07 November 2011


     Family historians have recognized the potential for Internet networking since back in the day when Al Gore invented the Internet. We began reaching out to each other in the early web communities, especially after Internet services such as AOL began offering genealogy bulletin boards and chat rooms. Groups such as Rootsweb and Genweb began to concentrate on getting databases online and on bringing groups of genealogists together. Genealogy web pages began to link up via "web circles," enabling researchers surfing for information to click and skip from one genealogy web site to another. Bulletin boards turned into mailing lists, widening the number of email contacts for researchers. Google and Yahoo groups with specific genealogy interests became abundant and full of fellow researchers ready to connect and share (and commiserate about their brick walls!).
     The natural progression of the family history community has now infiltrated online social networks. Actually, I am a bit surprised that it has taken this long for the genealogical community to become social network savvy. The past year or so has seen a huge increase in the presence of Irish genealogical groups, institutions, and researchers on social sites such as Facebook and Google+.  I've also seen an explosion of people in the genealogy community linking together via the social/business network LinkedIn.
     What has changed for me in using these networks is the amount of information I am getting from these connections. My Facebook newsfeed is now a virtual Irish genealogy newsletter. I can hardly keep up with the volumes of information being placed on Facebook pages by organizations such as the Irish Genealogical Society and the National Library of Ireland. In the past few months, Facebook has become my "go-to" source for Irish genealogy news.
     In fact, the amount of news has become so overwhelming, I am trying to figure out ways to prevent it from crowding out the news from friends and family. From what I know of Google+, the "circle" idea seems like a great solution. There are already many genealogy "circles" floating in the Google+ world.
     LinkedIn is a networking site with a more professional direction. I've been able to keep up with the world of professional genealogy via its groups.
    These networks can be valuable for research purposes also.  I have heard many stories of cousins and long lost relatives connecting via Facebook. Many Facebook users conduct searches for families using surnames and communities as keywords for their "friends" searches.
     A cousin of mine in Poland found me using that route, and I have been able to connect to distant cousins in my Irish tree and in my husband's Jewish family via Facebook. . I have also been able to "friend" fellow researchers and keep current on their lives and research. I would estimate that half my Facebook use is now genealogy related. Especially in Irish family research, personal connections are very important, so don't dismiss online social network as simply a way to display photos and announce your whereabouts. Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other social network sites can become serious family history research tools.
These links are to Facebook pages. If you are not a registered Facebook user, you may not be able to retrieve the page. Be sure to be signed into your Facebook account to access these links. "Like" the page or "Join" the group to receive their posts in your newsfeed.