One of my favorite things about using Ancestry to host my primary tree is that it is discoverable to other researchers. I especially love that my photos and documents will soon become a little shaky leaf waiting for others to find, and hopefully enjoy. I just get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I think about how many people might have never seen a photo of a relative until I shared one on my tree! It doesn’t hurt that the things I share also make great “cousin bait.”
Ancestry creates a “gallery” for each ancestor in your tree where you can upload images of photos and documents. That is great when the thing you want to share is an image. But what about all the other kinds of media we are used to sharing online? Websites, blog posts, videos, audio, photo albums, and other multimedia presentations. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not make it easy to link media from outside sources. The primary option they provide is adding a web link to a profile on the Facts page. While this is useful for personal reference, in reality few people are going to visit a profile in search of these links. You’ve done a lot of work or found something really cool, don’t you want to make sure other Ancestry users will actually see it?
If we really want to share something that others will use, we need to hack into the hint generating system. Here’s a method I use to do just that told through 2 examples.
Example 1: NARA Civil War Pension File
As you may know, I visited NARA last year to scan some Civil War Pension Files for several of my ancestors. Through their Innovation Hub, these scans are now available online in the NARA catalog for anyone to use. I have the images of each page I scanned, but these files range from 30-150 pages. How can I let researchers know this is out there without uploading every single image to Ancestry?
I started by uploading the first identifying page of the file to the “Gallery” of each ancestor. I completed the metadata fields and also linked the image to their spouse. In the “details” I explained that there are additional images on an external website and pasted in the permanent link to the file in the NARA catalog. The link will not be clickable, but anyone who is interested can copy and paste it into their browser bar to visit the link.
Now Ancestry will go to work indexing the images and disseminating them to other members as a hint!
Example 2: YouTube Video
A couple of months ago I created a YouTube video about one of my ancestors and shared it on my blog. Short of sending every DNA cousin a message, I didn’t know how else to get the word out about this video. I decided to follow the same strategy I used to share the pension files. I took a screenshot of the video on YouTube, so people who looked at it would know what to expect. I linked the image to my ancestor and his wife. In the description I pasted the link to the YouTube video. Ancestry will tell all my cousins with trees to go watch the video, even if they don’t follow my blog or use YouTube in their genealogy!
(Edit: I have to return after writing this post to add that within a few days of sharing this video on Ancestry as an image I was contacted by three of this ancestor’s descendants, that’s the power of hints!)
What else could you share using this method?
- Screenshots of blog posts you write about ancestors
- Screenshots of Wikipedia pages or other websites about important ancestors
- The first image from a big gallery you have created on a photo site, like flickr
Remember, the goal here is not to recreate the external content on Ancestry. You wouldn’t want to take screenshots of the whole page or the whole blog post. The point is to alert Ancestry users that the content exists outside of the site and to direct them to visit the external content. When possible use a cropped view of the page as a teaser to encourage the user to paste the address into their browser bar.
Can you think of another way to use images to share external media on Ancestry? Share your ideas in the comments below!