Genealogy Research: Try Online Discussions

Don't overlook two important tools for finding your family roots: message boards and email lists.

Courtesy of Christine's Genealogy Website
Courtesy of Christine's Genealogy Website

In advancing your genealogy research on the Internet, don’t ignore two vital resources: message boards — or discussion websites, which include bulletin boards and forums; and electronic mailing lists, also known as email discussion groups (or Listservs)., which has a “queries and message boards” category of links as well as a mailing list category, describes mailing lists this way:

Mailing lists are free to subscribe to and you participate in specific genealogical or historical discussions via e-mail.

There are specific mailing lists for a variety of genealogical and historical topics …

To participate in a mailing list you send e-mail commands to a computer software program … in order to be automatically subscribed to the list. You send e-mail messages to a different address for that mailing list in order to communicate with the other subscribers.

Before you join a mailing list or post to a message board, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one thing, you should be sure to read the guidelines for technical instructions and etiquette tips. It’s also critical to realize that in general, what goes onto the Internet stays on the Internet.

In her article “Effective Use of Genealogy Message Boards,” Natalie D. Cottrill explains:

Though there are private message boards, most message boards are public. So, when you post a message to the Internet, it’s going to be published for anyone and everyone to read … before you push “submit,” you’ll want to make sure that the message you post to the Internet only contains information that you are ready to share with everyone. It is also worth mentioning that messages posted to a message board are generally permanent.

Though in some instances editing can be done, once you push the “submit” button in a message board, you’ll usually not be able to go back and change or edit your message. So, make sure there are no typos in your message, and that it says what you truly want it to say.