Facebook Groups for Genealogists
December 14, 2015
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:
- General Genealogy Groups: Ask questions about your research problems, request assistance finding a specific record, and share your discoveries.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
Creating your own Facebook Group is simple:
- At the top of your Facebook homepage you will see a padlock. Click the arrow next to it and select “Create Group.”
- 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).
- 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.
- Be aware of privacy settings that determine who can see the group and who can join the group.
- Public: Anyone can join and anyone can see the group’s posts (even if they’re not members). Use with caution.
- 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.
- Secret: Not open to the public. Only members can see posts and refer new members to join the group by invitation.
- 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.
Twitter for Genealogists
October 19, 2015
Twitter. To many in the genealogical community, this leading social media platform is confusing, overwhelming, and just plain frustrating. What can we possibly share about our ancestors in 140 characters or less?
Not very much.
But don’t let your imagination be stifled by character count. Our research endeavors require a lot of imagination, do they not? No one should stop short of giving Twitter a fair shake just because of character count, just as no one should stop their research when vital records get dicey.
Twitter is, to me, the coffee house of family history. You walk into a coffee shop with friends, and as you converse, the topics change, the conversation flows. That’s what Twitter is. A 24/7 conversation that we get to jump into whenever we’re ready.
Creating an account on Twitter is easy, and the setup process will guide you through finding topics and people you might be interested in following. Look for leaders in the field, like FamilySearch, the National Archives, and your local or state genealogy society.
The more people and organizations you add right from the beginning, the more Twitter will be able to adjust its recommendations to you. Adding genealogy television – like PBS’s Genealogy Roadshow, as well as co-host D. Joshua Taylor – will ensure that the behind-the-scenes algorithms will work in your favor. From there, it will be easy to identity Kenyatta Barry and Mary Tedesco.
Use hashtags on Twitter to follow certain subjects. You can search by a hashtag like you would a search term on any search engine. Also be sure to include an appropriate hashtag in your own messages, so people will see what you want to share, too. Remember that these count in your 140 characters, so make sure to leave yourself some room. It’s one of the many reasons why users of Twitter tend to include abbreviations and shortened words – just enough for people to interpret without taking all of the space in the message itself.
The most commonly used hashtags in family history are listed below:
Note that there are no spaces in any of these hashtags, nor is there any punctuation. You can create any hashtag you want; for example, I use #fraternalgenealogy when I share something based on fraternal societies and their role in history.
Chats are common on Twitter, and there are currently two that are specific to family history: #genchat and #AncestryHour. Both are excellent for sharing information, ideas, suggestions, and generally being a part of the genealogy community. #genchat is hosted every two weeks and each chat is focused on a specific topic. #AncestryHour is more of an “open mic” style, and allows people to ask specific research questions and gain advice. If you would like to take part in a Twitter chat, consider using a platform such as Tweetdeck or Twubs to keep up with the flow of conversation.
Let’s review. A 24/7 online resource where fellow researchers gather to exchange ideas, sympathize with struggles and dead ends, and serve as an excellent resource when you get “stuck,” offering suggestions and tips? A great place to go when you realize it’s 3 a.m. and you’ve been falling down the rabbit hole for hours…?
Where do I sign up?
Oh, wait. I already did. You can find me on Twitter @ancestryjourney – pop in, say hello, and feel free to ask questions. And don’t forget to follow @NextGenNetwrk!
Jen Baldwin is the North America Data Licensing Manager at Findmypast and the NextGen Genealogy Network’s Outreach Coordinator. She writes and lectures on technology, social media, the Colorado gold rush, and fraternal societies, and volunteers with Preserve the Pensions. Jen is also the host of #genchat, a biweekly genealogy chat held on Twitter.
Sharing is Caring: Introducing Your Ancestors on Social Media
April 20, 2015
If you’ve ever tried – and failed – to hook your family on family history, now is the time to introduce your ancestors on social media.
Whether it’s the vintage hues, ridiculous fashions, or subtle family resemblances, an old photograph of an ancestor can capture the attention of someone who would never give a pedigree chart a second glance. In fact, even if your family archive is short on old photographs, you might have come across an intriguing newspaper clipping about a great grandparent, or maybe you visited Google Maps and discovered the church where your ancestors married in the old country.
If your family is active on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, there are endless opportunities to connect and share these bite-sized pieces of family history:
Celebrate a month. Although Family History Month rolls around only once a year, there are a number of months nationally dedicated to celebrating a wide range of histories and heritages, including African American History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Women’s History Month, and LGBT History Month. Those of German, Irish, Italian, and Caribbean descent, to name a few, can also take pride in their heritage during designated months throughout the year.
Celebrate a day. Observe an ancestor’s birthday or wedding anniversary by sharing their photograph or story on social media, or get creative when it comes to holidays such as Siblings Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Grandparents Day. Take a good look at your family tree for relevant gems. Did your great grandmother raise a dozen children? Maybe she deserves a nod on Mother’s Day. For that matter, Siblings Day could be the perfect time to give your grandfather props for growing up with eleven brothers and sisters!
#Hashtag it. You’ve probably noticed the growing trend of sharing old family photographs on #throwbackthursday, but how about #waybackwednesday or #flashbackfriday? Go beyond photographs from your lifetime and take the opportunity to showcase your ancestors, while making sure to share responsibly. You can even go a step further during the holidays. Consider #honoringvets by sharing a highlight from a War of 1812 pension file on Veterans Day, and on Thanksgiving, are you #thankful for a particularly courageous ancestor?
Above all, know your family. Are there fashion divas, members of the military, or world travelers in their midst? How about new parents fascinated with their little bundle of joy? Maybe your cousin recently dressed up for a Roaring Twenties party and has no idea that her great grandmother was a flapper. Reach out with images that might pique their interest and allow them an unexpected connection with the past: an advertisement for women’s clothing at the turn of the last century, a grandfather’s draft card, a passenger manifest, or a photograph of grandma as a little girl, where, you swear, she looks just like your newest niece.
Take your love of family history to social media to allow your family a glimpse into the lives of their ancestors. And remember, #sharingiscaring.
Melanie Frick, MLS, holds a Certificate in Genealogical Research and is a member of the NextGen Genealogy Network’s Leadership Team. A genealogist, writer, librarian, antique photograph aficionado, and Midwestern native, Melanie lives in Southern California.