From Facebook to Family

Earlier this year, just like approximately 30 million others, I received my first Facebook invitation. Not a particularly memorable moment for me, it went unnoticed. And since, I’ve been much a Facebook satisficer, not doing the inviting, not creating the groups, but just sort of playing along.

But now that’s all changed. Facebook found my family.

Until this month, I believed there were exactly eight Danzicos: my five other immediate family members, two aunts, and me. No others. When I broke character last month to invite my brother as a friend on Facebook (I figured it was the responsible older-sister thing to do), I found more than eight Danzicos in the search results. And not only were there Danzicos, but “D’Anzicas” too: the original spelling of my last name.

The only way I can keep track of my family as new individuals emerge.

As it happens, I discovered a whole branch of our family that has been unknown to us. Partly because of geographic challenges and partly because of missed generations, our two pockets have remained separated. Adding complexity, Ellis Island forced our family to change from D’Anzica three generations ago. So where I once thought I had family in Scranton and New York City only, I know find myself with others in places from San Francisco to Naples.

The finding happened through Facebook’s inbox — a stubbornly hidden feature I often confuse with the Wall and the Profile homepage, even though we’ve been using the inbox to piece together our genealogy several times a day. Not any one person has our complete family story, so I’m translating our family talks from the Inbox to something more usable.

This whole experience hasn’t converted me from a Facebook satisficer, but it has sort of organically made me more receptive to the merits of digging into a new technology. Whether its to truly learn the intricacies of an interface or to learn about the details of one’s own personal history, it’s important to do more than scratch the surface.

An upcoming Thanksgiving trip to the outskirts of Queens will help my fill in the pieces of this research, but for now, I’m still relying on Facebook. And secretly, I’m hoping I get invited to Naples soon.