in which it was pinned from. Pinterest allows me to find, categorize and label my pins and the links that are connect to them for quick retrieval and use.

I have been using Pinterest since the beginning and the good news is you no longer need an invite, as anyone can now register. Follow me on Pinterest to see how I do my boards page and to understand the tips that are listed below.

Become a Pinterest Pinja. Pinja {noun} A person who swiftly pins with accuracy, agility and skill. As in,“Did you see how fast she repinned that Evernote tutorial for genealogist? She is a total pinja. I don’t spend a long time on Pinterest. I get in and get out so that I can get back to doing family history research. By following these 12 Tips, you too can become a pinja:

1. Create Very Specific Boards. Creating a too general of a pinboard, like “Genealogy” will quickly fill up and become unmanageable to search and locate specific pins. I now have boards titled: Genealogy Humor, Genealogy Toolkit, Genealogy Education, Genealogy Libraries and Archives and Genealogy Certification (one for CG and AG, as I am working towards both). I still have one labelled Genealogy, which is the one that I started out with and am slowly editing and moving the pins to new boards. I also have boards for Heritage Recipes, Heritage Crafts, Heritage Decor, Family Reunions, Family Curator, Civil War, War of 1812, Revolutionary War, and boards specific to locations from where my ancestors came from.

2. Write a Good Pin Description. While the pin is embedded with the link to the website URL that it came from, writing a good source citation, or a description that will help you when it comes time to using the pin will always be beneficial.

3. Chose a Great Board Cover. Each board can and should be edited. Write a title to help you and others know what the board is about, please edit the board cover pin photo so that you have a good representation pin of what is on the board. I don’t like ugly pin board covers; you want to create your board page to look like a magazine layout and visually appealing as possible. You must click “Save” after editing the board, or whatever was last pinned to the board will be the current picture showing.

4.Follow the Leader. I think the biggest reason people get turned off by Pinterest, is that their general board, (the board that shows the latest, current pins and is continually scrolling with new pins) is that they are not following those who share their same interests – so they end up with a screen full of cakes, puppies and high heel shoes, which is fine if that’s what you are into. DO NOT “FOLLOW ALL of anyone, unless you have actually looked at all their boards and you swear you are twins separated at birth! Instead, click to follow only the specific boards that you like. I wish I had learned this from the beginning! I am still trying to correct this, but when you follow over 900 boards, it takes some time to undo. So learn from my mistake and choose carefully what boards you follow, because that will be what you see after you login.

5.Search Strategically. After logging in, I quickly cruise through the daily offerings. I only pin what truly speaks to me. Be a pin connoisseur, not an electronic hoarder –  carefully choose only the best of pins. After I have checked the latest pins, I will type a specific topic to search in the search bar, like: “Genealogy”. What comes up first are all the “Pins” labeled with Genealogy – usually not very helpful. So click on  “Boards” and this will bring you a list of boards on Pinterest that are labeled “Genealogy”. This is fine fishing. I will then search through various boards to look for new pins to repin to add to one of my boards. You can easily get lost in all the good things you find, so give yourself some time boundaries. 

6.Check Out Other Pinners. Let’s say you find a fellow pinner whose pins are spot on and are all right up your alley, if you look to the top of their page it will show you who they got some of their pins from. Chances are you will like their pages too. Like birds of a feather, Pinners and Pinjas should flock or pin together. This is a great time saving tip. Half the battle is finding others who share your interest and can make your search a quick and efficient use of time.

7.Use Your Pins. Once you got your boards and pins…what do you do with them? Well, I use the pins links to: read the article, watch the tutorial, create a craft, learn a new skill or figure out what I am making for dinner. When I am ready for it, I know right where to look, click the image and instantly, I am at the website with the information right on my screen. 

8.Use Your Imagination. Pinterest is only limited by your imagination. I have many varied interests outside of Family History, shocking I know! Create boards that will help you, inspire you and motivate you. I have not found the limit to how many boards I can create, nor topics I can search. Think outside the box and explore.

