Last month my local genealogy society (Marin County Genealogical Society) held our annual workshop meeting. One of the topics presented was Using Social Media To Further Your Genealogy Research. I want to follow-up what our members learned by sharing a success story about how social media has aided my research.
Several years ago, while working on my father’s Italian line, I sent a message to a woman using the messaging service on Ancestry.com. This woman (I will refer to her as Minnie for privacy) was the owner of a family tree which included a person who was listed above my family member on the passenger manifest for the trip from Italy. What caught my eye and made me contact Minnie is both men were from the same very small town in Italy.
Minnie and I have not found a link to prove a relation between us but it is still possible since there are only about 12 surnames in this town. Since our initial emails, we have helped each other with our research. I found and sent digital copies of church records to Minnie. When she visited Italy a couple of years ago, Minnie sent me a book about Cossano Canavese which includes a photo of my great-great-grandfather. More importantly, Minnie and I became Facebook friends.
As part of her trip to Italy, Minnie became friends with several of the people she met in Cossano. Minnie friended her Italian friends on Facebook as a way to stay in touch. Minnie also suggested to me that I friend one of the women (I will refer to her as Lily for privacy) as she had a lot of knowledge of the town and its history. At the time I friended Lily we exchanged a couple of messages about who we were related to and our interests. I have enjoyed seeing the photos of Cossano that Lily posts to her Facebook account.
Last month, I was reviewing my research and realized that while I had supporting documents for my Italian line to 1899 (when the microfilm ended) I was missing a few critical items from 1900-1921. I sent a message to Lily to ask her what was the best way to get the documents. Who should I contact and what do I need to say? Does it have to be in Italian? I included in my message that I was looking for the marriage of my great grandparents, baptism of my grandfather, and death records for both great grandparents.
Two days later, I had a message back from Lily. She had walked down to the church in town and had taken photographs of all the documents!! She also informed me that the current vice-mayor is one of my relatives who remembers my grandfather. I have the contact email for her and Facebook information for her son.
If I had not reached out to other family history researchers and created relationships using social media I would not have these special documents right now. I now have a copy of both of my grandparents signatures and more of the story of how my grandfather came to the U.S. has been filled in. I also have started new relationships with distant cousins in Italy.
Social media lets you connect and collaborate with other researchers and distant family. You never know how those connections may lead you to a piece of the missing genealogy puzzle!