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How to use Facebook for family history

Family Tree Facebook page

Family Tree’s Facebook page

You may be familiar with Facebook for chatting with friends or sharing your holiday snaps, or you may be steering clear thinking it’s not for you. But have you considered how Facebook can work for genealogy research?

Facebook is the largest of the social networks and has evolved over time. Apps for family history have come and gone, and the apps mentioned here may not be around forever. It’s worth bearing this in mind if you’re using Facebook to publish your family history – make sure the information is backed up somewhere else too. You can sign up for a Facebook account at www.facebook.com, and if you need a hand it won’t take you long to find someone who knows how it works to show you the basics. You can also read Facebook’s own getting started guide at https://www.facebook.com/help/418876994823287/. Be sure to carefully check you’re happy with your privacy settings!

Search
Make friends with Facebook’s search box and you’ll be well on your way to finding people and pages to aid your research. Most people type names into the search box, trying to find old friends, neighbours and colleagues. You can do this too, but also take it further. You can search for surnames of interest; you may have too many results to know what to do with but if the name is unusual it may be possible to make connections. Don’t just add anyone as a friend if you’re not sure who they are. You can also search for place names or topics as there may be Facebook groups or pages that focus on your area of interest. If you search for ‘genealogy’ or ‘family history’ you will find results for community pages, companies, groups, apps and more. It’s possible to filter results to only groups or apps etc.

Pages
Facebook pages allow organisations, businesses, celebrities and brands to connect with people who like them. You can like pages, such as Family Tree’s at facebook.com/familytreemaguk, to receive news or special offers. Many pages run competitions for their fans. Find pages for your favourite archives, libraries and data providers. A community page is a page about an organisation, brand or topic, but it doesn’t officially represent it. So you could create a community page about using Ancestry or findmypast.co.uk, but it would be labelled as a community page so that others could identify that it hasn’t been set up by either of those companies.

Groups
Facebook groups are different to pages. Groups provide a space for groups of people to communicate about a common interest. There are some large groups with a general interest, such as genealogy, and many much smaller groups with a more specific concern. Groups can be closed or open; in a closed group posts can only be seen by group members. To join a group you must be approved or added by another member. There may be a group for a village where your ancestors lived, or one for saving a local war memorial. Maybe start a group for a topic you care about.

Apps
Current Facebook tree-building apps include Family Tree from Familybuilder, TreeView – Family Tree, and Family TreeTop. Family Tree is by far the most popular. Use Family Tree to connect with family members, share photos and build your tree. TreeView is the Facebook version of TheGenealogist’s online tree building software.

Ancestry has a feature that allows you to connect living people in your Ancestry tree to their Facebook profiles. When you have connected yourself in your Ancestry tree to your Facebook profile, Ancestry will compare your tree to your Facebook connections and give you the option to accept or reject matches. The idea is to connect you with more living relatives. Find out more at blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2012/10/09/using-facebook-to-grow-your-family-tree.

Facebook isn’t all about connecting; there are games to play too. In Family Village you build a town populated by your family and ancestors. As your village grows, the game designer, Funium, will search for family connections and relevant documents, such as newspaper articles, census records, maps and more! Search for Family Village on Facebook.

This article appeared first in Family history at your fingertips, on sale now. Find out more here.

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