Are social networks and the rise of the internet fuelling our desire to learn about our past?

By Emma Davies

A new generation of social profiling “time machines” will keep us in touch with our roots, taking us back to look at family members’ lives from their first posing photo at 14 to their 70th birthday.

Up until now our generation has heard time altered stories and faded memories of our ancestors’ lives, but other than the photo of a wrinkly woman with her purple rinse and woollen cardigan stood next to an oddly dressed teddy boy, our roots are slowly disappearing into archives of dates and job roles.

Manchester Central Library Information Officer, Jane Parr, said: “We have constant enquiries every day for information on family history.

“There has been an increase in younger people enquiring about their ancestors.”

In this internet age curiosity is always rewarded with a Google search or a networking site.

Ms Parr believes that this could have led to the increase of enquiries and desire for knowledge.

Not only have networking sites, such as Facebook, extended our history but they could have also improved the next generations’ genes.

Family Services Manager, Pamela Davies, works for the charity Climb who help families affected by life-threatening genetic disorders.

She said: “Social networking sites have helped many families to track down relatives with the same genetic disorders, these are very rare conditions and communicating with relatives or other families can help, it has also made it easier to inform distant relatives of genetic conditions, resulting in pre birth tests which are not usually carried out due to the high expense.”

Greater Manchester Police used social media sites to help them during the September riots, Manchester residents used sites such as Facebook and Twitter to inform the police of incidents and to help to catch suspects.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy said: “You only have to watch the news to see how Twitter and Facebook have changed the way people communicate and how social media can be used to bring about major changes.

“In GMP we have embraced this social media revolution and are using it to engage with people to inform them of what is happening in their locality, what we are doing to make their community safer and what they can do to help us tackle crime. 

MM asked Manchester resident Paul Johnson, 29, about social networking sites affecting genealogy. He said: “I like that my legacy will stay forever.”

Perhaps when your great grandchildren see you playing bingo and drinking sherry they will be able to see past the old age and remember when Grandma was up dancing all night and running marathons.

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