The web is full of them: internet message boards where you can post a query and wait for the responses to come pouring in. Of course, you have to find the right message board on which to post your question and you have to check back for responses. Most of all, you have to post an inquiry that someone can answer.
Years ago, when I was still a newbie to both genealogy and the internet, I found some interesting message boards for Poland that I thought would be appropriate for searching for my ancestors. One of my first posts was posted to the Poland “Unknown Province” board at RootsWeb (now owned by Ancestry.com):
My grandfather, Konstante (or Konstanty or Kostanty) Niedzialkowski was born in Poland in about 1893. He lived in Worcester, Massachusetts since about 1910 and died on March 13, 1978.
Well, that message is probably a poster child for a bad post. I had posted this message in response to a post where someone was looking for the family of Julianne Majewski nee Niedzialkowski born in 1894 in Russia-Poland. Now, chances are that my family may be related to this Julianne Niedzialkowski since most Niedzialkowskis lived in the same few villages in Russia-Poland, but I never received a reply to my message. The reason is that I just stated a fact about my grandfather, without asking a question, and without providing any information about why I thought my grandfather might be related to Julianne. No wonder (in 20/20 hindsight, of course) nobody replied. There was really nothing to say about my message unless someone had information of direct relevance to my grandfather. But, I can claim naivete and inexperience for my bad post.
Another example of a poorly worded post on the message boards:
I don’t really know anything about my family history and was also looking for info, my last name is (surname)….
I left the surname off the message above to protect the identity of the guilty, but otherwise the message is reproduced in full. Nobody has yet replied to this message posted in May 2002. The author didn’t provide enough information for anyone to know if they could help.
Inquiries about specific people in specific areas at specific times may not receive a reply simply because nobody has the information you’re looking for, but this shuldn’t dissuade you from posting this type of query. You may just luck out and find someone who has the information you’re seeking.
Some types of message board queries that are likely to generate a reply are those that are looking for more general information, such as:
- Help finding a certain type of record
- Help with foreign language translation
- Help to find a particular village/cemetery/church
- Help with genealogy software
- Information included in a certain type of record
- Meaning of a surname
There are many, many, many genealogy message boards on the internet, and a search for something specific on Yahoo! or Google may lead you to a message board that’s just right for you. Some genealogy message boards (and this is just a sampling of the many message boards available) include:
- Huron County, Michigan
- Italian Roots Forum
- Looking for Kin – Scotland
- South Australia
- Your Family
One note about the Ancestry/RootsWeb Message Boards: Ancestry has announced that some major improvements are being made to their message boards which should greatly improve the usability of those boards.
If someone responds to your post either on the message board itself, or by email, it’s probably courteous to post a follow-up, even if just to thank the poster for his/her comment. And read over some of the other messages posted. You may be able to help someone too!
Tomorrow: How I broke down a couple of my brickwalls on the message boards!