By Jeanne Rollberg
Social and consumer-to-consumer media like Facebook, Pinterest, eBay, and Google are woven into the fabric of our everyday lives across the world. As you use social media and also pursue family history, are you aware of the many genealogy discoveries hidden in social media themselves, or for your own opportunity to share with the worldwide genealogy community through them? This article explores how you can take habits you already have and refine them to make your unique family history come to life in delightfully unexpected ways.
Facebook for Genealogy
Facebook helps us keep up with friends and family, but have you ever used it to find cousins you’ve never met halfway around the world or to investigate your family’s heritage back in the Old Country? Michigan-based genealogist Katherine R. Willson has taken the lead in “organizing Facebook” for us with her continuously updated “Genealogical & Historical Groups/Pages on Facebook (in English)” PDF. Search for and bookmark this resource, organized partly by location. It also includes helpful DNA, lineage groups, technology and other genealogical groups not related to particular locations, so be sure to scan the lengthy list carefully.
Facebook pages like the “Swedish American Genealogy Group” has thousands of members from all over Sweden and America eager to help researchers on both sides of the ocean. Likewise, Facebook city groups such as “New York City Genealogy” group or the “Irish Americans in New York City” groups may help you pinpoint needed resources to find Great Uncle Paddy Bruton who arrived in America during the Potato Famine. Post queries. “San Francisco Genealogy” can help you pinpoint resources in Northern California history. You, too, can be be helper in your own area of expertise/ location or for a lineage group such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, thus giving back to the genealogy community. And if you’re energetic, set up your own Facebook genealogy group for your family as a way to share family history discoveries.
Facebook is often useful, too, in finding extended family members from across the world after you have researched your family tree and updated it to make it as current as possible. Do you believe have Biadi family members who are still living in Livorno, Italy? Facebook could be an initial resource to find the whole nuclear family! Facebook’s translation functions enable you to send a message in English that will be automatically translated into Italian. Some Facebook members will not respond to initial messages because of security concerns, but many do! (Note: You will need a Facebook account to join the groups and to reach out to family members.)
The eBay and Half.com marketplaces offer unique family history items – often at very affordable prices – as well as offering you an opportunity to sell unneeded items. You can search by a name – such as “Woolverton,” “Bruton,” “Biadi,” or “Björkander” for family-specific items. It’s not unusual to find discarded (family) Bibles from yard sales or sold collections for your very own ancestors. There are often portraits, postcards, lineage books, and similar items related to our family lines and places.
If we look more broadly for the genealogy of a region or state, we find state genealogy books, regional histories, yearbooks, antique maps, and other artifacts that help us understand and refine family stories. If your grandmother was a Red Cross nurse in Limoges, France, who also bought Limoges China, you’re in luck: There are more than
69,000 initial hits for “Limoges” and 27 maps, atlases, and globes related to Limoges. Investigate the locales where grandfather may have served in World War II or where an ancestor did backbreaking railroad work during the transcontinental railroad era.
On eBay, a “California genealogy” search brought up 545 items this week and “New York genealogy” generated more than 2,000! For the Show-Me State, Missouri, there were 1,100 items for sale. eBay offers many local and regional history DVDs such as “Missouri: History & Genealogy Reference Library” – 171 old books, with a listing of just $5.96.
Half.com enables sellers to sell books, movies, music and games without a posting fee, and items will remain on the web site for an indefinite period of time until they sell. If you have or find items for families not related to your own, consider using Half.com or eBay for possible distribution – paying it forward. (You will need to set up accounts for these websites if you don’t have them.) You can also set up eBay alerts for particular items you may be seeking by using instructions at pages.ebay.com.
Pin it on Pinterest
Pinterest is a visual display-oriented social medium that allows users to collect and to see other people’s collections of print/photo items via bulletin boards and “pins.” Sharing family history-related collections is increasingly popular there. You can establish various “boards” individually or for groups (such as your own family), and you can “follow” boards that interest you/display shared interests from around the world, thus broadening your genealogy sources (and importantly, links to original resources you didn’t know about).
Want to learn more about genealogy itself through Pinterest? Follow one of Genealogybank’s boards seen here: https://www.pinterest.com/genealogybank/
Want to learn more about historic North Carolina through photos because you’re researching a Tar Heel ancestor? A number of Pinterest boards can help you.
Systematization is the key in finding social media resources. Set up alert reminders to check appropriate media at set intervals because items and features are often added. And don’t forget that the entire web is “social” (meaning “connected”) if you take the time to set up Google Alerts for particular topics you’d like to learn more about on an ongoing basis. Google will deliver e-mails with newly-found material (such as a digitized book about your ancestor’s family back in Germany) at whatever time intervals you designate. You may set up to 1,000 alerts per e-mail address! Through using Facebook, eBay, Pinterest, and Google Alerts, you can make the most of tools you’re already using every day to complement traditional research.