I have only been a group member for a little over a week and I am so impressed with what is taking place that I want to shout it from the rooftops!
Everyone who is interested in genealogy or family history in any form and at any level should be a member of this group.
The group is a SAFE environment for anyone from beginner to expert to ask questions and also to provide answers. And it is FREE help! From those who are in the same research trenches as you are and from those who have been there and done it before.
It is inspiring to read the requests and see all the suggestions of help. It is taking family history / genealogy from what has historically been a "do it myself struggle" to a community collaborative effort. When you hit that "brick wall" and you have exhausted all you have within you, it is comforting to know that others know what it is like and can offer assistance. And many are willing to offer assistance before you hit that discouraging wall.
Perhaps you just need help on knowing where to focus your efforts. Perhaps you are just beginning and are overwhelmed and need a little nudge of encouragement. Perhaps no one in your own family understands anything you are talking about and you just need an understanding and listening ear. It is about sharing success with those who understand the struggle. It is about matching the person with the question to those who know how to find the answer.
As this Facebook group has grown larger, the administrators, Jan Mitchell and Robin Foster, knew that it was time to create location and topic specific groups. They surveyed the group members and the first sub-groups created were for England and Ireland. Now, nearly all the US states have separate groups as well as handful of other countries. I like to think of these groups as "offspring" from the parent group. The Genealogy! Just Ask! website home page provides Facebook links to all of these offspring. Check out the website here: http://www.genealogyjustask.com/
I am also a member of a few of the "offspring" groups and in the Germany group another member posted some resources yesterday that were amazing to me. One website was particularly helpful to my family and our research efforts. I didn't even ask a question ... yet someone offered me some answers.
I wanted to know how and when these collaborative groups started, so I messaged the administrators with some questions. They were so positive with their responses. Let me share with you a little bit about these two women and some of their goals and purposes for Genealogy! Just Ask!
Jan Mitchell has been researching her family since 1994. While serving for three years as a research missionary and volunteer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints her main responsibility was training the other missionaries on how to help the patron. She loves teaching others how to use available websites to locate records online as well as where to find records offline. She helped to create and promote the FamilySearch Genealogy Research Communities on Facebook.
Jan created the Facebook group, Genealogy! Just Ask! in June 2014 as a safe non-intimidating place that anyone could feel comfortable asking questions in their own way. That comfort also needed to extend to all members of the group as they should feel comfortable in responding to any question without threat of critique or criticism. Everyone who has done any research in any area can be an expert in their own right. When you are familiar with a certain record set or website, you can also direct others there as well. Everyone can be a teacher and helper.
Robin Foster has been researching her family since 1985. She served for seven years as a family history missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where she helped patrons to answer research and product questions and helped build the family history community through social media. It was through this social media effort that Robin met Jan. Robin is the chairperson of the Fairview Cemetery Project and the new Greenwood South Carolina Family History Center Director.
As Jan was busy building the Genealogy! Just Ask! Facebook group last Summer, Robin was involved with reclaiming the Fairview Cemetery that she had found. She posted a question on her Facebook timeline about the initials to a headstone she had found and Jan provided the answer. Jan proceeded to help document all the burials and they went from 56 known burials to over 845; by using obituaries and death certificates. It was at this time that Jan asked Robin to join her with Genealogy! Just Ask!
Jan and Robin are great friends who respect and admire each other. Though they work well together, they have never met each other in person; Jan lives in Oregon and Robin lives in South Carolina! This is the magic and beauty of social media. They also never expected to find so many people who wanted to join Genealogy! Just Ask! They love all people and want to represent to the world that all people of any color, race, religion, etc. can work together in doing genealogy. This is a huge paradigm shift they believe will happen within the genealogy community.
While the focus of the group is to find records of deceased individuals, one amazing experience happened recently. Robin explained, "The group worked together to find a living descendant of someone who was cremated and box 6 of 7 of his remains were found in a house. It was wonderful to watch". Jan commented, "We also knew it would be impossible to do it alone but saw what could be done when everyone contributed. We knew one person could not know everything but everyone could know something. Combine the knowledge everyone had in a safe environment and brick walls would fall."
If you have a genealogy or family history related question, you should join one of the Genealogy! Just Ask! Facebook groups to find help. Be very specific in your request by providing what you already know and what resources you've already checked and what specific information you are still needing. And then see what happens. You will be amazed by the help you will get.
While in the group, be sure to take some time to check out the posts from other group members. Perhaps you have the answer for the question they are asking. Remember to be courteous and respectful of other's opinions and beliefs.
Then come back to this blog post and share in the comments how Genealogy! Just Ask! has helped you.