Using Facebook for Genealogy Purposes
By Gayla Aspenleiter
Originally published in the December 2008 Germans from Russia Heritage Society Heritage Review
Facebook is a social network with more than 200 million users worldwide and one of the fastest-growing and best-known sites on the Internet today according to a New York Times article dated May 27, 2009. That is all well and good but how can it help me in my quest for finding information on my ancestors? The answer is that Facebook can help connect you to friends and relatives all over the world, just from sitting at your computer.
At first I did not believe that Facebook would help me but Rich’s success story convinced me otherwise. Rich has been looking for his grandfather’s brother’s family (Adam Aspenleiter) for many years. According to Adam’s EWZ papers, in June 1944 he was resettled in Gnesen, Poland. No one has heard from Adam’s family since. By using Facebook, Rich found Adam’s great-granddaughter, Elena, and her husband, Alexander (he uses the Aspenleider name). Alexander and Elena were resettled in Germany in 1999 from Kazakhstan. They only speak Russian and German so Rich uses a translator program to correspond with them.
Rich’s success story convinced me that I, too, should use Facebook to connect to family. Rich has made approximately 100 family connections using Facebook and so far I have connected with 32 relatives.
Do you need some help finding family? If so, below are the steps for setting up a Facebook account so you too can “connect” with family and friends to further your genealogy research.
Step 1: Create an account—it’s fast, free and easy. Go to http://www.facebook.com/ to sign up.
Step 2: Go to the “Friends” tab and scroll down to the “Search for People” box and type in a surname. I typed in “Ohlhauser” and got 261 hits! Many of the people on this list were my first cousins and others were distant cousins. I even found a few of my elderly aunts and my father’s first cousins using Facebook. And best of all, they are willing to share their stories and experiences with those of us who are younger and eager for information about our heritage.
Step 3: Send a “Friend Request” to those you want to connect to. Most people on Facebook will not let you on their “page” until they accept your friend request. You are given the option of sending a message with your friend request and it is a good idea to let them know that you are interested in genealogy and believe you may be related.
Step 4: Once you connect with a relative, you can share family information such as family trees and pictures and keep track of special events within your family.