Genealogy tips: Social networking, online tools help researchers share family information

By Barry Ewell

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 19 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Social networking can help genealogists connect as they do family history research.


Online communities exist as a place for people with common interests to build new relationships. These online services provide simple tools to generate collaborative opportunities for finding, sharing and interacting with like-minded people. Social networking websites use networking technologies such as wikis, RSS and mapping.

Online family tree building is one example of the benefit of this kind of collaborative community, helping people connect with family members and other genealogy researchers. Many sites become a platform for the family social experience: participants can produce content, preserve connections, add historical anecdotes and communicate via a number of mediums, such as instant messaging and email and picture and family tree viewing.

People who use these services can browse by city or country to view uploaded photos of specific cities and names of genealogists who live there. Examples include Facebook, FamilyLink, Famiva, Google Plus, LinkedIn, MyFamily, MyHeritage, MySpace and Twitter.

I actively use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. I can virtually travel long distances — even across the pond — for little or no cost at all. Usually, I'm contacting people who have already advertised their body of knowledge and expertise.

Facebook, one of the leading social networking sites, has been adopted wholeheartedly by the genealogy community. It has allowed me to find near and distant family; I have also followed other genealogists who offer online seminars or have websites with information on genealogy and the industry.

Twitter is a messaging platform in which — just like Facebook "friends" — users gather "followers." These are people who find a user's messages interesting and decide to follow him. Twitter is different in that users are limited to 140 characters for each message, or "tweet." I actively tweet the surnames I am searching for, especially the ones for whom I am encountering brick walls.

Other useful online services include the following:

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