Showing posts with label surname message boards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label surname message boards. Show all posts

Monday, March 27, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee, Pt 6: Message Boards for Gen Do-Over

Surname and locality message boards for genealogy are free, readily searchable, and easy to use. Back in the day, we all used them for genealogy. Now, if you're doing a genealogy go-over or genealogy do-over, remember to go back and check message boards again.

Sure, they seem so last century compared with Facebook genealogy groups and other social media tools. But they can be helpful, especially if you're trying to connect with a cousin or researcher who posted a query at some point in the past.

During a Do-Over or Go-Over, use message boards to search, not necessarily to post queries. Look for clues and connections that weren't there last time you searched, or were posted since you last searched.

I found my husband's genealogist-second cousin through a message board years ago. He was trying to locate descendants of hubby's great-grandfather, Thomas Haskell Wood. I was looking for Thomas Haskell Wood's ancestors. We had complementary information and I was the lucky beneficiary of his 30 years of research, including ancestors on the Mayflower and even earlier! (Thanks again, Cousin L.) 

This encouraged me to keep searching. As this screen shot taken today indicates, some queries are still being posted on Rootsweb message boards, for example. The vast majority are from years earlier. But keep in mind--even old queries include details like names and dates, which always come in handy, even if the researchers are no longer active on the message board. Or you may get lucky and, like me, connect with cousins through the message board.

Message boards are free and worth searching for surnames and locations. If you've ever posted, be sure to keep your email address current just in case a distant relative answers your query. If you want to post a message-board query, summarize what you already know in the post and be clear about what you want to know (follow the tips on my post here.)

Do-over or go-over, social media is so much quicker for new queries, because this is where most family researchers now flock. Use the search bar on Facebook (or check Katherine Willson's definitive listing of FB genealogy groups) to find genealogy pages and click to join, then post or answer. Good luck!

NOTE: All my Genealogy--Free or Fee posts are listed and linked in the landing page along my header here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Local Genealogy via Long Distance

In my recent presentation to the Genealogy Club of Newtown, I highlighted ways to do local genealogy research from far away. The key is to think local--about where documents might be stored or who might know something about your ancestors and their lives.

NOTE that you may not find the actual documents with a click, but you just might connect with a person who can help you put your hands on the documents.

Here are five ideas for finding local genealogy resources and links without leaving your keyboard:
  1. Use the Family Search wiki to locate local genealogy resources by country/state/county. This link leads to research and info about family history research in localities around the United States, for example. I can't say enough good things about this comprehensive source of info and links, organized by location.
  2. Linkpendium is nothing but millions of links to pages organized by country (mainly the US) and state. The site also has links to surname pages worldwide. Often the locality links take you to official government sites (for vital records, as an example) or to unofficial sites loaded with volunteer-provided genealogy info. Unofficial sites can be excellent sources of details not available in the official records, so go ahead and click to see what you can find. Worth a look!
  3. Message boards that relate to specific countries, states or regions, counties, and cities are tremendously valuable. Don't just search for your name, also post if you have a specific question. The photo shows a message I posted several years ago, and within days, the wonderful historian in Wabash responded with clues about where to find the obituaries of Benjamin and Sarah McClure. That broke down a long-standing brick wall, all because I posted on a local message board. Try it on Rootsweb, Ancestry, GenForum, and other sites.
  4. Genealogy/historical clubs and societies have documents and books that may mention your ancestors. Some will even, for a small fee, go out and photograph local graves for you. Well worth it, and you'll often learn some details that aren't in the official records. Try doing an online search for "genealogical society" or "historical society" and the name of the county where ancestors lived. (Tip: Be sure to click on the correct state!) The Genealogical Club of Newtown CT, for instance, has several databases that substitute for the missing 1890 Census. What will you find in a local club's records elsewhere?
  5. Local historians know a lot about their towns or counties and can answer questions, sometimes by e-mail, sometimes by phone. Do an online search for "historian" and the name of the town or county. One historian kindly sent me three pages of surname info that another researcher had submitted to her--along with the researcher's name and e-mail for me to follow up. I left this historian my contact info just in case someone else comes looking for the same surname. Ask nicely, be polite, and respect the historian's time.
Remember, double-check and verify anything you find online. Unverified information is just gossip, not gospel.

Good luck and happy ancestor hunting!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday: Writing Queries for Surname Message Boards

Would you respond to this query on a surname message board? (Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)


Hidden family
  Help! Seeking info on Plain S. Hidden, wife Luellen, daughter Constant. I know the family lived in Crawford Co and also Washington Co.
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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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."
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
Cyndi's List has a number of good links about how to write queries. Good luck!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Surname Saturday and Tips for Surname Message Boards

Before I list the surnames I'm researching, let me tell a big success story that came about because of surname message boards--and suggest a few tips for this type of research.