9.Share Your Interests. You can invite other pinners to a group board, where everyone can see, add and edit pins on each of their own pages. I have a board that I share with my daughters, one for my son, whose is not on Pinterest, but likes the things I email or text him from there that I know he will be interested in, a board with my sisters and few gigantic boards that major pinners are invited to contribute to. 

10. Edit, Edit, Edit. Pinterest allows you to rearrange the location of the boards on your page, you could do it alphabetically, by topic or by usage. If you miss-pin a pin, you can edit and send it to the correct board, you can delete a pin when you experience Pinja vu, when you have the feeling that you pinned that pin before and then find out that you did! Keep your boards looking good by occasionally editing and you will enjoy and find them much quicker.

11. Don’t Annoy Your Facebook and Twitter Followers. Pinterest allows you to send your pins to FB and Twitter, but if you want people to not “hide” your posts or delete you, I suggest you save this option for pins that are truly exceptional and pin-worthy. No one wants their walls littered with all your finds. Be kind an pin responsibly.

12. Create Your Own Pin. My sister gets 3-400 new hits daily on her DIY decor blog, from 1 picture from her blog of a tutorial she did that went viral on Pinterest. This is why people don’t mind when people share their stuff on Pinterest. Pinterest will push people to your blog and website like nothing else. You can upload pictures from your computer or get the “Pin It” extension for your browser from the Pinterest site.

There is a Pinterest app. I love the app on my iphone. It is easy to use and is a great way to pass time waiting for someone. I have the app on my Android tablet and is not as functional Hopefully that will get updated and be improved.

I will be presenting at RootsTech 2013 and teaching the course “Interest in Pinterest, Pinning Your Family History” twice. In the presentation, I will go into greater detail of how to maximize and use Pinterest for Family History so, if you are planning on attending RootsTech, come say hi. 

Soon, Pinterest will quickly become a favorite tool for Family History, especially when you begin to use it for more than getting dinner ideas. Happy Pinning!

© copyright Valerie Elkins 2012


  1. Oh Valerie, you Lil Pinja you!! 🙂 Great tips.

  2. LOVE THIS. Finally, someone wrote about Pinterest in a language I can understand! Thank you. I’ve been using it, but not effectively or with purpose. Now, I have direction. Certainly wish I was going to RootsTech to see your presentation… maybe they’ll live feed it for me… *hope* ~ Jen

  3. Thanks Jenna and Jen. Now you both can be pinjas too!

  4. Fantastic post! Now to become a more effective pinja! If I go AWOL, tell my husband to check Pinterest, maybe I’ll have a dream dinner planned to go with my newly edited and gleaming boards. Thank you 🙂

  5. Jodi, I am sorry for the push, sorry – there is no hope for you now! Lol Good luck in keeping it in check. Pinja skills take time, be patient with yourself.
    *snort* like I should talk! Thanks for the nice comment.

  6. I am also a Pinja and use my boards constantly. I love being able to find exactly what I want when I want it. I have a genealogy board and one for the family history book that I am writing. I used to hoard the pins but have gotten over the euphoria of the all-might pin and now am very picky about who I follow and what I repin. I, of course, will pin this so when I want to share how to use Pinterest with friends, I can send them the link. Thanks!

  7. Thanks so much for the help! You’ve shortened my Pinterest learning curve. Probably best if I don’t start until after I get home from work! 🙂

  8. Fabulous post. Now to rearrange my pinterest boards.

  9. I would like permission to copy ‘as is’ and publish this post in our local genealogy society’s newsletter. I would, of course, credit you and your blog fully. Is that something you would allow?

    • Please let me know which society newsletter. Thank you for asking for permission.


    • Valerie, our newsletter is “Legacies & Legends of Winn Parish, Louisiana” … we’re a small society with a small circulation. I’m not quite sure if you were granting permission or asking for more information so please clarify for me. I have a phobia about copyright infringement! 🙂 Thanks, Peggy

  10. Wow, thank you so much! I’ve finally taken the plunge (& I’ve pinned a number of things from your boards!) and I appreciate your help so very much!!

  11. This is a wonderful post! I found it (and you!) from a pin to this article –almost 2 years later. You’ve encouraged me to go back and clear my pins up and follow you. Thanks!!

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