Finding Your Ancestors on Facebook

facebook-genealogy

You already know that Facebook is a great place to share news and photos and to connect with old friends. But did you know that Facebook can also be a great place to connect with your ancestors—or at least to find the answers you need to connect your ancestors to your family tree? With FamilySearch’s Facebook groups, you can interact with other people tracing their families who lived in the same areas as your family and perhaps even break through your brick wall or help others break through theirs.

FamilySearch’s overview page, called “Genealogy Help on Facebook” is a great starting point. Mostly organized by location, it contains links to a variety of Facebook groups covering everything from Iowa to Thailand to genetics. Some groups included on the site are run through FamilySearch and some aren’t, but all offer opportunities to expand your genealogy knowledge—and success!

FamilySearch Regional and International Groups

Hoping to connect with someone who lives in the same town your family lived in for generations? Stuck on a family name that you just can’t seem to push back any farther? Wondering if there are any resources you might not be aware of for a certain county? If so, FamilySearch’s regional and international Facebook groups might be just what you need.

FamilySearch Regional Research Groups,the first section listed on the overview site, includes categories such as “U.S. Midwest Genealogy Research Community” and “Northern Europe Genealogy Community.” The website explains, “The FamilySearch regional research groups on Facebook were created to be collaborative environments where individuals researching the same general location could help one another reach their family history goals through asking and answering questions, sharing helpful resources and information.”

In the next section, International Research Pages and Groups, you’ll find pages for individual countries. In addition to the expected western European groups, you’ll also find groups covering a range of other countries, such as Guatemala, Madagascar, and Tonga. Many of these pages are in the language of the country. These groups are public, meaning anyone can read the questions and answers already posted. In order to post or make a comment though, you must join the group.

The Genealogy Network and Other Locality Based Groups

The Genealogy Help on Facebook page links to more than just FamilySearch Facebook pages. In the North America Research Pages and Groups section, you can find links to both FamilySearch and other Facebook pages. The majority of these entries are individual states in the United States. Some of the links go back to the FamilySearch regional groups mentioned above. But for nearly every state, there is also a genealogy network page.

Genealogy network Facebook pages function similarly to the FamilySearch Facebook groups. One important difference that you’ll notice right away is that they are closed groups, meaning you must first join the group to be able to see posts. Many of the groups are relatively new but are already attracting a significant number of members.

Listed among the state Facebook pages, you’ll also find links that apply to more specific locations or circumstances. For example, under Ohio, there is a link to “SE Ohio Coal Mining” and under South Dakota, there is a link to “North and South Dakota Norwegians.” If you’re looking for Facebook pages for genealogical societies, try visiting FamilySearch’s Family Associations page (FamilySearch.org/wiki/en/Family_Associations). And if you know of links that should be included here but aren’t, feel free to add them.

Specialty Groups

While all the genealogy Facebook pages and groups mentioned thus far are based on location, in the Specialty Pages and Groups Related to Genealogy section, you’ll find Facebook pages with other focuses. These include groups such as “Genealogy and Newspapers” and “The NextGen Genealogy Network”—a place, the site tells us, “where young genealogists come to connect.” If you’re wondering if you are “young,” the site assures people that while most of their members are under 50, they welcome “supporters of all ages”! Or if you ever find yourself stuck on a difficult research problem, perhaps the British Brickwall Club is the right Facebook group for you. You can post your unsolvable mysteries in hope of getting insights from others or just post interesting off-the-beaten-path sources that might be the solutions for other people’s brick walls.

Wondering what kinds of things you might find or what kinds of things you should post on any of these Facebook pages? In these groups, you’ll find a variety of posts, including topics such as:

  • Lists of surnames a person is interested in
  • A new development in an online resource or archival collection
  • Links to useful records or research helps
  • Specific questions about personal research problems
  • Information on relevant genealogical societies, lectures, or other events
  • Documents shared to illustrate interesting points
  • Advice on reading or interpreting documents

As long as you follow the basic rules (being respectful, avoiding self-promotion, not sharing identifying information of living people, and so on), you are usually free to post anything relevant to the group.
Become a Community Champion

If you want to get even more involved, you can become a FamilySearch community champion. As the website explains, community champions help “engage community members, gather research information and resources, and answer research questions.” Fill out the form and indicate what geographic region you are interested in, and FamilySearch will send you more information.

As you explore the Facebook pages, you’ll find that some groups are very active, with several thousand members, while others are smaller with fewer entries. The more people who join and get involved—sharing their questions and their insights—the more useful the communities will be! So start looking around, and see what new things Facebook can do for you—and for your ancestors.

 

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