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The Power of Facebook

Ah, Facebook.

A blessing?  A curse?

People have strong opinions about Facebook and it’s impact on our daily lives.  But let’s not get into any of that.  How about instead we talk about why I think Facebook can be a powerful tool for genealogy?  I have three reasons.

Reason One – Finding Living Folks

Once upon a time when you were trying to track people down you would use the White Pages.  Nowadays many people choose to have a cell phone and no land line.  No land line generally means no listing in the White Pages.  Here’s the scenario, you track down some living cousins through obits and you want to send off a letter or make a call, you check the White Pages and nothing.  Try Facebook!  I have discovered that most of the time if people (the ones you are relatively certain are alive) aren’t in the White Pages, they are on Facebook.  Nice.

Reason Two – Genealogy Groups on Facebook

There are so many genealogy based groups on Facebook.  They really fall into two categories – for genealogists or for specific families.  Both of those categories are great.

The groups for genealogists come in all shapes and sizes.  There are groups who will translate documents for you.  Others who will help you with research problems.  Some are for specific locations.  I happen to belong to three genealogy based Facebook groups from this category – Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, Genealogy Translations and Lynn Valley Love.  They are great.

The groups for specific families can be a fabulous communication tool.  I belong to two of these groups and I created a third.  These groups can be a closed group which means everything shared within the group stays there.  Other Facebook users can see that the group exists but they can’t see the group wall.  Cool stuff can be accomplished in this type of group.

Reason Three – Spreading Genealogy Joy

I love hearing from others about their genealogy experiences.  I love to see FamilySearch and Ancestry posts in my news feed.  I love sharing quotes, photos, and stories.  It’s a great way to share my love of genealogy with my family and friends in a nice, low-key way.  A picture, a few words, done.  Genealogy Joy spread right around all over my Facebook wall.


I love any tool that helps me further my genealogy efforts.  Facebook is one of the tools I use.  I have discovered that there is a little power there.  Power to make my genealogy even. more. awesome.

How about you?  Has Facebook helped your genealogy?


13 thoughts on “The Power of Facebook”

  1. Yes – I know how much good has come out of facebook — BUT, they have had 3 major security breaches and the way they sell your information is appalling – how can people accuse the NRA of invading their privacy , when they post ALL their info on facebook for them to sell?

    1. Which is precisely why I haven’t jumped on board yet. I agree there’s genealogy power there, but at too steep a price (for me) for more reasons than gpcox discusses.

      1. You made me think of my sister’s fake Facebook account she created just for the purpose of getting the coupons that can only be gotten on Facebook. Maybe you could follow her lead and make a fake Facebook account for genealogy purposes. 😉

    2. I completely agree that some people are WAY too open and detailed about their lives in their Facebook accounts. I worry for people who have profiles with every detail, full birthday, phone number, workplace, family members, hometown and so on. Often these people are the ones who choose to use the location thing (can’t remember what it’s called) to “check in” at places around town posting where they are. Not a great idea to constantly tell the world where you are which of course also tells them where you are not, like your home. And then there are the huge numbers of people who make their wall publicly available, seems like a bad idea to me. All of that aside, if a person chooses to use Facebook, I hope they won’t overlook the ways it can help their genealogy. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by GP, have a great weekend!

      1. Always my pleasure to be here – I don’t always have the time on the computer to comment – my apologies. But, I thoroughly agree with your comment here – all that info on line can be very dangerous.

  2. I did find at least two relatives on Facebook. It could be a little “dangerous” if the person turns out to be a weirdo, but I ended up with one fabulous and one slightly dotty ;).

  3. After reading this article, I went straight to Facebook and searched a name in my family tree and have found a possible relation. It is a guess based on geographic location. Would you message the person with a question like: I am researching family tree and wondering if you are related?

    1. Hi Marcia! Thanks for stopping by. I have done that very thing. Honestly though, the results are not always great because Facebook sends the message to their other folder and most people don’t check it. It’s a good place to start. I often look at the person in questions ‘friends’ and find other potential relatives and send essentially the same message to several people. Sometimes you can use a Facebook/White Pages combo. I use Facebook to figure out where someone lives and who they are probably related to. Then I look for those people in the White Pages. Usually only the older folks are listed in the White Pages. They will generally respond to a letter or phone call if your FB message goes unanswered. I know some people will send a friend request and a message on FB and that seems to get better results. Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes. 🙂

  4. I have used Facebook to track down living relatives and I am in contact with most of my cousins through it, many of whom I haven’t seen since I was a child. It is nice to be able to see them with their families and to see the family resemblances continuing with their children. I have used it to send messages, but like you say, they go into people’s ‘other’ folder and they often have no idea I’ve tried to contact them. I sometimes do it if I have tried to make contact through other sites like Genes Reunited (when I used to subscribe) and finding people perhaps had let their memberships lapse and were not reading my messages. However, my own FB page is locked down to people who aren’t my friends, so if someone was trying to find me on there they wouldn’t see much. I also have my blog linked to a FB page for my Root to Tip business, so when I post on here it posts a link to the page. I usually share the link to my posts on my own page too and it’s great knowing that my cousins are reading the posts and learning more about their family.

  5. In the Genealogy Do-Over FB posts in December, a gentleman posted a picture of his files, to show his system (which I am copying). Well lo and behold, there were two names I knew were connected with mine, and they were together, and not run-of-the-mill names, either. So I Messaged him with my info, and after a picture exchange as well, it turns out, yes, he is a cousin of mine! His grandparents were at my parent’s wedding, as his grandmother and my grandmother were cousins! The sad part is, neither one of us know exactly how! I was able to tell him tho, the location in Ireland where the Irish name came from. One of these days we may be able to figure it out…

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