July 1, 2015

How To Use Genealogy Criteria To Improve Your General Communication Skills



Make Yourself Understood

When I first began doing genealogical research I was participating in online message boards and mailing lists. One of the things that really became apparent to me early on was that I needed to be specific to make myself understood for the best communication results.

For instance, if I was in a chat room it was imperative to say for whom I was looking, where they had lived and what time frame. Subject lines needed to include surname, location, and possible years, etc.: “YATES, Roane, TN 1840-1918” is one example. On message boards and mailing lists, it was much the same, but I could also include more in-depth information such as collateral names, etc.

Who, Why, What, When and Where

I’ve noticed in this era of shortened messages via Twitter or texting, many people don’t make themselves specific enough when speaking verbally to one another. I know they are trying to be expeditious and get their thoughts out while they have them fresh in their minds, but really, you are short changing yourself and your listener to leave out some facts. The “who, why, what, when, where” of old should always apply.

So, if you are speaking to someone, even if it not about genealogy, make sure you include whom you are speaking of, the location you are citing, and give some sort of time frame at the very least. Example: “When I was in Howell County, Missouri in 1972 I didn’t get to see any of my Yates, Pentecost or Smith cousins because we were just passing through West Plains and I was just picking up a postcard for my grandpa Will Yates who was then living in Washington State, but was born in the Brandsville area.”

Many times, my conversations with family and friends just leave me more confused as they jump from one person to another. It might be their style of conversation, but my advice is, Slow Down and think about what the other person might be hearing. If you get to the end of your story and people look puzzled, or need to ask for clarification, you need to spend extra time thinking about how you present your thoughts.

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Genealogy: Why You Still Need To Use Message Boards And Mailing Lists


Rootsweb Message Boards and Mailing Lists

When genealogical research was still in its online infancy many people were using mailing lists and message boards on Rootsweb to make connections and find new cousins. Guess what?!  You still can!


About Message Boards

Message boards can be found in major categories, with in-numerous sub-categories.  Rather than me listing them individually, please visit the Rootsweb Message Board page to choose your areas of interest.  (Locations, topics, surnames, etc.)


About Mailing Lists

Rootsweb Mailing Lists can be a little more diverse in topics, but equally as helpful in your research.  There are over thirty-nine thousand mailing lists to choose from in categories similar to message boards.  They include Surnames, USA, International, and “Other”.


Additional Mailing List Suggestions
  • Don’t overlook the Rootsweb Archives search engine.  All the posts to those mailing lists are archived and waiting to be discovered.
  • When you join a mailing list, you have the choice of doing so as a Digest of the posts that come in your email less frequently (i.e, per week); or the full Daily postings to the list.  If one doesn’t work for you, then maybe the other will be more suitable.
  • When you post your query to a mailing list or message board be sure to include as much descriptive information as you can. For instance: YATES, William Gale b. 1920 MO – d. 1996 Olympia, WA.  The surname in caps designates that it’s the surname of the person. The b. means ‘birth’ and d. means ‘death’.  If I was looking for marriage information I would have also added m. 1944 Seattle.  Do NOT waste your time putting in a query with titles like “Looking for Family” or “Smiths in Tennessee”. Be SPECIFIC.

Two Tips For Organizing Aquired Genealogical Records

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Have you tried using Mocavo the newest genealogy search engine? Just out this month and it’s a gem!

Genealogy Inquiries That Get Results


Get The Most From Your Posts

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from doing genealogical research it’s to be specific and precise.  Early on in my online genealogical pursuits I was a member of mailing lists and message boards.  At first, I just “lurked” on the list and boards to see what other people were saying and looking for, and I quickly found out that the best way to get quality replies was to use a certain format for my subject line.

As you can imagine, some people with little patience would get a bit angry with individuals who would post something like ” Need help with my genealogy“, or even the overused, “Genealogy inquiry“. That’s not the way to ask for and get help, believe me.


Name, Date, Location, Migration

  • A better example would be (without quotes) ” John Q Public b. 1850 Cumberland, KY”. That would be the bare minimum if indeed you have that information.

The whole idea is to save yourself and your mailing list time and confusion.

  • Now, there are other abbreviations that you should get familiar with such as the b. being for born, d. for died, m. for married, d/o for either “ditto” or “daughter of”. etc.
  • If you would like to show the migration pattern for a family surname then you might use carats like this: Smith: VA> KY> TN> MO. If you have the dates you can also include ballpark or specific years.

KISS it!

I can’t emphasize enough the KISS (keep it short and simple) method for the body of your inquiry.  No one wants to (or has time to), read your whole family tree, so keep to the subject at hand.  Give enough information to show your ancestry or descendancy, but not ten generations worth unless someone has specifically asked for it.

As my Mom would say, “Don’t keep us in suspenders“, give us the details!

Yates and Edgemon family members per the inscription on reverse. Taken in Roane County, TN, probably near Erie or Ten Mile. Photo belongs to Carol Yates Wilkerson – do not download without permission.