Wednesday, January 22, 2014

7 Tips for Mapping Out your Ancestors on Pinterest

Pinterest, a place where you can find your favorite casserole recipe or collect quotes from famous jugglers.  My Pinterest use is sporadic at best but I always come back to it.  Some of my favorite personal boards, quotes from famous authors, bookshelf project ideas and even some chess strategy.  The main topic of this post and my current Pinterest obsession is my board,  "Where I've found my Ancestors" .

A visual of my board on the Pinterest App for iPhone
Here are some tips if you are interested in doing this for your collection of ancestors (All screen captures are from the Pinterest app, iPhone version)

  1. USE COMPUTER/TABLET AND SMARTPHONE      Ease of use is the idea here.  The map interface that Pinterest uses is powered by Foursquare (though I believe it is using Google maps in some fashion).  It is not as elaborate as Google Earth, as the only locations that appear through search are those added by users.  The board can be built using your smartphone but I recommend using a computer or tablet for tip #2 
  2. ADD NEW MARKERS IN FOURSQUARE     To do this board correctly you will need to add new locations yourself by using Foursquare's Add Venue feature that can most easily be accessed on your desktop/laptop (Link to Foursquare page here ).  My personal board still has some corrections to make as I used a shortcut the first time, using random businesses/landmarks already in Foursqaure's database as map markers.  Extra tip, new markers won't need to be made as often when working with locations in the United States.  Most places have a general "City name here" location marker.
  3. REMEMBER THE CITY/STATE WHEN PLACING A GENERAL LOCATION (Germany vs Berlin, Germany)    As an example I wanted to place the surname Hartung in Germany but I don't have a specific location yet from my research. I scrolled down on the map to bring the map to street level in a random spot of Germany.  Giesen, Germany was the winner this time by random chance.  Don't worry about knowing exactly where you put your marker, city-wise, until you save the new marker.  Foursquare will then bring up a new page giving your new marker a "profile" page.  There will be a mini-map on the right hand side with all the location information you will need.  Extra tip, don't worry about how you categorize your new marker, that is a feature purely related to Foursquare.  It has no affect on your Pinterest board. (#3 comes back in #5)
  4. TURN ON MAP FUNCTION    When creating your Pinterest board, turn on Show Map function.  It allows the board to function as a map once in use.
Locations of some Ohio ancestors.  You can zoom in or out as much as you'd like
      5.  SEARCH IS FILTERED BY CITY     When you are ready to add pins to your board, choose the Places option.  The most important option here is the location, Where is it?, search box.  If this box doesn't fit your information from tip #3 you will have no luck finding your new marker.  Examples
The first screen capture is correct.  The first two results of the search are markers I created.  The second screen capture is incorrect.  I changed the location box to just Germany, and it did not yield my newly created markers.  If you leave the box alone before searching it will search your current location. 
6. COLLECT PICTURES FOR THE PINS     Pinterest is built on being visual.  It will not let  you  pin anything until it has a picture to go with it.  Get as creative as you wish.  Add specific pictures of family members that lived in that location, flags or surname crests.  I went with something more generic as you can see in the pictures above.  The pictures not from my personal collection came from Flickr Commons.  Flickr Commons is in essence, public access to the world's public National Library of Scotland and over 70 more institutions.  Other than the fact that this is a great site for anyone in genealogy, you can use it add interesting photos to the locations you create.  Extra tip, share your board!  You can find my work in progress HERE

If you enjoyed or thought this was helpful, please share and follow below.  Thanks!

If you are interested in seeing an ebook on this subject and the other ways Pinterest can help you with your family history, you can contact me at with interest or things you would like to see!


  1. Cody,

    I want you to know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Thanks so much, have a great weekend too!

  3. Great post and great ideas. We provided this as a reference for our users on our blog post today on the pros and cons of using Pinterest for Genealogy research. Thanks for the great ideas!