29 March 2009

The NYT, Facebook and Jewish genealogy

Are you on Facebook? It expects to register its 200 millionth user this week.

In today's New York Times, Brad Stone's Facebook story - in the Technology section - mentions Jewish genealogy. Hooray for us!

It starts out with stats and about the controversial changes to home pages, how it's struggling to keep up with sites like Twitter, other language versions and more. But then it gets into why many use it.

In my own first weeks on Facebook, I discovered two cousins from Russia now living in Germany, a third who had been moving around and was now in Moscow, and an old friend from our Teheran days. More recently, I viewed photos of a Los Angeles family event as a tech-savvy cousin posted them from the event. Our Geneabloggers group is also strong on Facebook.

The NYT story mentions Jewish genealogist Karen Haber of Tel Aviv:
Facebook can also help rebuild families. Karen Haber, a mother of two living outside Tel Aviv, logs onto Facebook each night after she puts the children to bed. She searches for her family’s various surnames, looking for relatives from the once-vast Bachenheimer clan of northern Germany, which fractured during the Holocaust and then dispersed around the globe.

Among the three dozen or so connections she has made on Facebook over the last year are a fifth cousin who is a clinical social worker in Woodstock, N.Y.; a fourth cousin running an eyeglasses store in Zurich; and another fifth cousin, living in Hong Kong selling diamonds. Now she shares memories, photographs and updates with them.

“I was never into genealogy and now suddenly I have this tool that helps me find the descendants of people that my grandparents knew, people who share the same truth I do,” Ms. Haber says. “I’m using Facebook and trying to unite this family.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says connecting people in various ways represents "a generational shift in technology."

The site is dealing with disgruntled users who are not happy about recent changes, and the story addresses the challenge of keeping 200 million people happy.

The company says users must learn how to better use privacy settings, to avoid embarrassing moments, such as conflicts between kids vs parents, employees vs bosses. The story reports that only 20% of members use privacy settings.

A social scientist who studies social networks says people spend a lot of time trying to be separate, such as parents and children.

Learn about possible future interactive advertiser tie-ins and probable user rebellion against ads.

Read the complete - and very interesting - story at the link above.


  1. Karen Haber6:27 AM

    Hi I'm Karen Haber, who's story in mentioned in the NYT article... Thank you for mentioning the story, another one will be published probably tomorrow at the Jerusalem Post. This story helped me find more relatives who contacted me after the story was published!!!

  2. Hi, Karen. Very nice to hear from you. I'm always happy to see Jewish genealogy spotlighted in the NYT. We must remember that the media plays a big part in our searches. When I wrote about my Talalay family in Metro in my former "It's All Relative" column, I found our lost Bombay branch. There is no thing as bad publicity - there is only NO publicity! I'm looking forward to seeing the JPost story tomorrow.