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Facebook Groups for Genealogists

Facebook is one of the leading social media platforms that genealogists use to research their family history and find living relatives. In this post, we’re going to discuss some key ways to leverage Facebook for genealogy with a focus on Facebook Groups, including how to use them to your advantage and how to create your own.

There are thousands of Facebook Groups that include nearly every topic imaginable. In the genealogy community in particular, there are five primary types of groups that you can join to further your research:

  1. General Genealogy Groups: Ask questions about your research problems, request assistance finding a specific record, and share your discoveries.
  2. Location Specific Genealogy Groups: These are directed towards those focusing on research in a specific geographic area, perhaps a country, a state/province, or even down to a county level.
  3. Surname Registry Groups: These are centered around locating relatives who share the same surname within a region in hopes of connecting with other living descendants. Maybe you’ll find those elusive fourth cousins!
  4. Genetic Genealogy Groups: Come here if you are interested in the nitty-gritty of your DNA results, including using DNA to locate living relatives. Users are often encouraged to upload their DNA results on GEDmatch and to share kit numbers in the group to help connect members with each other.
  5. Organization/Society Groups: These allow an existing organization or genealogical society to keep in touch with members and offer a place for virtual discussion. Did you know that the NextGen Genealogy Network has a Facebook Group?

If you have pored through the wide variety of genealogy groups on Facebook and haven’t found one that suits your needs, consider starting your own. For example, if your ancestor’s county doesn’t have it’s own genealogy group, or if you want to start a small group for your extended relatives to share family photographs and stories, read on.

Facebook Groups for Genealogists (1)

Creating your own Facebook Group is simple:

  1. At the top of your Facebook homepage you will see a padlock. Click the arrow next to it and select “Create Group.”
  2. Give your new Facebook Group a name, keeping in mind it should be something descriptive to make it easy for people to find (if you want it to be open to receiving new members).
  3. Add new members, whether this may be your genealogy best friend or your cousins who are interested in participating. I recommend that you check with any prospective members first before sending an invitation to your group to ensure that your invitation is not an annoyance or simply ignored.
  4. Be aware of privacy settings that determine who can see the group and who can join the group.
    1. Public: Anyone can join and anyone can see the group’s posts (even if they’re not members). Use with caution.
    2. Closed: Members must request to join. This helps to screen out trolls, group collectors, self-promoters, etc. Depending on the volume of member requests, you may want to have a backup admin to assist you with this process. Only members can see posts.
    3. Secret: Not open to the public. Only members can see posts and refer new members to join the group by invitation.
  5. Add your Facebook Group to your favorites. This will put your group on the toolbar on the left side of your Facebook homepage so you can easily access the group to monitor posts, pose discussion questions, or approve new members. Make an effort to keep your group active and engaged for the greatest genealogical success!

How are you using Facebook Groups to further your research?

Melanie McComb, a software product analyst, volunteers as the NextGen Genealogy Network’s Social Media Assistant. She is also the creator and co-administrator of the English Surname Registry Facebook Group. She has been researching her family history for over five years and can often be found online on Facebook assisting others with their research.


Faces of NextGen: Meet Lisa Chan

Lisa ChanLisa Chan, 40, Washington

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Curious. Independent. Dog lover. Transgendered. Musical.

Why genealogy? I love solving puzzles, a good mystery, the natural world, genetics, history, photography, anthropology, migration stories, and social and civil justice. Genealogy has it all!

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? Just one?

A fourth great grand uncle was the reason an entire village in Niedersachsen, Germany practically emptied due to a mass migration to Illinois inspired by his letter home. It had been copied 1,500 times and then distributed far and wide. Hundreds of Ostfriesen families got their good start in Illinois based on his detailed instructions for success.

With the help of genetic genealogy and segment analysis, I was able to solve a 7 decade-old brick wall and reconnect more than twenty curious descendants and project participants to colonial roots in Maryland in the 1700s.

After participating in a DNA test for a medical study, I discovered that I am the non-paternity-event in my generation. With the help of genetic genealogy and caring “Search Angels,” I have been reconnected with my paternal family. We are excited to get to know one another. It turns out my NEW GRANNY is a genealogy nut too.

What are you working on this week? I just discovered a cluster of shared segments associated with lots of recent Irish surnames and locations. It’s exciting because my admixture reports suggest a decent portion of Irish descent, but the only known Irish patriarch was from the late 1700s.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Sleep on it.

What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? Time travel, of course!

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? Playing the drums or walking our dogs. I love percussion and engage in music therapy to address a wide variety of emotional and physical health needs. Did you know that doing anything percussive helps to regulate digestion?! Feeling anxious? Sing a song and clap your hands. Can’t sleep? Forget counting sheep, count measures instead.

