A large number of resources for those researching World War II soldiers, can be found on Facebook through the Genealogy on Facebook List created by Katherine Willson. Katherine has a connection to the military and genealogy, and agreed to answer a few questions about herself and the list she created.
Introducing Katherine Willson, creator of The Genealogy on Facebook List
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a professional genealogist, public speaker, educator & artist living with my husband of 20 years and our two dogs in Ann Arbor, MI. I’ve been teaching genealogy & art classes in my community for the last 15 years, helping clients with their genealogical research & book publications for 15 years, a public speaker for military families for almost 10 years, and I’ve been a public speaker for genealogy societies & conferences for the past 5 years.
My art medium is making handmade paper & then using the paper to create books/journals, ornaments, greeting cards & large abstract pieces of framed art.
Please tell us about your background with the military.
My husband has been in the military (U.S. Army Reserve) for almost 33 years – he signed up as a Private when he was 17, and he showed up on the promotion list this year for CW5 – a rank that less than 1/10th of 1% of the military population ever receives. During our marriage, we’ve had multiple deployments, which led me to organize a Family Readiness Group (FRG) for our unit. After serving as a volunteer FRG leader & speaking to local military families about resources & support available to us during the deployment cycle, I was asked to join the Department of Defense’s Cadre of Speakers for the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP). I now travel frequently around the U.S., talking to military families in each of the services who are in all stages of deployment (pre-, during, and post-deployment) about the ever-changing resources & support that’s available to assist families & service members through these transitions.
What prompted your interest in military research? What wars do you specialize in researching?
In addition to being an Army Wife, I come from a long line of service members, with extended family & ancestors serving in all major & minor conflicts since the Revolutionary War in the U.S. and additional major & minor conflicts in other countries. Because of this, my genealogy research has led me to many different types of military records in many different countries. I don’t consider myself a specialist in the records of any one conflict in any one country, but I’m quite confident in my abilities to locate a variety of records for whichever conflict I’m researching.
You have a Genealogy on Facebook list. What is this resource and why did you create this resource?
The Genealogy on Facebook list was started in the spring of 2013, after one of my genealogy students asked me if there was any value to Facebook as a genealogical resource. I went home that night and started poking around on Facebook, to see if anyone was using it for genealogy, and I discovered a variety of groups that had been created to share information about a specific county or a specific surname or a specific ethnicity. I decided to create a list of the groups I was finding so I could share that information with my classes, and then I began sharing it with fellow colleagues online. Within a few months, the list had grown immensely (who knew there were that many groups & pages on Facebook for genealogy???) and it was time to put it on a website.
What tips do you have for people first using the list?
Two tips: Use the table of contents to find the links that will be most helpful to the areas or surnames you’re researching (because browsing through 10,000 links can be overwhelming!), and when possible, post your query on a group rather than a page. A group has many different sets of eyes that will see your query and can offer suggestions, while pages typically only have one or two sets of eyes reading posts to the page.
Do you accept other submissions and how should people contact you?
Absolutely – there’s no way I could’ve discovered these 10,000+ links on my own, so I count on others letting me know when they’ve created or discovered new groups or pages. It’s best to contact me through my website at Social Media Genealogy or via email at email@example.com.
How often do you update the list?
I try to update it at least every two months – sometimes sooner if I’ve got 500 or more new links to share.
Why is this resource important for researchers in the U.S.?
Most U.S. counties have genealogy groups on Facebook, and connecting with these groups insures that your query is being seen by people most familiar with the resources in that area. Additionally, unless we are 100% Native American, our genealogy research includes our immigrant ancestors, and my list includes groups & pages for countries all over the world. These groups are welcoming to English speakers, so it’s easy to post our query and get assistance from those who, again, are mot familiar with the resources in their area.
Why is this resource important for researchers abroad who are unfamiliar with genealogy but interested in WWII?
There’s a huge Military section in the my list, with large number of WWII-specific links to groups that are very welcoming to researchers from abroad who are seeking specific information. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the admins and members of these WWII groups, as well as all of the other groups created to share information about other major & minor conflicts around the world.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the list?
Because I update the list every two months or so, those who would like to be notified about a newer revision (which will contain at least 500 more links) can “like” my professional page on Facebook and they’ll receive a singe notification when the revision gets posted.
© 2016 World War II Research and Writing Center