Updated: Dec 29, 2018
It’s been a tough couple of months for social networking. First the Facebook privacy issues and then the GedMatch DNA use by law enforcement.
Dictionary.com defines social networking as: “an online community of people with a common interest who use a website or other technologies to communicate with each other and share information, resources, etc." Doesn’t that define genealogists?
In the past when I’ve lectured on Social Networking, the main complaint I heard was “I don’t care what people had for lunch!” Now, it’s more about privacy. Whenever you are putting information out there you need to be careful…make sure you understand and are using the privacy settings. But more important, just think before you click! For me to accept a friend request I have to either 1) know the person; 2) read something in their profile about genealogy; 3) they have to have a number of my friends as their friends. My privacy setting allow only Friends of Friends to send me a Friend request. I don’t allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to my profile. Only Friends can see my posts.
I also don’t participate in surveys (remember, that’s how Cambridge Analytics got their information). I also don’t “like” or comment on political posts (even when I agree with them). If a “friend” is engaging in lots of political or offensive posts, I will block them. I don’t post a lot of information on my personal Facebook page and only Friends can see my posts.
Are you using your Facebook profile to sign into other accounts? It’s easy to do and one less password to remember, but don’t! You can check by going into your settings and selecting “Apps and Websites.” If you are using Facebook to sign in to any apps consider creating a user profile for that app with a separate password. I hear the groans…one more password to remember. I’m a Mac user and my keychain remembers my passwords for me. If that’s not the case, there are lots of password manager apps that keep your passwords secure. eWallet which keeps an encrypted list of my password and syncs it among my other devices works for me. One password to remember and I can find any other password.
Genealogists who avoid social networking are missing out on a great resource. Over the years my use of Facebook has increased focusing on places where my ancestors lived and topics of interest. My friends tend to be family (I get to check in on what my children are doing) and genealogists. Genealogists are wonderful, sharing people. Have a question about how to cite a source? Follow Elizabeth Shown Mills. A legal issue? You’re likely to find an answer with the Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell (she doesn’t give legal advice online, but writes fabulous blogs). And if you have an Irish question, I hope you follow me…not on my personal page, but at Donna Moughty Genealogy, a page devoted to Irish genealogy (no pictures of my kids or grandchild). Finding “Pages” that relate to your genealogical area of interest is the way to take advantage of Facebook.
On Donna Moughty Genealogy I curate information that I think is interesting to Irish researchers. Some of the material references blogs I’ve written, but a lot of the information comes from others…specialists like John Grenham, Fiona Fitzsimons, Brian Donovan and Claire Santry. Rather than trying to find all of the Irish specialists, you can just follow me.
I do the same on Twitter, just in short bursts with a link to the extended article or information.
I find that even many Facebook and Twitter users are not familiar with all of the resources available for genealogists. For example, I have ancestors from County Mayo, and there is a (very active) Facebook page devoted to that place (you have to request to join this closed page, but if you state that you have ancestors from the location there’s no problem getting approved). If you have ancestors from a specific location, doesn’t it make sense to find a resource where other people with ancestors from the same location will congregate? People on this site are from all over the world, including local people from Mayo. What they have in common is Mayo ancestry. It's a great place to ask a question. Can’t find the location of a placename? A local person will be happy to let you know if you post a question.
When you sign up for an account on Facebook or Twitter you don’t have to post any information…to begin with, you can simply receive information, discovering individuals with a common interest who share or curate information in which you are interested. On Facebook, to find a person or page, use the search feature in the top bar.
When you find a person or page of interest, you want to “friend” or “like” them on Facebook. For example you can “friend” me on Facebook on my personal page (and see personal as well as genealogy content I post) by clicking on “Add Friend,” or you could “like” a particular post I’ve made and then make a comment such as “great presentation.” 😃
However, on my Donna Moughty Genealogy page, you can “like” the page, and then receive notifications of my posts in your news feed. You can also comment on or share any posts I make. Katherine Willson has compiled a list of over 11,000 Facebook genealogy pages.
Twitter works in a similar fashion, except you “follow” those individuals you are interested in. If you find the information is not helpful, you can “unfollow” them as well. You can search on the name of an individual, or on a “hashtag” [#]. I use “#IrishGenealogy” or “#Ireland” when posting on Twitter, as do others who post on those topics. Just search twitter for those hashtags.
My suggestion…jump in and test the waters. It’s a great way to learn about new resources or methodologies to help you break through those brick walls Post comments on my feeds and let me know what you think!
As to the DNA issues, here’s a link to a post by John Grenham about GedMatch which you might find interesting. If you are asking someone to test, or to move their results to another platform, it’s critical that you make sure they understand the the possibilities. Also make sure you read the terms and conditions of any site you use. Here is a link to a blog by Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist, about informed consent. Remember, the person identified as the Golden State serial killer was found through an open site, and not on one of the major testing sites which require a court order to provide information. It will be interesting to see how often this might happen in the future. I’m not sure that this would change my mind. If my DNA helps arrest a serial killer, so be it! I think the jury is still out on some of the other questions. GedMatch is pretty clear about what might happen to your data. It also states that if you are uncomfortable, don’t upload your data, or if you already have, remove it.