The good news: Showing the patriarch's first name and middle initial, plus his wife and daughter's names, is a big help. Listing a "who" is the first step.
Help! Seeking info on Plain S. Hidden, wife Luellen, daughter Constant. I know the family lived in Crawford Co and also Washington Co.
The bad news: This query has no specific "what," "when," or "where." What, exactly, is the researcher looking for? Looking for Plain's parents, perhaps, or Constant's descendants? When did Mr. Hidden and family live in these places? In what state(s) are Crawford and Washington counties located?
My six top tips for effective queries:
- Who. List full names where you know them, and initials if all else fails. List as many of the immediate family (sibs or descendants or parents) as practical so readers can determine whether their family tree connects with the family you're searching for. Where possible, put surnames in CAPS or bold so they stand out.
- What. What do you want to know, within reason? If you're hoping to be handed a complete family tree, complete with source citations, you're probably on the wrong planet. But if you want to know parents' names, for example, you just might get lucky.
- When. Let readers know the approximate period that you know about or that you're hoping for information about. In this example, the query writer might have written, "Found in 1910 Census for Crawford county, Michigan, missing from later Census years."
- Where. County names aren't much good without identifying the states. Even if you're posting to a locality message board where everyone knows you're talking about Michigan, it doesn't hurt to spell it out. After all, many states have a Crawford county (not just Michigan but also Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Kansas, just to name a few).
- Play nice. Always offer to exchange information. Remember, you never know who you'll meet on a surname message board. If you want to take, you should be willing to give.
- Include current contact info. Be sure your e-mail address or other contact info is available to someone replying to your query. If you change e-mail addresses, update your queries. You don't want to miss a message from that long-lost cousin!