Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Using Facebook Groups for Genealogy Help

Have you ever had trouble deciphering a word in a handwritten document?  Perhaps you asked your genealogy friend what he thought it was.  If you have a blog, perhaps you wrote a post about it.  If you have a Facebook account and are a member of a genealogy group, you probably posted the image there -- and within an hour, received help from at least half a dozen people.

I've had a Facebook account for a while but didn't bother with it much (a little too public for introvert me) until recently when I discovered its rich source of genealogy and family history groups.  I think it's safe to say that no matter your location or area of interest in family history there will be a Facebook group for it.  From location, to translating from one language to another, to reading old documents, to dating old photographs, to learning about your genealogy program, to so much more, you can find information and/or help on Facebook.

I've been impressed with the speed at which responses come when I ask a question.  In the whole wide world there is someone awake every minute of the day or night and often one of those people can answer my question at 2:30 a.m. or 5:00 p.m.

Genealogists and family historians are more than willing to respond to questions and often go beyond just answering the question to giving help by finding documents, headstones, and fixing photographs.  That being said, everyone is busy with paid employment, family life, daily responsibilities at home, and family history.  There's more to do than there is time in the day for many people.  Be kind and don't waste others' time.

How, you ask?  Use the "Search this group" box, barely visible at the bottom of the image at right, to see if your topic was discussed a week ago, just before you joined the group, or weeks before you knew you wanted to know that information.  Choose a few words from your question that a search might find (e.g., probate, voter lists, Ohio, a surname, a cemetery name, etc.), type them into the box, then click/tap the magnifying glass.  The results will appear in the center of the page.  Scroll through them to see if your question might have been previously answered by someone else.  If not, ask.

In addition to using the search box, check the Files.  Not all Facebook groups have files but if the one you've joined does, be sure to scroll through them.  You may find surname lists; lists of books owned by members who are willing to do searches; resource lists for a state or county; lists of state resources; lists of county estate files; and more.

Using Facebook for family history is another way to crowdsource.  Of course, it's not only about getting help.  It's also about giving help.  When reading another's post and you have a helpful answer, respond.  You may have knowledge that no one else in the group does.  Share it.

I've joined a number of genealogy groups on Facebook.  Some are closed groups, which means I needed to request to join (usually by clicking a button).  Other groups, like genealogy societies, often have a public page that is open to anyone including those without Facebook accounts.   Below are a few of my favorite groups.

Genealogy program  (This is the program I use but there are groups for others, too.)
RootsMagic Users

General genealogy questions and help
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness - RAOGK USA

British genealogy group
Ancestry UK Discussion Group

County and state genealogy groups
Mercer County, Pennsylvania Genealogy

Pennsylvania Genealogy Network

Jefferson County Ohio History and Genealogy

Genealogy blogging groups
GeneaBloggers TRIBE
We Are Genealogy Bloggers

If you're curious to know which other genealogy groups are on Facebook, click through to Katherine R. Willson's pdf list, Genealogical and Historical Groups/Pages on Facebook (in English).  It is over 300 pages long with more categories than I want to list here and with hyperlinks to each group's page, or visit her website.  She updates the list at least annually.

Do you have a Facebook account?  Are you a member of any genealogy groups and, if so, have you received or given help?


Copyright ©2017-2018 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Great advice about Facebook genealogy groups! I belong to one for beginners, and the members are responsive and generous in providing help and support to one another. I belong to a second one devoted specifically to matters of ethics that arise in genealogy. I've learned a great deal just reading the discussions.

    1. Thanks, Liz. It's true that we can learn a lot just reading the questions and comments -- something I didn't think to include in this post.


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