I personally have used Facebook for everything from having relatives identify people in photos to learning about new resources from other genealogists to having old friends and family find me.
What is Facebook and what is social networking?
Social networking is a way for those who know each other and those who are interested in the same activities to communicate, often over long distances. A social networking service such as Facebook focuses on building an online community of people who share common interests. Facebook and other social networking sites allow people to post photos and links and update their friends, either frequently or infrequently, on what they are doing.
Having a Facebook account is almost like having a personal website or blog except that it is much easier to post items and text, and only the people you invite can look at your content.
To sign up for Facebook, simply go to their website at www.facebook.com and register. The best way to learn how to use Facebook is to just start exploring the site and clicking on different links.
Using Facebook to enhance your genealogy
Overall, Facebook is a great way to stay in contact with others. By using Facebook I have been able to reconnect with cousins I haven't seen for years and meet cousins that I would have otherwise never have met. Facebook allows you to stay in contact by reading your friend's answers to the question "what's on your mind"?
There are various ways that you can use Facebook to enhance your genealogy, the following are just a few ideas:
Adding Friends: Once you sign up for Facebook you will want to explore who else is using Facebook. Start looking for the names of relatives. Check out cousins and their grandchildren. Always wanted to get in touch with that certain genealogical speaker, personality, or blogger? Add them as a friend on Facebook. Can't find anyone you know on Facebook? Encourage your relatives to join. It's free and it's an easy way to stay in touch with others, especially in cases where family members live far away from each other.
Add Photos: One of the ways that I have used Facebook to further my genealogy is by posting photos and asking other family members to help with identification. Each person can add comments about the photo, like where, when, and why it was taken. They might even be able to provide you with additional information you may not have had otherwise.
Use the Inbox to Send Messages: By using the Inbox feature located on the top tool bar you can send messages that are seen only by the people you choose. This is a great way to trade family history information, start planning a family reunion, or just catch up.
Send Instant Messages: The lower right-hand side of Facebook provides you with information about which of your friends is currently signed on. By checking out who is signed on you can instant message the person and have an online chat with them. I have used this feature with distant cousins and asked questions about their families, while updating my PAF files at the same time. It's a great way to conduct a short interview with family members, and best of all its free.
Join a Group: Different genealogy groups can be found on Facebook. Through the site's group page you can learn about upcoming events and happenings. A group I belong to, the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, has its own page with information about membership and upcoming events. Other groups on Facebook include History Detectives, the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree, and the Louisiana Genealogy Blogs. The group, Geneabloggers, is an invitational group of fellow genealogy bloggers who keep in touch via Facebook.
Start a Page for your Surname: Are you actively researching a family? Start a page just for that research. Post information about your research and upload photos and other documents that you find. This is a great way to keep family members posted on your latest findings.
For More Information
To learn more about using social networking for genealogy, consider reading Drew Smith's new book, Social Networking for Genealogists].
To learn more about using Facebook, consult Facebook for Dummies by Carolyn Abram.