Given Name(s) Last Name
by Michael John Neill
for the Ancestry Daily News

  After you read the article, post your query to the   Ancestry message boards

After You Post

This piece is a follow-up to " Before You Post" which recently appeared in the Ancestry Daily News . Based upon the number of messages in my in box, handling queries after they have been posted is just as important as posting the query in the first place.

Maintenance is a fact of life. The following suggestions may help you get more 'life' out of your query and increase the chance of a fruitful response.

Check Your Mail
Did you create a separate e-mail account to use solely for genealogy and query posting? This is fine, but make certain you check the mail and delete unnecessary messages from the account on a regular basis. Most of the free e-mail accounts have space limitations and those who send you messages will get their message bounced back if your account is full. Are you willing to risk the chance that the "big break" is in one of those bounced messages? Delete spam from these free accounts immediately as these messages tend to monopolize space (especially those messages in HTML). As one who uses a free e-mail account, I have found the filters to be reasonably effective in reducing the amount of spam that I have to manually delete.

Update Your Address
"Before you Post" mentioned the importance of tracking query postings. This is extremely important and is necessary to appropriately manage your queries after they have been posted. Your e-mail address will change, frequently for reasons. When your e-mail address does change, post the updated version as a follow-up to your original query and include new information if known. Don't make it impossible for people to contact you.

Check the Boards
The boards at allow the message creator to choose to receive an e-mail when a reply has been posted to their message. This is the best way to track responses without having to manually visit the message board periodically. If you choose not to use this option or post where this option is not available, check periodically for message replies. Not everyone will e-mail you personally.

Post Updates When Available
If you are fortunate enough to answer your own query, post a follow- up. You may wish to post an annual follow-up even if you are unable to locate new information. There are some who may ignore "old" messages because of the increased chance of a bounced message. Annual follow-ups are sufficient, don't clutter the board with weekly updates when you have no new information. Annual updates allow researchers to contact you and to know that you are still actively searching. In cyber space, a five-year-old e-mail address is definitely archival!

Don't Expect Miracles
Hoping for a response is one thing. Expecting someone to simply drop the answer in your lap is another matter. If the information in your original post is incorrect (perhaps through no fault of your own), the chance of a response is decreased. Keep researching so you can post new information as you receive it. If you are working on a puzzle that has stymied others for years, the answer may not come easily, if ever. And the only responses you get may be queries on other families of the same line, with little or no direct connection to the individuals being researched.

Answer Queries
Responses need not be immediate, but try and answer as many replies as you can. Even a short response indicating "no information" is better than nothing. But you may be inundated with more e-mail than you are able to handle. While having too many messages may seem desirable, believe me, it's not.

Keep Researching and Learning
"Naught times naught is naught" or so goes the saying. Don't expect to quit working on your family after you post your query. You must continue to research after the family after the query is posted. At best you may answer your question. At worst you locate absolutely nothing. Many times the end result lies somewhere in between. The reality is that you may locate additional details, which could be used to make your original query more effective. Do some research. Learn about the area. Sitting passively and waiting is best applied to television, not genealogy.

What Posters Should Not Expect from Respondents
Query posters should not expect respondents to send them an entire data file carte blanche. Personally, I think it's a bit much to ask someone to send you their entire GEDCOM file. If the person offers to send you their entire file, that's a different matter. (An aside comment: If someone offers you a glass of wine, hopefully your immediate response is not to ask for the entire bottle!) Posters should not expect respondents to send them gratis copies of mountains of records they might have spent years compiling. Posters should not expect respondents to spend days doing free research. Posters should not expect instantaneous replies. Those who respond are free to do what is within their ability and interest. One must also remember that some respondents have to deal with minor issues like earning a living and dealing with living family members.

A Note to Frustrated Query Viewers
If you cannot contact a message poster, consider the following
--- The person might have died
--- The person might have lost interest in genealogy altogether
--- Life might have taken a priority over family history research

Don't forget that an individual's life might take a quick, unexpected turn and family history might have been temporarily left behind.

Try Searching Elsewhere for the Message Poster
If your e-mail to the person bounces, consider searching for them on a search engine such as . If their name is common, add the main surname from their query post to your search terms. If a Susan Jugkowski posted a query on the Brownson family and your e-mail to her bounces, enter the phrase "Susan Jugkowski Brownson" into a search engine. The person might have completely forgotten about the query and changed their e-mail address in the interim. You might have some success also posting to the various county and state mailing lists for the areas where the poster's family lived. Just because the person had a bounced e-mail address does not mean they are no longer interested in family history. Maybe they simply forgot about their original post.

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: or visit his Web site at: , but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2002, All rights reserved.

Used with permission       

post your query to the   Ancestry message boards

Michael John Neill's Genealogy Articles