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Sharing Your Family History Online (Paperback)

A Guide for Family Historians

Family History P&S History

By Chris Paton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing Your Ancestors
Pages: 144
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526780294
Published: 9th February 2021
Last Released: 15th July 2021


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For many enthusiasts pursuing their family history research, the online world offers a seemingly endless archive of digitised materials to help us answer the questions posed by our ancestors. In addition to hosting records, however, the internet also offers a unique platform on which we can host our research and lure in prospective cousins from around the world, to help build up a larger shared ancestral story.

In Sharing Your Family History on the Internet, genealogist and best-selling author Chris Paton will explore the many ways in which we can present our research and encourage collaboration online. He will detail the many organisations and social media applications that can permit co-operation, describe the software platforms on which we can collate our stories, and illustrate the many ways in which we can publish our stories online.

Along the way, Chris Paton will also explore how we can make our research work further for us, by drawing in experts and distant cousins from around the world to help us break our ancestral brick walls, not just through sharing stories, but by accessing uniquely held documentation by family members around the world, including our very own shared DNA.

"This is a very useful book, filled with encouragement and suggestions for ways of organising your research and taking it out of the filing cabinet."

Family History Society of Cheshire - CHESHIRE ANCESTOR, September 2023

This very comprehensive book was ideal for me, as I once again engaged in my search for ancestors. It is set out in easy to follow chapters starting with things like the usual archives, and the companies to specialise in these areas like Ancestry etc.

North of Ireland Family History Society

Whether you are new to family history research online or have years of experience, this book is bound to be of interest to you. It is straightforward, easy to read and informative. There is a very interesting introduction followed by chapters about researching your family history, which are split into clear sections. Chris Paton gives us numerous links to websites (some of which are free), including records, Family History Societies and communicating with other researchers. He provides us with information about software packages, online programmes and learning resources to assist with recording our family history, preserving information and sharing it. He tells us how to find information in old newspapers, using, for example, The British Newspaper Archive (p5) and using Social Media, (p24).

The book includes 36 photographs and images, many of them the ‘Home pages’ for various websites.

I found this book to be very useful for my own research, including much information new to me even after researching for over thirteen years. Chris Paton holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Genealogical studies and works as a professional genealogist. He has written many books on family History, some of which I have read and some I am yet to read. I would certainly recommend all 125 pages of ‘Sharing Your Family History Online - A Guide for Family Historians’, available from Pen & Sword at £12.99 and well worth every penny.

Reviewer: Shirley Sura

Barnsley Family History Journal

As I’ve just started the process of tracing my family history, I found this to be a very informative book with a number of practical suggestions on how to research my family history, including websites that can assist in the process. A practical guide that I intend to use to the full during my research.

NetGalley, Rolf Bachelor

There are useful chapters on basic research; recording your family history; communication and social media; collaboration and crowdsourcing and much more.

Clwyd FHS

As featured in WDYTYA?

WDYTYA? Magazine

Once again Chris Paton gives us excellent advice simply and clearly laid out.

Glasgow and West of Scotland FHS

Don’t be put off by the title as this is a guide which includes many ideas for research sources and lets us see the huge variety out there. The initial chapter reminds us of the necessity for good record keeping plus gives very useful information about privacy, data protection and copyright. The author also poses the question as to what we do with our digital research – something most of us will have especially now DNA testing has become more common.

The chapter on Recording your Family History gives useful overviews of the main online sites providing family trees, and shares tips on how to make these work for you, whilst another gives information regarding online collaborations or groups which could also be used as resources. Other chapters discuss social media, software packages and DNA testing. This is an excellent guide to what is currently available to family historians online and would provide ideas for both the beginner or more advanced family historian.

Nottinghamshire Family History Society

Featured in

The Essex Family Historian - Journal of The Essex Society for Family History - August 2021

This is a book to dip into as and when one wishes, in order to use or investigate certain aspects of Family History – to keep handy in your Family History Library. That is, this is a “must have” reference book for the Family Historian especially the ones who research online – i.e. the vast majority these days.

