10 October 2010

Facebook: Finding family

Tracing the Tribe remembers when Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.com encouraged all geneabloggers to join Facebook.

I did and, to my surprise, two sets of Russian cousins living in different European cities found me within the first few days. For one group - in Mainz, Germany - I knew their names but not where they lived and certainly not that they were in Germany.

While we were happily shocked at that time, we weren't the only ones. Facebook is an excellent tool for rooting out relatives used by many genealogists and family history researchers.

The Montreal Gazette's story on "The new face of genealogy," by Danielle Murray, covers the experiences of several Canadian researchers and what they found on Facebook, including the experiences of Murray herself.
Forty years ago, long before genealogy became trendy, my great Uncle Milt put together our family tree. He spent years scouring census reports, pouring over church and military records and ship passenger lists, reading old newspapers and searching through graveyards. He even travelled overseas. When it was done, he presented my grandmother and their siblings with a complete database and chart of the entire family going back some 300 years.

Last year, I received a message on Facebook from a long-lost Murray on my grandfather's side, the only side of my family I never knew. "Are we related?" he asked. Could be, I thought, seeing as he lived in my father's hometown. In the next email, we determined our connection -his dad and my grandfather were brothers.

Jay soon drove to Montreal to see us. Not only did he and my dad share a resemblance, they had the same dry sense of humour. The day passed quickly, and we heard lots of stories. The only thing missing was the rest of the family.
Murray found even more. Within one month she connected with 50 first and second cousins, and by the end of the year, some 178 direct descendants of her paternal grandfather and siblings had been charted. During this summer, the family held  a reunion.

Of course, Facebook research is a bunny slipper activity, Murray explains:

And I know had it not been for Facebook, it just wouldn't have happened. Sure, I could have done it on my own, but the thing is, I wouldn't have. With Facebook, all I did was plug names into a computer. I paid nothing. I never left the house. I barely lifted a finger.
There are other internet family history sites, of course, to help find living relatives.

A Facebook spokesperson is quoted as saying the site doesn't keep statistics on the number of actual and virtual family reunion groups created. Perhaps they should?

The story detailed the experiences of several "Facebook Family Finders" (Murray's term) who have created family pages, discovered relatives in cyberspace and held real-time reunions.

Are you looking for family? Another great site for connecting with relatives is MyHeritage.com. Do try it! While Facebook is a general social networking site, MyHeritage is a genealogy social networking site, raising your targeted search by several levels.

1 comment:

  1. I also highly recommend MyHeritage.com - I found a photo of my great-great-grandfather there that no one from our branch of the family had ever seen before. it is very easy to search, and since it is based in Israel there are many, many Jewish family trees there.