Saturday, March 19, 2016

Tip: Ask Facebook about your Genealogical Brick Walls

There are now more than one billion people on Facebook every day. That's a lot of people, and maybe one of them can help you.  What are the odds? 

All of us have that famous family tree brick wall that we've been starring at for years. It happens to all of us. I finally caved in and asked Facebook about my brick wall. I wrote up the question and posted it to one of the many Facebook groups devoted to genealogy.  This group was specifically devoted to Posen, a German province in Prussia that is now part of Poland. Posen is Poznan in Polish.

I rewrote my question a couple of times as people asked me great questions that I should have anticipated, like years, names, and places -- data that has to be included in order to get a good answer.  I know that many of us get lazy and write short questions, or we don't give all the information so that we can do a double-blind confirmation if someone comes back with what we already know. However, in order to really get the best answers from the thousands of experts (out of one billion), you need to give them the best information you have. Many of them will devote research time on your question, for free, on their own time, and they are far more likely to do that if you give them a good rich question.

In my case, one person told me I should check out the Posen Project website.  Duh!  I'm obviously working on this area, and have used that site many many times. Anyone who knows how to use Google finds the Posen Project on their first search.  How very remedial and somewhat demeaning. So, before writing something snarky back to them, I realized I hadn't been to the site in a few months and I better double-check.  So, off I went, and boom!  There it was.  The marriage record that would break down the brick wall!  Yes, they keep adding records. Every day.

Thank you Facebook!

Reasons to Ask Facebook:

1) One Billion: There are over one billion, with a "b", users each day.

2) There's a group for you: there are so many groups of Facebook, that it's very likely that there is one devoted to your area of genealogy.  Thus, the people in that group are even better equipped to give you some good advice and maybe some answers.

3) Articulation: By just writing down your question, and making it a good question, you help yourself figure out just what you really need.  Figuring out your exact problem is often more than half the issue, and the act of writing sometimes gets you to focus on what that really is.

4) Reminders: Sometimes, someone will remind you of something very basic and fundamental. And sometimes those reminders are really the best thing, as they you bring back to the foundations and force you to get it absolutely right.

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