Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Since Everyone's on Facebook

Well...maybe not everyone. But enough people to help put that six degrees of separation idea to work, at least for reuniting antique photographs with their family members.

Before I ever started puzzling over which of three potential candidates were the true contestants for the likeness of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Roberts of Council Bluffs, Iowa—will the real ones please stand up?—I had been working on an adorable picture of a toddler whose family likely had lived in the Reno, Nevada, area. Stuck once again, I decided to see what would happen if I posted the photo on the Facebook page for the local genealogical society.

As things turned out, there was no local genealogical society from northern Nevada with a Facebook page (or group). But there was the Nevada state society. So that was where this adorable, lost cherub made her appearance last November.

In response, I discovered another researcher after my own heart, who has been reuniting lost photographs with family members for the past twenty years. Naturally, I used the opportunity of bumping into her online to ask for tips. After all, she'd been at it for far longer than I have.

Her suggestion? In a private message, she advised: "try posting on some of the FaceBook pages dedicated to lost treasures.''

I started searching for that term on Facebook, and pulled up several such groups. Hey, there are a lot of people doing this very same thing. I found Lost and Found Genealogy Pictures, a group started in 2018 which now has over seven thousand members. A similarly named, but much older group, Genealogy: Lost and Found, has grown to five thousand from their start in 2013. Not to confuse things, another group, founded two months before the previously-named group, sports the name Genealogy: LOST and FOUND—and a follower base of seventeen thousand.

As it turned out, there are several such groups on Facebook, dedicated to offering a stage for people who do what I do: rescue abandoned family photos and find a way to send them back to descendants. Once I found them, I did the only reasonable thing I could: I joined them all.

At about the same time I met this researcher with the twenty year track record of rescuing old photos, someone else—turns out, one of the group admins—posted a comment below the picture I had shared, suggesting that I check out another Facebook group called From Shrubs to Trees, an appropriate moniker.

Then came the holidays. Not much of genealogical progress is made then. But with life after New Year's, the Facebook queries are rolling out. While each post becomes only another drop in a churning ocean of—who are we kidding here? Let's make that another needle in a mile-high haystack—at least it's one more attempt at a miracle reunion than we've had before this point. Maybe someone, somewhere...

The more I talk, the more I think I'm talking myself out of confidence. What did that song say? I have confidence in... Well, maybe, sometimes, I don't. And in cases like that, it's back to the drawing board and more research tactics again. There are still other ways to find our answer.


  1. I had no idea there were groups on Facebook that returned lost photos. Thanks and Aloha!

    1. That was news to me, too--although not surprising, seeing how genealogy forums have migrated to Facebook in such large numbers. I wonder if you can bring some of your most challenging photos to some of these groups, too, Far Side. I'm going to see how it goes with a couple pictures that have me stumped. Social networking for genealogy!


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