Finding My Family on Facebook

Phooey on Facebook

I’m not exactly a Luddite. I had my first computer back in 1984. An Apple 2e. But years later, when social networking burst on the scene, I just couldn’t get my head around it. Ok! It was fine for high school kids, always eager to find out who’s dating who, and who’s available, etc., etc, etc.

But for “serious” computer users like me, “Phooey on Faceback! Who needs it? It’s a waste of time!!! A passing fad. Plus, I have enough trouble just keeping up with my email. And who the hell wants to read how other people are wasting their time, anyway.”

So, I just tried to ignore it until I happened to drop in on an obscure seminar. That was back in July, 2010, when I was attending the 30th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. It was being held at the brand new Marriott Hotel in the downtown section of Los Angeles called “L.A. Live”. I was there for the first ever showing of my film, “For the Life of Me”.

When I signed in, I was told I could just go for that day, or register for the entire event. Tough choice! There were so many fascinating films, classes, labs and workshops on the schedule that in moment of weakness I just decided to go for the “whole enchilada”, and signed up for the entire week.

Now it’s Getting Exciting

Among other things, I found some really interesting workshops that showed me new ways of using applications like Google searches, Google Earth, Jewish Gen and Ancestry.com. I also found a couple of hands on introductions to some genealogy software that were brand new to me, and much better than what I’d been using. So, things were getting exciting.

Then on either day #2 or #3, while I was meandering around between events, I saw a sign outside one of the classrooms that had “Social Networking” in the title, and “Hi Def. Genealogy” in the subtitle. I never saw it in the syllabus, but it was free and didn’t require registration. So, I figured “What the hell. Why not give it a shot!”

As I went in, I picked up a handout describing the class. Finding an empty seat, I sat down and had a chance to read it before the class began. What really caught my eye was at the bottom of the opening paragraph, which said…

“”Social networking may appear to many of us to be all “fun and games, or kid’s stuff, or a passing fad” Yet more businesses and organizations are leveraging it as part of their marketing interaction and customer base. USED WISELY, SOCIAL NETWORKING DOES HAVE GREAT VALUE FOR THE GENEALOGY COMMUNITY.”

You’re Kidding!

Ever the skeptic, I thought, “Are you kidding me? Social Networking has a use? ” But part of the workshop was built around the concept of using Facebook as a tool to locate living family members. And the more I heard, the more it piqued my curiosity. Maybe there was a use for it after all.

By the time the class was over, I found myself eager to try it. So, one night, after the convention, I went on Facebook and made my first attempt at doing a “people search”. Using my paternal ancestors surname for this test, I wrote “Weinlaub” in the search box.

Wow!!! What a shock!  Facebook returned at least a dozen living breathing Weinlaubs. So, as they taught us, I wrote out a standard message introducing myself by describing how I was connected to the Weinlaub family and letting them know that I wanted to connect with other members of my family.

Then I learned something very important about Facebook. Don’t try to send messages in bulk to people you haven’t “Friended”. Facebook won’t buy it. They thought I was a spammer, froze my account and wouldn’t let me back in for the next 24 hours.

Properly chastened – when they finally unfroze it – I carefully resent each potential family member my message, waiting at least ten minutes before I sent the next. Truly a pain-in-the-ass, but the results were worth it.

Out of the twelve I sent, I got six or seven replies. Not bad for starters. Some of the names were familiar from my genealogical research. But finding real live family members on Facebook was treasure. All but one accepted my “Friending”. And she came through about a year later. But more about those folks in some up and coming blogs.

Pete & Max

Pete and Max Meet at the Getty

 

However, one wanted to meet me in person – a distant cousin named Max Weinlaub, who lives in Chile, and is – you guessed it -in the wine business. Connecting with Max was very lucky break for a number of reasons.

First, Max just happened to be planning a trip to Sacramento for meetings with some Central California wineries, when I found him. Since his return trip home required a stop in L.A., he scheduled a layover for a couple of days to see some of his relatives, who were recent transplants from South America. Timing, timing, timing. We agreed to meet for lunch at the Getty Museum – a perfect venue for a first time meeting with never seen before relatives.

What made all of it even sweeter was a hand written family tree that Max gave me, which provided the missing piece to the puzzle left by my father in 1946, when he’d written in a letter to his brother, the name of  his friend, Hans Weinlaub from STETTIN, who fled to South America circa 1938. That was mentioned in “The Brother’s Feud, Part 1” but will be covered in more detail in a future blog.

My father had served his apprenticeship for his family’s luxury bedding business by working at a company in the city of STETTIN. It turned out to be owned by a relative, Max Weinlaub, the elder, Hans’s father. And Hans Weinlaub happened to be my new found relative, Max’s grandfather. Our families link back to a common ancestor, Anschel Weinlaub, who was my GGGGrandfather.

So, it just goes to show you skeptics out there that Facebook really does work as a research tool to help you find members of your family.

 

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