A small book, but one packed with useful information and best taken slowly in bite size so as to absorb it better. It gives clear and easy to follow advice on the various genealogical websites and how to navigate them. It deals with privacy issues and data protection, how GDPR affects us and also Digital Estate. The latter is something, I guess, that not many of us would think about.

It begins with an introduction on the basics of FH research and the key websites and their navigation. The other chapters deal with social media, collaboration and crowd-sourcing, followed by methods of recording your FH. Then a comprehensive but easy to follow chapter on DNA and the various tests. Cautionary tales about online trees must resonate with all of us and here Chris Paton gives reassurance and understanding. His enthusiasm about sharing FH online is infectious but, he also warns of potential problems and how to deal with them. He is quite candid about the benefits and pitfalls of sharing your work online. Mistakes in online family trees are also dealt with. He focusses on sharing family history in order to get more information and deal with those “pesky” brick walls that we are all face.

The concluding chapter on sharing and preserving is most welcome. The point is made that in Family History, the story never ends, it is revised regularly as new facts come to light. But it goes on to emphasise that when writing up we should inject a bit of information about the characters of the people and the places and communities in which they lived. (Ed.)

Delyth Wilson - Cardiganshire/Ceredigion FHS journal, June 2021

Featured in

The Oxfordshire Family Historian, April 2021 - Oxfordshire Family History Society

A complete and comprehensive course of DIY instruction for aspiring and practicing genealogists, "Sharing Your Family History Online: A Guide for Family Historians" is an extraordinarily 'user friendly' instruction guide and manual that is fully accessible to even the most novice of family historians. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Sharing Your Family History Online: A Guide for Family Historians" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college and university library Genealogy instructional reference collections.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

For some researchers, the online world can seem to offer endless possibilities of finding answers to their problems. Apart from actually discovering facts and details, the author explains how the internet offers a platform to host our own research findings and thereby to tempt possible relatives from afar to get in touch to explore and share ancestral stories.

The author outlines basic steps to undertaking research and the ways in which the facts can be recorded, covering how to write, present and share stories and the packages and online programs which can be used. He details the various organisations, social media applications and software platforms that are available and illustrates many of the ways to publish stories and hold meetings with people online.

In addition to a chapter on the subject of DNA, there are also very valuable sections about privacy, data protection, copyright and the digital estate which people are now creating.

Bristol and Avon Family History Society

Whilst this book could be a useful guide for beginners, the breadth of coverage means that even experienced researchers will learn from it – let's face it, we all have our favourite sites, and this can often blind us to other opportunities.

Read the full review here

Lost Cousins

The content comes logically presented and packed with helpful advice, particularly for those with little or no experience of the vast range of online options available. As such, it comes highly recommended.

Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group

We’re all pretty confident now accessing census records and BMD’s online. What this excellent book reveals are the dozens and dozens of other ways we can discover new ancestors and even make new friends. Everything from online methods of collaboration and crowdsourcing to social media, DNA research and even putting a video of your family stories up online.

Alnwick FHS

This book will guide you through the processes.
A very useful book.

Powys Family History Society

I can heartily recommend the book as a reference—it's full of substance. That means it's best taken slowly, pausing to explore the online resources as they arise and meet your needs. I can imagine each chapter forming the basis for a small group discussion.

Read the full review here

Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As someone who has been looking into my family history for over 10:years I have appreciated any help I can get for my research. Pen and Sword publications have never failed me , and Chris Paton is someone whose advice has been invaluable..There is something in this publication to help both the beginner and more advanced in Family History..A really informative and helpful book which I cannot recommend highly enough.

NetGalley, Alison Bevington

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a fantastic, thorough, and informative reference book for anyone researching their family history. I have been researching mine for many years and I have still found it to be a very useful guide. It is packed with useful websites for researching and recording your family information, as well as a clear explanation of DNA testing and what choices you have when selecting a test. The book is very readable and I would recommend it to beginners and experienced genealogists alike.

