5 Quick Tips for Getting Better Results from Genealogy Message Boards

If you've been researching your family tree for any length of time, you've no doubt come across (and perhaps even used) genealogy forums, discussion groups or mailing lists. While these can be a great resource for essentially putting other people to work on your research project, the results can sometimes be, shall we say, "uneven." But the problem may not be the board, forum or list you're using. It might not even be that you're asking terribly difficult questions, or looking for incredibly obscure pieces of information. Instead, your lack of results could be a simple case of not understanding the proper way to use these incredibly powerful tools.

When you post a query online, you're asking your question of thousands of people around the world. Amazingly enough, considering that people are strangers to each other, you'll often get long and helpful answers to your queries. But if you're not, if you've been posting lots of messages and getting infrequent replies (or none at all), it may mean that you weren't sufficiently clear in the query you posted.

You can often double your chances of getting a response if you.

1. Type surnames in capital letters, LIKE THIS - it makes them stand out.

2. Are brief, but add important information, such as: dates of birth and death, areas the person lived, name of spouse, and of children. Here's an example of a query: 'DENHAM, Harold Edward - I'm looking for the parents of Harold Edward DENHAM of Ithaca NY (1855-1909). His wife was Julia Elisabeth KINGSTON, and they had two sons, Edward, who died in 1900, and John, who is my grandfather. You can contact me at [email protected] Many thanks.'

3. Are concise in your query, but add as much information as you have, and remember to ask for what you want. For example, you could start your query with phrases like: Need the parents of (or children, or wife, etc); More information about; Would like to correspond with anyone knowing. and so on.

4. Can narrow down the region in which your ancestor lived to a county or a town. If you can, do so, especially if you're looking for a popular surname.

5. Don't include too much information, and also, don't ask for too much information. If you want information on several members of a family, post separate queries for each one. Most people skim forums, and if a query looks too complex, they'll pass over it.

Some Genealogy Message Boards to Check Out:

* Ancestry.com's Genealogy Message Boards at http://www.ancestry.com/share/main.htm

* The Village at http://www.gendir.com/village/

* RootsWeb.com Message Boards at http://boards.ancestry.com/mbexec/script/main/rw

* HeritageQuest Queries Center at http://www2.heritagequest.com/eventcenter/qcenter.htm

Chris Simeral is the creator of the 7 Day Family Tree Genealogy Research Tool kit. For more information on how to make a family tree, researching your family's past, or a free genealogy mini-course, visit http://www.7DayFamilyTree.com.

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