Finding living relatives
One of the most unique benefits of Facebook for genealogy--because of the vast numbers of users--is the ability to connect with long-lost relatives. You can start with some descendancy research on your family tree. When you get to people who are still living, try typing their names into Facebook. It is easier to tell if you have the right person if the name is rare. You can also sometimes filter your search results by people from a specific city area. If you still are not sure, sometimes you are able to look in the friends list of other Facebook users (depending on their privacy settings) and search the list for other living relatives who you would expect to be connected with the person you are looking for. In this way, you can often find a distant cousin. Send them a message to offer what you know. Please be sensitive to their time and priorities--not everyone will be interested in talking about genealogy even if you can prove you are 2nd cousins.
Sharing your genealogy
In addition to finding relatives, Facebook is ideal for reaching a wide range of relatives who would not otherwise take an interest--or even those who would.
Best posting practices
When making a post ("status update"), in Facebook, there are a few things you can do to increase the odds that your family will take notice. You can use several of the following in each post you make.
- Use the @profile_name feature to tag a relative in a post. This will send that person a direct notification about the post you made.
- Keep it short. A one sentence attention grabber can start a conversation and that is what you want to do in Facebook--posting long stories is possible, but not the most successful method.
- A picture (or short video) is worth a thousand words.
- Ask an open-ended question (who, what, where, when, why, how) directed to the reader. Example: What comes to mind when you see this picture of our grandfather?
- Share a link to a meaningful resource. You want to keep the message here short, but you can link to a blog post you wrote about your grandfather or some other item that will likely generate interest. When you past a URL into a status update Facebook will generate a nice looking link. Then you can delete the URL link to make the post appear more neat.
Using a Facebook group
Using a Facebook page
Genealogical Society Webmasters
Utilizing Facebook to reach out to younger genealogists is something that all societies should consider. A society officer with a Facebook account can set up a page on Facebook and those interested in the page can then click the 'Like' button to receive posts from the society in their news feed.
There are many features on a 'fan page'. You can set up discussions, get news of events or other news about your society out, and do a lot more. For example, FamilySearch has a Facebook fan page, it can be found at http://www.facebook.com/familysearch
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