April 30, 2008
Using Facebook for genealogy
I've discovered that Facebook is a VERY useful application for genealogy, not perfect, but useful.
Indeed, most genealogy tools allow you to work with data from over a 100 years ago. That's good when you are researching with ancestors. However for working with contemporary kins, I had not found anything better than the phone book.
MyHeritage tried to bridge that gap, helping you get in touch with other people by comparing last names (rarely useful) and pictures with automated tools (not many people upload pictures, so not very useful).
I was lucky many years ago to meet a remote cousin of my grand mother who gave me lots of data on the family. I expanded his research into contemporary kins, and have updated it quite a bit. Nevertheless I was stuck with many loose ends, with people bearing names very different to my surnames.
That's where Facebook comes in handy :
1) I started searching every single remote cousin (in one instance, we are more than 450 direct descendants of Daniel ULRICHSEN for example) on Facebook. I only had last names. For some of them I only got 1 match (mind you, people from Chile, Argentina, Brasil, Canada, USA, Australia, Germany...). I send them a message asking them to confirm their ancestry. So far I haven't got ANY wrong answer back. Building on them, I've started correcting and expanding sections of the family tree (closed to 21,000 members now), with dates, places, more names, pictures. I couldn't have done that so simply without the Internet and a social network. The only other way would have been to go to the central phone authority office, and look at the phone booth of every country and contact every one...
2) we've created groups on Facebook (a bit tedious when a. some people belong to many same surnames, b. when you need to tell a new member to subscribe to a new name). On one group, we are already 41 people in 3 days. Most of us have never met in person, or hardly new each other before.
Of course these groups now allow us to exchange pictures, videos, news about the family, which is really nice.
What I lack now are
- a newsfeed per group only
- the ability to map geographic locations for each person on a map
- possibly a closer integration with a family tree (I've tried a few of those genealogy apps on facebook, nah...). Ideally whenever I update something on geneanet that is relavant to a group, it would get posted automatically ??? ? (day dreaming here...)
- an easier way to manage group subscriptions (integration between geneanet and ancestor last names ???? - doing it again)
I had written about it a while ago, when commenting on Geni. This might work.
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Having looked at the traditional ways of contacting people who are interested in genealogy, I'm now looking "outside of the box" to try reach those who are not currently within family history circles online. There are more of those when looking at One-Name studies.
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