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.