Using Facebook for Genealogy

Using Facebook for Genealogy

Virtually everyone, whether or not they have an account, has heard of Facebook.  What may not be so commonly known is that you can use Facebook for genealogy purposes.

One of the best ways of using Facebook for genealogy is to join a group where you can interact with other group members, sharing tips and tricks and obtaining help with your genealogy research when needed. 

Many Facebook groups exist, either based around a broad topic or based around a specific area or topic within family history.

Creating a Facebook Account

To use Facebook for genealogy, you must first register with Facebook if you have not already done so.  You are required to input your first and last name, mobile number and/or email address, and to choose a password. 

You must also enter your date of birth and state your gender.  You also have to agree to Facebook's terms and conditions.

Once you have created a Facebook account you can then decide your privacy settings.  I have set mine to friends, rather than friends of friends or everyone.  

You are not required to become friends with people you may interact with in a group.  It is prudent not to post contact information or personal details in your Facebook profile.  If you do not want others to know certain private details, you should not place it in your profile or in any group you join.

Facebook Search Function

The first item you will probably use is the Facebook search function.  Here you can search for any surnames you may have discovered during the course of your family history research.

Please be aware, however, when you utilise this method because you may find there are so many results you feel overwhelmed.  It is better to use this method if your relative has a relatively uncommon surname.  It may be possible to connect with long lost relatives.

It is always possible that a Facebook group or page exists for a place or topic you are interested in.  I am a member of the Nether Heyford Past: Thanks for the Memories Facebook Group, which is dedicated to the history of Nether Heyford, Northamptonshire.

If you search for genealogy or family history, you will find pages, communities, groups and businesses.

Facebook Pages

If you like a Facebook page such as the Ancestry Facebook page, you will find that Ancestry posts several times a week, providing links to articles you may find of interest, along with posts regarding news and special offers. 

Looking through the posts made to the page by other people may also give you ideas for your own family history research.

It is also possible to find pages for Archives and Libraries, not just in England and Wales, but also in Scotland and further afield, such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Once you have liked a Facebook page, their posts are more likely to appear in your Facebook newsfeed.  

Facebook pages are mainly created by official representatives of the organisation, but there is not as much interaction as there is in a group.

Facebook Community Pages

If you find a community page about an organisation, please be aware that these pages are not official pages for the organisation.

Facebook Groups

Many Facebook groups exist that have been set up so that people with a common interest can exchange ideas and ask for help.  Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) is one such group where people can ask for help from other members and can exchange ideas.  

Many such groups exist, some for people with a broad interest such as family history, and some much smaller groups that concentrate on a specific area or topic with family history.  Some societies post about events in the local area.

Some groups, such as RAOGK, are private groups, which means that only members can see what has been posted to the group and view the members list.

Some other groups you may find of interest are The Organised Genealogist, where people are able to share tips and tricks to help people wishing to organise their genealogy research.

Another group is Genealogy Chit-Chat, where members are free to discuss any topic related to genealogy, such as your defeats, victories.  You can also vent if you wish.

Facebook Photo Restoration Groups

Many photo restoration groups exist on Facebook, so if you have a family photograph that has become damaged over the years, members of this type of group are willing to help people restore these photographs.  They may also be able to sharpen the photograph so that you can see more details.

It must be borne in mind that the people in the group are mainly volunteers so it would be best not to send several photographs, instead choosing one that has special meaning or significance to you.

Starting a Facebook Group

If you would like to, you can always to start a Facebook group regarding a topic you are passionate about.

Facebook Groups Etiquette

Some groups ask you to answer some questions before they allow you to join the group.  These questions are set to ensure that you have a genuine interest in the topic, and are not going to spam the group.

Groups also have many rules that you must always abide by.

If you become a member of a Facebook group, it is best not just to post your own questions, but also to answer other people's questions where you can.  It is also prudent to participate in the group as much as possible. 

People will probably be more likely to want to help you if you have shown you are willing to help them and other people.

Obtaining Help From Facebook Group Members

If you wish to obtain help from other members of the group, it is prudent to provide as may details as possible. 

If you wish to discover more about a certain ancestor, you should include details that you have already uncovered, such as any dates you may know, names and family relationships.  It is also best to state what resources and records you have already utilised and to be precise with your research question.

Connecting with Known Family Members on Facebook

You can also use Facebook to connect with known family members.  I recently made contact with a relative from my father's side of the family, and we hope to meet one day to share family photographs and stories.

Saving Facebook Posts

Facebook also offers a facility whereby you can save posts you wish to return to later.  If you click the three dot button at the top-right corner of a post, an option will appear to save the post.  

You can then view your saved posts by going to the left-hand column under your name and scrolling down to saved.  This will take you to your saved posts.

You can also assign a category to the saved post so that you can find it more easily.

  1. Family Tree Resources
  2. Using Facebook for Genealogy