A few months ago, I presented my talk, "Click! Using Boards and Blogs for Genealogy," to the local genealogical society. I highlighted three of the many popular surname message boards available online: Rootsweb/Ancestry, GenForum, and CousinConnect. Thanks to the researchers and distant relatives I've met through Rootsweb/Ancestry and GenForum, I've broken down several brick walls, but I've never had any luck with CousinConnect.

B, one of the audience members, went home after my talk and posted queries to the three boards I mentioned. She knew her father had been married more than once, and she suspected she had half-siblings out there. Once she posted the queries, she forgot about them.

Until this past Tuesday night. Three months after posting to CousinConnect, the site sent her an e-mail that someone had responded to her query. B logged on and found a note from her half-sister! They've now e-mailed and spoken and plans for a get-together are in the works. All because B decided to post queries to surname message boards one evening!

Here are my tips for using surname message boards:
  • Write a specific, detailed query. List WHO you're looking for, WHERE they were, and WHEN they were there. Some good/better/best examples and suggestions for effective queries are on Rootsweb and CousinConnect. Always offer to share information--it sets a positive tone and shows that you're willing to give, not just take.
  • Keep your contact info up to date. If B had changed her e-mail address after posting to CousinConnect, she would never have been notified of her half-sister's response. So be sure you keep your e-mail address current with any surname message boards you use.
  • Search and read the queries before you post. The answer to your question (or a contact for surname research) may already be on the surname message board, so search the queries and read the likeliest ones before you post, either starting a new thread or adding to a thread appropriate to your ancestor.
  • Cast your net wide. Use specialized surname and locality message boards as well as the most popular genealogy boards. (Cyndi's List has a few to try.) I've had responses from smaller boards as well as the mega-boards.
  • Track your queries. Write down where/when you post, so you can go back to update the post or change your e-mail months or years later. If you learn something significant about an ancestor you're trying to trace through a message board, you can always post a new query with the extra info. Don't plaster the same board with query after query, however.
Now for my most-wanted list of surnames being researched at the moment.
  1. Slatter. Mary Slatter (1869-1925), hubby's grandmother, wasn't dropped from Mars. She was born in England, came to America about 1895 (via Canada, I believe), and had siblings who seem to have stayed in Canada: John, Albert, and Harry Slatter, plus Mrs. Baker. How did Mary make her way to Toledo, OH, where she married James Edgar Wood? Then the two moved to Cleveland, OH.
  2. McClure. Benjamin McClure (1812-1896), great-great-grandfather of my husband and father of William Madison McClure, owned 80 acres of farmland in Wabash, Indiana in 1875. William was the father of hubby's grandfather, Brice Larimer McClure. Who were Benjamin McClure's parents and where did they come from?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Your advice wanted: Queries on message boards

I've had some good luck answering queries at surname message boards and locality message boards on sites like GenForum and Ancestry. What about you?

Do you post genealogy queries? Where? Have you been "found" by distant relatives after you posted a query? What should every query include? Any advice for writing or answering a query? Any advice for which surname or locality message boards are best to use?

I'd like to hear about your experiences. Thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Surname Message Boards

I've had good luck with surname message boards (Ancestry, Rootsweb, Cousin Connect, etc.) over the past few years. When I connect with someone on a surname board, it's usually a productive exchange, although many responses only serve to clarify that the responder and I are NOT from the same family tree.

Yesterday, after only 3 months, someone contacted me about a very unique surname posting. I'm hopeful that this will give us both more insight into our family backgrounds.

Here's what I've learned about using surname message boards:
  1. The initial message must include sufficient information for readers to determine whether they should follow up with me. Thanks to a couple of anonymous readers of surname posts who gave me advice after my first few postings, I got better at this fairly quickly. Now I'm careful to include not just the surname and the given name of the person/family I'm tracing but also dates for the period in question, places (birthplace, immigration path, and/or residence), plus any special details that would jump out at the reader.
  2. Be sure to tag the surnames mentioned in the message. Otherwise someone who's searching for the same surname may not connect with me. But I also have to avoid the temptation to include every surname I'm trying to research. Targeted is better.
  3. Offer to share info. Why would someone answer my post if I don't plan to exchange info? They're searching for their ancestors, just as I'm searching for mine. Fair is fair.
  4. It's a good idea to post new inquiries or requests later, especially when I find more information that helps me narrow the surname search. Although many boards allow revision of old posts, I prefer to post a new message to catch the eye of someone who's browsing or readers who've read all the older posts and only want to see the newer ones.
  5. I have to check the message boards from time to time even if I've signed up for "automatic notification" when responders answer my message. Sometimes "automatic" isn't so automatic, so it's up to me to check for anything new.
  6. When I get a response, I need to answer promptly and offer a few more details to keep the conversation going. If I'm lucky, the message-board connection will help me and the responder fill in spots in our family tree and maybe even allow us to do research together.