NetGalley, Jill G

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this to be a very informative book with many suggestions on how to research your family history. There are many websites that the author mentions as well as other ways to learn about your relatives.

NetGalley, Amy Higgins

Chris is clearly very enthusiastic about the possibilities for sharing family history online, he never shies away from flagging up considerations that are well worth remembering. Written with a stylish, authoritative tone, packed with information and insights born of experience, it also has a light – even humorous – touch that makes for a very readable read!

Family Tree, February 2021

Author article: Sharing your family history online as featured by

Family Tree, February 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sharing Your Family History Online: A Guide for Family Historians by Chris Paton is an extensive resource for someone conducting genealogy research on their family and looking to share their family history with others.

As someone who started doing research into my family history during my time at home this past year, I found this book to be filled with useful information! The author provides information where to research your ancestry, as well as contacting relatives (known and possible discoveries). There is a whole chapter dedicated to collaboration and crowdsourcing, as well as one for recording your family history using software, websites, and online family tree sites. I found the chapter on DNA to be very interesting since it provided detailed information for multiple online testing sites. Finally, it closes with a chapter on sharing and preserving family stories.

I really appreciate the information provided in this book and will be buying a copy for my mother as her retirement gift, since she has been wanted to take a deep dive into her family history.

NetGalley, Nikki Raymond

Paton not only gives some sound advice, he also provides detailed explanations on various genealogy websites and how to navigate through them. Believe me, it can get complicated. He also has some good pointers about documenting your family history. He certainly knows his stuff. He also talks about the many cousins he's met through his research and how as a team they have worked together. I, too, have found a cousin who lives clear across the country. We have pooled our resources and helped each other by sharing family photos and some pretty significant research surprises. I will definitely keep this book as a companion guide and reference it while I research and write my family's story. Nicely done, Chris Paton!

NetGalley, Debra Pawlak

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Chris Paton has written many books about how to research your family history. His previous books have mostly concentrated on how to build your family tree, how to get more information. In Sharing Your Family History Online, he shifts the focus to taking your discoveries and sharing them with others.

Of course you can put everything you want onto the internet and let the world sort through it. But Paton shows you the benefits of considering who you want your audience to be, what you want to tell them, and how and where you can best accomplish your goals. He outlines websites and formats, walks you through choosing a blogging platform, and alternatives to blogs such as videos or podcasts. He also explains copyright and privacy concerns, and although his audience is primarily in the United Kingdom, the principles also apply to the United States and other countries. Just be sure to check the copyright and privacy laws in your own jurisdiction.

The book is not long (144 pages with illustrations) but it is packed with information and ideas. He includes a substantial section on the ins and outs of DNA testing and results. He shares advice about how to respond to those who contact you once you've put your family history out there. He's very candid about both the potential benefits and pitfalls of sharing your work online. This is an excellent resource for any family historian.

NetGalley, Helen Cota

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I want to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book. As a genealogist for over 30 years, I found the information information very useful. Most of the links provided were from the UK, but the information was still very valuable. I will be purchasing this book for my library.

NetGalley, Stephanie Maines

About Chris Paton

Originally from Carrickfergus on the outskirts of Belfast, genealogist and writer Chris Paton is today based in Ayrshire, Scotland, where he runs the Scotland’s Greatest Story research service at www.scotlandsgreateststory.co.uk. As well as contributing to many of the UK’s best known family history magazines, he also writes for his own Scottish GENES news blog at www.scottishgenes.blogspot.com, and regularly gives talks to family history societies across the UK and worldwide. His previous Pen and Sword publications include Tracing Your Irish Ancestors Through Land Records, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet (2nd edition), Tracing Scottish Ancestry Through Church and State Records, Tracing Your Scottish Family History on the Internet, and Sharing Your Family History Online.

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