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.

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