Sunday, September 13, 2009

Social Networking

Websites like Facebook and Twitter have become huge successes in allowing people to connect with friends and family. Using free accounts, you can build a profile of yourself, sharing as much or as little about yourself as you wish. These sites allow people to maintain contact with new and old friends, share stories, daily activities, photos, and more. Because the accounts are free, all that is necessary to be in contact with family and friends anywhere in the world is an Internet connection - also free at most local public libraries.

Family historians have been taking advantage of the connection opportunity through these websites for some time although recently there have been new sites that have become available specifically for genealogists of all levels. for instance might best be described as "Facebook for Genealogists." It offers a profile and photo sharing features and like Facebook, you can add friends and join groups - the groups are related to specific areas of interest and research.

What is remarkable about many of these sites is the ability to collaborate, like sharing and finding matches in family trees. I have listed some or much of my family tree information on a couple of sites and have been amazed at the result. I have located or have been located by cousins of mine or my wife, Ellen that I didn't know we had and, from all around the world. These cousins live some distances away from us, ranging from a two-hour drive from our house, to Scotland, Luxembourg, and most recently, Australia. While its usually true that the relationships might typically be second, third or even fifth cousin in nature, they share the same amazement as I in finding someone, previously unknown who shares a common ancestor.

Genealogists have long understood the value of social networking, using message boards and discussion forums for years to make enquiries, share information and discuss problem solving tips and techniques. The true benefit of using one of the newer social networking sites for genealogists is the focus on family history. While your Facebook page may be busy with friends and family activity, your genealogy social network page filters out everything but your family history interests.

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