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

Genealogical mailing lists, ideal for contacting fellow researchers, are categorized by surname, geographical location, ethnicity and thousands of other genealogy-related topics. They are also an excellent method of contacting descendants of slave owners and exchanging information.

Consider registering at the mega genealogy website (which also has message boards). Once you’ve done so, search the site’s mailing lists for surnames, locations (such as county, state) and other topics (such as genealogy methods, “people of color,” freedmen or slaves) that you’re interested in. You can choose which lists to join and post a genealogy query to a message board. When you write your query, mention that you are willing to trade information, if you have it, and reveal your willingness to share; it will attract more responses.

Cottrill lists other basic requirements for an effective query:

The greater the details you can provide about when and where your subjects lived, the greater your chance of linking up with people seeking the same individuals. Some items that will help others identify common family members include these: Full name, including any middle names or initials; birth, marriage, and death dates; places where (these) events occurred; residence and migration; names of their children and/or parents.

For further instructions, follow the detailed directions in the article “6 Steps to Writing a Successful Genealogy Query.”

For more information about researching your family tree, check out The Root’s Guide to Genealogy.

Karin D. Berry is a newspaper journalist and freelance writer who has been researching her family history since 1987. Her articles, book reviews and op-ed articles have been published in Essence, Black Enterprise, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Macon Telegraph, the Baltimore Sun, the Evening Sun, Emerge and the Philadelphia Daily News.

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