The Facebook page of the Irish Genealogical Research Society sailed past the hugely impressive milestone of 5,000 ‘likes’ or followers, this morning. For those unfamiliar with Facebook, this means 5,000 people receive regular updates from the Society’s Facebook page, which is filled with an ever-changing cornucopia of articles, photographs, hints, news and miscellany of interest to family historians and anyone with Irish heritage.
This outstanding success is down to Jill Williams FIGRS, the Society’s Facebook Manager. Although a Facebook novice when she created the IGRS page in July 2011, Jill set out with three main aims: to publicise the IGRS, to help reverse its (then) dwindling membership, and to help fulfil one of the Society’s founding aims: to promote and encourage the study of Irish genealogy.
She has done wonders! The Facebook page now plays a major role in the Society’s promotional efforts; membership is not only no longer declining, it is growing at a great rate (up 20% in the last year alone!), and it is more than clear that Jill’s wide range of interests is striking a chord and encouraging others to learn more about their ancestors from Ireland.
It was slow progress, at first, however. Facebook is like that! This time last year, Jill’s page had gathered 514 followers.
“When the page started, there wasn’t very much on Facebook about Irish genealogy and Irish history, and what there was tended to come along only infrequently. After a careful study of what readers were really enjoying and sharing with their own followers, I saw that items with images were very popular, especially with articles about ancient history, mythology and the Brehon Laws. I also became aware that an occasional whimsical or nostalgic image, and even genealogically-themed jokes, were well received.
“Many of our followers are from the United States, Australia and Canada, and they are keen to learn more Irish history. They also want to keep up to date with what’s happening in Irish genealogy.”
By September 2013, some 2,000 people were following the IGRS Facebook page, and Jill admits she ‘had the Facebook bug’. “Hardly a day passed without my posting a link to a website, passing on a photo or sharing a piece written by others. I was particularly enjoying the history pieces written on a daily basis by Stair na hEireann.
“More and more genealogy pages were starting to get active. It was good to be able to support other groups by encouraging our readers to visit their pages and give them a ‘like’.”
Of course, Facebook is not just about sharing interesting information. It’s also about helping other family historians. Jill is finding more and more queries are being posted to the page, and some of these take a considerable amount of time to reply to fully.
“I really appreciate it when others chip in with answers to these,” says Jill.
Facebook, she says, has become a great tool for Irish genealogists and historians alike. “I’d say it’s become an essential tool. Great pages are out there – County Clare Genealogy, Royal Irish Constabulary, 1816-1922, The Irish Way, Irish Roots Magazine, APGI, County Limerick Genealogy and Cork Genealogical Society, to name just a few. These and many others are sharing photos and information. These glimpses of the past are shared as a first step to getting people interested in history in the hope of stimulating curiosity and research into their own families.”
If you haven’t already discovered the Society’s Facebook page, perhaps now is the time! You don’t need a Facebook account to visit it. Just follow this link – IGRS Facebook.