There are 901 Million active Facebook users as of March 2012, according to HowManyAreThere.org (http://www.howmanyarethere.org/how-many-facebook-users-are-there-2012/). Facebook is estimated to break one Billion users before 2012 ends (Mashable source: http://mashable.com/2012/01/12/facebook-1-billion-users/). According to Gregory Lyons, a senior analyst at iCrossing, Facebook will reach the milestone in August .
Do I have your attention genealogists? One seventh of the world’s population is on Facebook – perhaps your 2nd and 3rd cousins are there waiting for you to engage them in some family history. Skype has nearly 107 Million “Real Users” and recently hit 41.5 Million concurrent users !
So being social can help you reach more people who may have a piece to your family history. I have searched Facebook with modest success for the ‘ELIASZ’ or ‘ELIJASZ’ family name. Not everyone will friend you anymore. I have had success in SKYPE finding an ‘ELIJASZ’ family member in my grandfather’s ancestral village of Pacanow in Poland. I once had a very lucky success with a social network in Poland, named nasza-klasa.pl (now more easily found at http://nk.pl/ ). Now this jester is minimally conversant in Polish and my “cousin” in Poland was zero conversant in English. But, I was able to use Google’s Translator (English to Polish and vice versa) with success although it did generate some laughter at times. The final result was a letter from Poland with a copy of my grandparents’ marriage record from the actual church book in Biechow, Poland! Nasza-Klasa also yielded two 2nd cousins who were born in Poland (one since moved to the US) and we keep in touch via Facebook.
How else can you use social media to aid your genealogy? Write a genealogy blog (like this blog for example). I went to a recent Polish/Slavic genealogy seminar this year and spoke to a fellow blogger, Donna Pointkouski, who writes the genealogy blog, “What’s Past Is Prologue”. Donna called genealogy blogs, “2nd Cousin Bait” . She said by writing about your genealogy searches, successes and family members, your blog can lure these more distant family tree members to you. It works because search engines like Google or Bing find your blog posts and index key words (tags/categories) and proper nouns in their databases and out they pop when 2nd/3rd cousins are trying to Google their family trees. Stanczyk has personally located two 2nd cousins and one 3rd cousin via the blog. One 2nd cousin even gave me a picture of a previously unknown grand-aunt from before 1910 — jackpot! I was then able to locate that grand-aunt in microfilm from the LDS Family History Library for her children’s birth records in Poland.
A couple more blog tips – Sprinkle your blog posts with the lingua franca of your ethnic lineage to lure readers from your ancestral home. Finally on your blog software (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, etc.) – get the widget(s) to share your blog posts on your other social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. Make sure you get the widest exposure possible to lure your family from all over. Ask family and friends to add your blog/tweets to their Flipboard and possibly ‘star’ the better posts for you to up your Klout.
Lastly, you may want to put your family tree online. Some of my greatest finds have come from collaborating with other genealogists on Ancestry.com. It is the largest collection of genealogists and paid genealogy subscribers — serious genealogists. These people found me and my family who as it turned out were a part of their family tree too. I cannot count the number of family members I have met from Ancestry.com. Let me tell you that my greatest finds were from a woman whose family I and my father thought were only friends from the “old country” whose families renewed their friendship here in the US. From this woman (Kim), who I helped out by reading her grandparents’ marriage record from a Polish church in Detroit. What do the two of us discover, but her great-grandmother was an ELIJASZ from Pacanow. As it turned out, her great-grandmother was my great-grandfather’s sister and that the two of us shared a great-great-grandfather — we were 3rd cousins! So we were blood relatives not just family friends as our parents had thought. I found out my father was her father’s best man — neither of us knew that beforehand. Her grandmother (Rose Wlecialowski) was a best friend of my grandmother. I thought I had never met this third cousin … wrong! She had photos of me in her family pictures. We were so young neither had memories of the other. She had pictures of me as a 3 year old child that I did not have, with my young father on her grandmother’s farm. She had a picture of my young grandmother from the 1930′s with her grandmother! This was a B-O-N-A-N-Z-A!
I found her great-grandparents’ marriage record from Pacanow and had it copied from the church book. I translated it from Russian for her (and for my records too). It confirmed that we were indeed 3rd cousins and shared great-great-grandparents (Martin Elijasz & Anna Zasucha). I also eventually found the birth record from the first child that my paternal grandparents had together over in Poland and little Wladyslaw Jozef Elijasz had Rose Wlecialowski for his god-mother. Her grandmother was a god-mother to one of my “uncles”. Poor little Wladyslaw died in infancy and never made the trip to America with my grandparents and my aunt Alice. My father and the rest of my aunts and uncles were born here in the US.
So you see, your family is out there. You just don’t know it yet. Use the social networks, USA and overseas versions. Write a blog to lure your cousins. By all means join Ancestry.com too and upload your family tree to Ancestry.com. These will grow your family tree more completely than you could if you eschewed not to use the Internet. Make your family tree mobile — load it to your iPhone and start collaborating in the Cloud. You will thank me later!