As the popularity of Pinterest continues to grow, more and more genealogists and family historians are flocking to the platform to share their research finds. And as more features are added to Pinterest, such as the ability to pin items to a location on a map, pinners are finding creative ways to pin such as building an ancestor timeline. The example I’ll be using for this blog post is my board Ancestor: John Ralph Austin at Pinterest.
Some Logistical Considerations Before Pinning
Here are some issues to keep in mind as you build your ancestor timeline.
- One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when pinning items in a timeline, is to understand that you cannot change the order of pins in Pinterest. You simply can’t move them around like you can move your Boards. [Note to Pinterest: this would be a great feature to add to Pinterest!]
- This means you pin the newer items first and the oldest items last. Example: death information (image of a gravestone, scan of an obituary) are pinned first, then you work backwards to birth information (birth certificates, baby photos, etc.)
- Also remember your limits in Pinterest: Board titles are limited to 100 characters and only the first 26 appear on your list of boards; Board descriptions are limited to 500 characters; and the minimum image size to be pinned is 100 x 200 pixels.
Start Your Ancestor Timeline as a Secret Board
I always create new boards as “secret boards” and then when I have several pins, usually four or five, I make the board “public.” Remember that once a board is made public, it cannot be changed back to a secret board. Working with a secret board lets me practice pinning items to locations (see below) and developing a protocol for pin descriptions etc.
Plan Your Ancestor Pins – FREE TEMPLATE
So basically, you need to “story board” your ancestor’s timeline, or life story, as if you were making a moving. Actually story boarding is used more and more in storytelling so it is a good skill to learn, and an easy one at that. Story boarding involves sorting out the elements of a story and then arranging them in the desired order. Some writers use index cards pasted on a wall, others use more modern storyboarding software, while others use a table in Microsoft Word.
I’ve created a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel which allows you to gather all the information for each pin and then arrange the order as needed to help you create your board on Pinterest. Click here to download the PDF version of this article, Creating an Ancestor Timeline on Pinterest. Inside the PDF, you’ll find access to the Excel template!
Get the Hang of Pinning to a Location
Recently, Pinterest added a map feature which allows pinners to pin items to specific locations. First, enable the map feature either when creating the board or go back an edit a board which already exists. When finished, you’ll see the map in the background as your board’s wallpaper. Next, there are two ways to add a location: create a pin in the normal fashion and then go back and click Add a Place OR click Add a Place on the map and then specify a location. Personally, I prefer the first method which allows me more options. There are some issues involving the map feature which take some getting used to:
- Locations are based on those already created at Foursquare, a social media site where you “check in” at locations such as coffee shops, restaurants etc. If the exact street address does not exist, you will need to join Foursquare and create that location.
- You can pin to towns and cities in the United States and Canada. Tip: you may see different results if you spell out the state or province rather than use the postal code (i.e., New York instead of NY).
- If you pin to an incorrect location, simply edit the pin and click Remove Place, save the pin and then click Add a Place again.
Start Pinning Your Ancestor Information
Work with your storyboard information, and begin with the last pin. Add more and more pins until you are happy with the content of the board. Remember that you can’t move pins around so you may need to delete pins to go back and add pins in a specific place. Once you are done, you may want to copy the URL for each pin into your storyboard as a means of keeping track of your pins. * * *
Your Completed Ancestor Timeline
You’ve done it! Now that your ancestor timeline is done, you can do several things with the board:
- Use the Send This Board feature (the paper airplane icon) to email a link to friends and family.
- If you have a Business account on Pinterest, consider adding a Pinterest widget to your blog or website to show off your ancestor timeline. (Note: there is no charge for a Business account, and you can convert a Personal account to a Business account here).
©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.