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Using Facebook for Irish Research

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

If you are a Facebook user, are you using it for your Irish Research? I know a lot of people shy away from Facebook, but it can make a difference in your research. Did you know that there are over 14,500 Facebook groups for genealogy and that Kathrine R. Willson has a downloadable PDF listing them on her website. Katherine lists pages by country, state, areas of interest (such as adoption), lineage societies and lots more. The list includes 206 entries for Ireland alone and that doesn't include websites such as mine (listed under Bloggers) which also covers Irish topics.

Why should you care? All of the counties in Ireland have at least one Facebook page and the people who are members have ancestors from that place. You might find one of your cousins there (I did). But just as important, there are people on the site who still live in the locality and they are a wealth of information. You'll find (for most sites) that when you first visit the site you will have to "Join." This is to prevent (as much as is possible) SPAM and other unwanted interactions. You answer a question or two about your ancestors from that locality and the administrator gives you access to the site. For example, my Daly family hails from County Mayo and I am a member of both the Mayo Genealogy Group as well as the Mayo DNA and GEDmatch.

A few months ago, someone posted that they had an obituary and was looking for information about the family. Within a few hours there were multiple responses from people who knew the couple, along with pictures of them and the house where they lived. People are very willing to help, even looking up information that is available online. One of the most valuable bits of assistance comes when posting an image of a location (possibly from a civil registration or church record) that you can't find. It may be just a small village, or an old name of a locality known just by the locals. Someone will recognize it and post the information about where it is.

Like Mayo, many of the Counties have multiple sites. Some, like the image above, are general genealogy sites. Others may be specific to DNA (the title may mention DNA or might refer to Matchmaker or GedMatch). If you know that one or more of your ancestors came from a specific place, uploading your DNA information to be compared just to those who also had ancestry from that location, may help break through a brick wall. For the sites that use Matchmaker or Matchbox, you need to move your results to GedMatch, then run a special spreadsheet (available on the site) which compares your DNA only to others that have tested and uploaded their results from that locality. You then "tag" the individual on Facebook (their Facebook ID is part of the spreadsheet results) posting a copy of your results and can work out how you are related. You don't have to keep checking back...Facebook will send you a notification if you are tagged. If you don't know the locality, you can also post to the Irish DNA (with Matchbox Tool) site. Be aware that if your Irish ancestors met and married in the US, they might have come from different areas so your matches may not focus on one area. You still might be able to match to a specific ancestor and location. Frequently (as I like to say) the cousin got the good stuff and may, for example, have the Family Bible. I've also had instances where cousins I didn't know of before, had the same pictures and actually knew who the people were! I don't normally post anyone with less than 15cm to start, since it's unlikely I have records back that far. Notice with the post below, I got 63 comments.

DNA testing, while not as widespread in Ireland as here in the US, is becoming more frequent. When I travel to Ireland I always go equipped with multiple DNA kits, just in case. Were your ancestors from the village of Ballycarry in County Antrim? There is a project underway through the North of Ireland Family History Society to test everyone from the village of Ballycarry and to develop a tree for the individuals back into the 1700s. Wouldn't it be nice if other areas began such a project.

Just a word on how to write a query. I sometimes cringe when reading the posts that say something like, "My ancestors were Murphys and Sullivans." My reaction is, well congratulations. What are you looking for? When you post on Facebook (or any other platform) to make a request, provide enough information without giving your entire family history. Keep it short and specific. Who are you looking for? What are you looking for? Where did they live? When did they live? Is there something specific to differentiate them. In particular when writing to a DNA match, ask for a specific action. "Please let me know that you received this even if you don't know anything specific. I may be able to help."

So use Facebook to help find your cousins. If you're new to Facebook, set up your account with privacy settings and only accept friends you know. Remember that you don't have to post to your timeline and share information to everyone. I personally make a point of not liking or forwarding anything political, and have a separate account for personal and won't find anything about my children or grandchild on my Genealogy page. When you are asked to "join" a group or site, make sure you read the rules and check out the posts. Each site had an administrator if you have any questions or problems. You should feel safe using most of the genealogy sites.

So, Happy Hunting and Stay Safe.

There are so many educational opportunities going on right now, many of them (like the one from Vivid-Pix below) either free or very low cost. I try to post them on my Facebook page when I hear about them. It's a great time to take advantage of them to improve your research skills.

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