How to Use Facebook for Your Genealogy Research

Updated on February 18, 2020
Virginia Allain profile image

Genealogy makes a fascinating hobby. I want to share what I've learned and help other researchers track their family information.

A sampling of DNA groups on Facebook.
A sampling of DNA groups on Facebook. | Source

Use the Power of Facebook for Your Family History

Make the magic of Facebook groups work for you. Get help from other genealogists with research and DNA questions, create your own family groups, get photos restored or colorized by volunteers, research in history groups, and easily contact museums and libraries.

All these and more are activities that you can participate in on the popular social media platform. The value to anyone researching their family history, learning more from their DNA test, or connecting with long-lost family is tremendous.

For those not currently using the site, I'll show you what you're missing and give tips for jumping in without getting caught up in the social aspects or sacrificing your privacy.

An African-American genealogy group, the AfriGeneas. This group has 213,000 members. What a great resource! This is an example of a specialized ethnicity group for those working on family history.
An African-American genealogy group, the AfriGeneas. This group has 213,000 members. What a great resource! This is an example of a specialized ethnicity group for those working on family history. | Source

What Genealogy Groups Will You Find on Facebook?

It would be easier to list ones that aren't on the popular site, but that would be out-of-date immediately as more groups are created daily to accommodate the interests of the millions of users on there.

You can download a 300 page PDF list with 11,000 Facebook genealogy groups or save it to your Evernote or Onenote.

Some types of groups you will find include:

  • How-to groups: Some are specific user groups (Ancestry, Family Search, Newspapers.com, Family Tree Maker, etc.). Others might be for general discussion on genealogy, getting help with your genealogy problems, or information for beginners.
  • DNA groups: General discussion ones, ethnicity/country of origin ones, family name DNA groups, adoptees DNA groups, and ones for people who need help after finding out their family doesn't match their DNA.
  • Groups for genealogy by location: Almost every state and many countries are represented by a genealogy group. In addition, there are some history groups by city or county that are useful for background information or for asking about family names.
  • Topical groups: These might relate to ethnicity, religion, a particular time in history, etc. There are groups for Civil War genealogy, African-American genealogy, Jewish genealogy, and more.

An example of a Civil War genealogy group on Facebook.
An example of a Civil War genealogy group on Facebook. | Source

How to Find Genealogy Pages and Groups

Joining Groups and Pages

There are groups and pages on Facebook. Pages can be joined by clicking LIKE. Usually, the administration is set up to post on the page, but others are limited to commenting or sending a message to the page owner.

Groups often require anyone wanting to join to first request approval. Sometimes that approval requires you to answer some simple questions. These are designed to screen out spammers and ensure that new members have a genuine interest in the topic.

An example of a cousin group or surname group. I created this group so my first and second cousins could share photos, stories, and family history. My various cousin groups have between 35 to 150 members, depending on how well I recruit for it.
An example of a cousin group or surname group. I created this group so my first and second cousins could share photos, stories, and family history. My various cousin groups have between 35 to 150 members, depending on how well I recruit for it. | Source

A Tip for Setting up a Surname Group of Your Own

Before starting your own surname group or cousin group, check to see if one already exists. I ended up creating groups for my Vining, Joy, Martin, and McGhee cousins.

Set some parameters to keep the group focused. I didn't want thousands of Martins from all over the globe joining my Martin Family Genealogy group and asking me to help them with their family tree. So I specified in the description that it was for descendants of my great-grandparents and put their names. Then, in the question for people wanting to join, I asked how they were related. This has kept the group manageable and useful in sharing photos and family stories.

Facebook Photo Restoration Groups Help Genealogists

Trying to figure out who is who in an old family photo is tough when there are scratches and other damage to a photo. When I found some photo restoration groups on Facebook, I was ecstatic.

These volunteers take their time to clean up a photo for you. They might also brighten up the photo and sharpen it so you can see more details. What a treat to see great-grandma more clearly after all these years have passed.

Keep in mind that they are volunteers, so don't shove an avalanche of old pictures at them. Pick out one that is really special to you and see what they can do with it. Remember to say "please" and "thank you."

Overcoming Your Fear of Facebook

Sometimes people tell me that they don't use Facebook because they fear their personal information might be misused in some way. There are ways to protect yourself and still be able to benefit from the wealth of information and sharing on the site.

How to Avoid Issues Online

  • Don't put any private information in your profile or in a group that you don't want others to have.
  • Set your privacy for "friends," not for "friends of friends" and not for "everyone."

  • Set your privacy settings on social media to prevent casual users from connecting with you. Example: Don't accept lots of "friends" if your main use of the site is to network or gather genealogy information. You can interact with people within a group without being friends.
  • Facebook requires an email address for you to join. Do not post contact information or personal details on your profile.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Virginia Allain

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      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        3 months ago from UK

        I don't use Facebook, but you make a great case for the benefits of Facebook when researching genealogy. I especially appreciate the way that you have shown a non-Facebooker around the site via your article.

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