Sunday, January 11, 2009

Think That Message Board Post Won't Help? Think Again!

Last night, I realized that I hadn't posted to a genealogy message board in a long while.  These message boards are valuable resources, and should never be ignored.  So, I found my three most difficult ancestors and posted some information/queries about each ancestor on their respective surname board on

After posting my first message on the Doerflinger message board (which has less ten total messages on the entire board), gave the suggestion that I post the information/query on the three region boards that are respective to the regions I named in my post.  I thought this was a good idea, and a great way to get my information/queries seen and responded to.

Sure enough, I checked my email this morning, and a lovely man had responded to one of my posts on the Missouri board about my ancestor, Adolph Doerflinger.  While he was not related, he did a quick search for me and posted a couple of possible matches.  After looking at these possible matches and checking on Ancestry to make sure everything was correct, I found out that all of these records matched my needs.  He even got me proof of the names for the next generation.

Needless to say, I was THRILLED!  I did my little happy dance before entering the data into my database and citing all of my sources.  How kind of him to take time out of his day to help me.

I want you guys to experience that joy too - so I've included some tips on how to get your post noticed, so that you have a higher chance of someone seeing and responding to your post.

1.) Post your query to not only the surname board, but also to any state boards or country boards that would go with your ancestor.  For example, if you know your ancestor was born in Missouri, but moved to Iowa and California, but post your query in all three state boards.  By spreading your message to multiple boards, you are more likely to be seen and get a response.

2.) Make your title or subject descriptive.  Try adding the person's name and birth date, along with the name of the spouse if known.  For example: Adolph Doerflinger (1851 - 1950ish) m1. Augusta Baumeister (1850 - 1921).  Don't write generic titles/subjects such as "searching for family", "need help with family tree", or "brick wall".  Put yourself in the shoes of prospective readers; most are looking for a specific post, and they aren't going to search through those generic titles to see if they match what they are looking for.

3.) Give some real information.  Just giving a person's name isn't enough, because that doesn't give anyone a time period to work with.  Give the person's name, along with any variations in spellings.  Talk about when and where the person was born, married, and died.  Talk about where that person lived and when.  Discuss any siblings (even if they are only possible siblings) and parents' names if known.  It is also suggested that you include some information on the spouse and any children in the post.  Some people recommend that you talk about what records you've already found (for example, you might have found that person in the 1880 census) so that if anyone decides to help you by doing a quick search, they don't waste time by searching what you already have.

4.) Finally, be polite.  Any help that anyone offers is out of their good graces.  They don't have to help you - it is out of the kindness of their heart and it is best not to take advantage of that.  Always say "thank you".

Update, January 11, 2009: When I posted my query about Adolph Doerflinger to the state message boards (Missouri, Iowa, and California), I was not expecting much.  However, I was in for a shock.  A complete stranger from the Missouri message board left me a reply that included information (along with sources) that he had found while doing a search for me.  Thanks to him, I was able to find the marriage record that I've been looking for and couldn't find - because of a misspelling.  And just this afternoon, I recieved a reply from my post on the California board.  This person found Adolph's and his second wife, Elizabeth's obituary and death records, with sources.  I still have to go through the obituaries and death records to confirm, but from first glance, they look rather promising.   This only re-affirms that putting your information on these stateboards is crucial.  If I had this much success from complete strangers who are not even related - then think of what you could find...


wendy said...

Elyse - great tips - things I've also done. Especially making the subject clear. I don't know how many times I've looked at boards only to see "looking for family" or "Family" ancestors. I wish everyone would follow your tips!

Julie Cahill Tarr said...

Great advice, Elyse. Thanks!

Greta Koehl said...

I strongly agree with the idea of putting real information in the post. For the area forums and larger name forums, this will increase the chances that someone searching for a specific name or place on that board will find your post among hundreds and even thousands of others (by entering the term in the search box). This was how I found the family of my great-grandfather Moore on the Moore discussion forum (because Moore is a common name, there are thousand of posts on this forum).

Cindy said...

Great tips as always Elyse and I'm off to hit some locality message boards for some of my more elusive family members that I've posted about over and over and over again. Thanks!