Anything else you’d like to share? I’d love to see the disregard for adoptees and persons with unknown paternity decreased in the genealogical community overall. We’re the fastest growing demographic in genealogy today. We comprise the majority of young genealogists entering the hobby. We spend a lot of money – testing at each of the big three and purchasing genetic genealogy workshops. We are eager to help others with triangulation projects, are generous with what we do know, and our motivation to get to the truth is unparalleled. It would be really great if we had more allies among the full-tree’d who could advocate for embracing us.

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen will showcase a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.


Suit Up and Show Up

I am a young genealogist. True, there are days when the gray hair pokes through and I pop when I walk, but since I am not yet forty I am clinging to the fact that I am among the younger members of the field. Even when I may feel like I’m falling apart, I still suit up and show up making my presence known. Do you?

What do I mean by that? Well, I like to think that we are the future of this field. One day we will be the mentors, the establishment, I guess you could say “the man.” However, nothing happens overnight and many times becoming a trusted member of a community takes years. Are you working towards that goal?

If you are not actively working to safeguard the future of genealogy, why not? Many people tell me they are scared or do not know where to start. Some do not want to rock the boat of their local society. To that I say, sometimes you have to splash in the water to keep a community on course. Trust me, getting a little wet never hurt anyone. If you are interested in spreading those wings and trying to become a leader in your area, here are a few things you should think about.

Suit Up

Continuing education: We are primarily a self-taught community since there are only a few (when compared to other professions) degree programs or professional outlets. Genealogists have to make the commitment to themselves to suit up and show up to advance their knowledge in the field. Making yourself accountable to participate in whatever way possible will only help you be a better researcher and professional. Then try teaching what you learned to others.

Dress the part: While there is a time for jeans and grubby clothes (like in a cemetery), if you want to be taken seriously you should dress the part. If you are lecturing, wear a suit or something appropriate for the venue. If you are attending a conference, seminar, or society meeting, consider wearing business casual. You do not want people distracted by your appearance. You want them to think, “Yeah, he/she has it together.”

Smiling and manners: Did you know that smiling on the phone, even when the person can’t see you, still comes across in your tone? Being friendly, approachable, and easygoing are traits that people respond to. No one wants to be around a sourpuss, so even on my grumpiest days I put on that smile and save my smart aleck comments for my close friends and family. Frequently, I see genealogists with very bad manners and habits. You can be polite yet firm if you are upset, just like you can patiently sit through someone’s family brick wall without looking bored.

Stay focused: You have to hold yourself accountable. It’s the hardest thing to do, but the only one who can keep it all going is the person you see in the mirror every morning. Your success will not be handed to you. Work hard every day. Accomplish something (even if it is as simple as writing an email) every day. Lead by example in all things.

Learn from the mistakes: It is very hard for me to put myself out there. Many times I do not feel confident in my abilities. I have made mistakes and there are things that now I would have done differently. Working through the setbacks and learning from those mistakes, especially when I started my genealogy career, only made me better. If you can kick aside the failure when it happens and see the accomplishments along the way, you will find a better path. Your successes should be touted and your failures learned from.

How do you suit up and show up in the genealogy community? 

Shannon Combs BennetShannon Combs-Bennett is the owner of T2 Family History, Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist, and Education Coordinator for the NextGen Genealogy Network. Based in Virginia, she writes and lectures on a variety of topics from genetics to methodology and is a contributor to Family Tree Magazine / University.


Faces of NextGen: Meet Jake Fletcher

Jake FletcherJake Fletcher, 24, Massachusetts

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Adventurer, Blogger, Ambitious, Creative, Listener.

Why genealogy? I was a People to People Student Ambassador in 2008 and our trip brought us to County Kerry, Ireland, which happened to be the origin of my 3x great-grandfather, General Patrick Edward Connor. Upon coming back home from trip, I began with the preliminary research my family had done and have ever since remained an avid genealogist.

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? While it’s hard for me to pick a favorite branch of my family, my personal favorite comes from a recent research case in which I was very determined to find the naturalization record of a client’s ancestor. Not having luck online, I resorted to the old school method of viewing every bit of the microfilm index at the National Archives in Waltham, Massachusetts. Through that, I found him and in the process, the naturalization record was proof of the five residences we suspected the ancestor had held as a migrant worker.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Patience, because it’s important to step away every once in a while and brainstorm creative ways to solve a challenging family history case

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? Playing electric bass, trying new food, hiking, or visiting a library or museum.

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen will showcase a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.