August 20th, 2012

Family Tree Fun on Facebook

How Social Media is Expanding Interest in Genealogy

We spend much of our time as genealogists sleuthing around looking for elusive records and ancestors, and that in itself is what I call fun! There are others however, (probably not serious genealogists – yet), who are having fun on Facebook with a Family Tree inspired game called Family Village. It’s pretty amazing; Facebook has actually gone the whole mile to make this game authentic, and you can view actual genealogical documents like census reports and marriage licenses, and obituaries as you go about uncovering your ancestors and finding out facts about them. It’s family history fun at its finest, and as long as it doesn’t distract you from your actual genealogy research, can be a great way to have fun and practice those investigative skills you’ve learnt while researching real family members.

Family Village is based on similar principles to other Facebook games such as Farmville and City Ville. The goal of the game is to build a thriving village and fill it with family members. It’s pretty interesting that the first thing they do is to ask you to confirm that the birthday Facebook has for you is correct. Next you enter your place of birth; then they look for a historical newspaper that was printed on that day in time. Once you finish creating the character that will be you in the game, you can view your historical document. Mine was the Post-Standard newspaper from Syracuse, New York on the day of my birth. I’m not telling my birth date, as then you will know my age! I expected just a headline or something, but I could read the entire 26 pages of the paper, I thought that was cool, and I was already hooked.

As you continue Family Village you go about amassing your fortune, buying houses and other material things, assign jobs, and even emigrate or immigrate family members. As for the genealogical records and documents, you of course collect and store them to develop your family history. As with most Facebook games it is quite addictive and competitive, but under the proper supervision could be a great way to get young people interested in Genealogy and familiarize them with some of the procedures like record research and collection. One woman who played the game as it was being tested used the game (unintentionally) as a springboard to begin a genuine family tree. She found an actual obituary for one of her uncles and another for a grandmother, and so began seriously researching her genealogy and developing her family tree.

Genealogy is going Global!

The Family Village game on Facebook is new, but of course family trees are not. Everyday more genealogies and pedigrees are being published online; it’s no wonder that the pursuit of genealogy has branched out into the realms of social networking. Genealogy is by its nature a networking endeavor; it is just made for the internet, and vice versa. Genealogists are about as social a group as you can find, so making use of social media is a kind of natural progression. If you haven’t already, visit, which is probably about the best example of just how social, and generous genealogists are. For those of you unfamiliar with WikiTree, it is a collaborative project modeled after Wikipedia, and all content is added by contributors. Its aim is to create a global family tree, and so far there are more than 1.4 million genealogical profiles created by over 27,000 contributors.

And believe it or not, Twitter has become a major tool for both genealogy marketers and those looking to begin building a family tree. Individual users are posting questions about records searches and other genealogical issue, while genealogical sites such as, and a host of smaller sites use it regularly to announce new editions to their genealogical arsenals.

There is also, a site that I’ve only recently become familiar with. It was created to help family historians who might come to a dead end in their research. It encourages users to find out as much as they can about their families by tapping into the memories and minds of their relatives, then create a tapestry of that accumulated knowledge on a web page created automatically by Tpstry. The collection of each user takes the form of a digital magazine, with people, places, images, and events sections accompanied by a timeline for important dates in the family history.

There is a page for each entry that displays every question that has been answered about them, and images of family members are tagged similar to those on Face book for quick identification of relatives. Best of all the service is free, and if it keeps growing at the rate it is, will make a great tool for future genealogists. Why not add your own memories by creating a helping to create a massive database for future genealogists.

Speaking of the future, I just have to tell you about Timeless Footsteps. They market a product called Footprints, which are business card-sized placards that are affixed to a tombstone and read with the latest scanning technology. Each placard contains a unique code that can be scanned with a Smartphone or other type code reader. That code then directs the viewer to a web-page that includes genealogical and biographical information about the deceased, and of course links to any social media pages like Facebook or Twitter!

Genealogy is definitely advancing rapidly. When developers of technology specifically target genealogists with specialized products, you get an idea of just how huge genealogy has become, and how much more room there is for it to grow!