Friday, May 11, 2012

Using Facebook To Find Relatives

I have been quite successful finding relatives using Facebook search.  It is a bit more difficult with common last names such as Smith or Jones (thankfully I don't have those names in my family tree).

It is also difficult trying to find female relatives because they often change their last name when they get married, but thankfully many women use their maiden name or a combination of their maiden name and married surname for Facebook.

These are the steps that I take:
  1. Do a simple Facebook search for the name(s) that you have, and all combinations. 
  2. If that doesn't yield the result, then do a Google search for all the name combinations. If they are on Facebook, it should show up in your search results.
  3. If that doesn't work and you know the name of a close family member of theirs, then you can use one of the commonly available people finding sites, such as Veromi, to find the person that you know. Your target person might show up as living with that person, which might give you some clues as to more details about their name and location. IMPORTANT NOTE: As a rule for myself - I never will pay a fee to use these sites to obtain details about the person that it is not freely available.  I personally believe that it is an intrusion into their personal life and I will not do it.
  4. If that still doesn't work, then I redo steps 1, 2 and 3, using either their parents names if you have them, or their siblings.
  5. The most important step is to look at all of their Friends names.  If the person is on Facebook and they are pretty active, then they are likely to have some of their relatives as Friends.  Even if you aren't interested in all their relatives for your own tree, the last names might let you know that you have found the right person.  For a woman, this is critically important.  If you think you know their maiden name but not their married surname, then by looking at their Friends name, you are likely to find someone who have the target maiden name as their last name. This could clue you in that you have found your target person.
And the last step, after you have found your target, is to send them a private Facebook message.  This will go to both their Facebook inbox as well as the inbox for the email address that is connected to Facebook.

In this message I write gingerly and respectfully, since some people may not be interested.  I introduce myself, talk about connecting with relatives, that I am searching my family history, and then give them the hook.  Tell them something in a nice way about how they might be connected, as well as what you know about their ancestors, and then I give them my family website url, as well as my personal email address.  In this way they will see that I am likely a real person and not a scammer.

In all cases but one (in my experience), their interest has been piqued and they respond.  And then, depending on their response and how eager they are to find out more, I will give them my phone number and ask them if they would prefer to talk or converse via email.

You know what to do after you have made the connection.  Good luck!

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