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Using Social Media for Genealogy

Updated on September 30, 2017

Welcome guest writer, Tina Sansone. She is an expert at family research and a wonderful writer as well. Enjoy reading and learn more about the author on my profile page.

Social Networking Definition

In his book, Social Networking for Genealogists, Drew Smith defines Social Networking as “a way of using online resources and services to create and maintain a community of individuals who share a common interest.” While it use to be thought of as a teenager/young adult activity, more adults are learning and using social networks to communicate with friends and family, as well as networking.

Use for Genealogical Research

It can also be used in doing genealogical research too. It is a great way to connect with cousins who just might be the owners of the family Bible. Katherine Willson, Professional Genealogist, Speaker & Artist realized the importance of social media in the family research process and started a collection of Facebook links that have to do with genealogy. Initially Katherine did not think social media could assist with genealogy; just a place to keep up with high school friend, post pictures and play games. She decided to “test” it out and requested a client’s death certificate in Allegheny, PA. Someone saw her query and knew that the person actually died in West Virginia an actually had a copy of the death certificate she needed! Yes, there is genealogical value in social media! She started a search for other Facebook groups that had genealogical links that has continually grown!

“Download the 245 page PDF file containing 8,000+ links (updated on 22 April 2016) to English-speaking groups & pages (includes a table of contents) here: “Genealogy on Facebook” List (to be notified each time the list is updated, please “like” my professional Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SocialMediaGenealogy.org). (Gail Dever has created a Canadian list that includes French-speaking groups & pages, and it can be downloaded here: Facebook for Canadian Genealogy – please note that my original list also contains many Canadian groups & pages, just none that are in French)”

What I really like about this website is that the table of contents has the links divided into groups: states, countries, and various other categories like adoption. Anyone that has a Facebook group devoted to genealogy can submit their site to Katherine to be added to her ever-growing list of links.

Genealogical & Historical Databases

Another great Facebook group is Genealogical & Historical Databases.When I was the Vice President at the Tennessee Genealogical Society over programs I had a monthly class where we discussed databases. I wanted input from my genealogy friends from all over the world on databases they found helpful, something other than Ancestry & FamilySearch. So, I started the group to get some link suggestions. What started out as a small group has now over 11,500+ members! The page is strictly for submissions of databases; the group has received many great links to databases, some of them very unique. As queries started to be posted, I saw a need for another group for Genealogical & Historical Queries, where researchers can post their brick wall query and get help from other genealogists. Many have received help thru this group and have been able to progress in their family trees. There is over 5,000 members in this growing group, and it’s exciting when cousins meet. Please note: while this article focuses on Facebook, other social media sites like Pinterest and Twitter also provide similar assistance.

How it Helps

Some of the ways that utilizing Social Networks can assist in genealogy are:

  • Keeping in touch with family and friends

  • Sharing pictures and documents

  • Collaborating with others researching the same surnames and locations

  • Discover new blogs, websites, books and resources

  • Promote your genealogical/historical society and other events

  • Relax, play some games, chat

  • Meet new cousins!


Where to Go

There are many Social Networking websites. I recommend you visit several of them and see what features they offer. Wikipedia gives a list of social media sites you might want to consider. Family Tree Magazine puts out a list of the best social media websites for genealogists.

You can then choose which ones would benefit you. Some questions you may ponder during this time are

  1. Are my family members using this site?

  2. Can I post and share my pictures and documents?

  3. Are my friends using this site?

  4. What privacy settings are available – will my information be secure?

  5. Are there games or other application on this site I would want to use?

  6. Can I promote events?

  7. Does this site offer a Message Board and Chat capabilities?


How It Helped Me

Some examples how social media has assisted me in genealogy has been 1) connection with cousins that I had lost contact with. We now share photos and stories online. 2) Keeping in touch with other researchers. 3) helping others with the family research and 4) learning about events that I can attend. How has using social media helped you in your family history?

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