How-To Essay #6 - The fine art of posting a query

Okay, we've all seen 'em. Message boards are everywhere - some hop, some don't. And most of us have posted on them at one time or another. But why didn't you get a response?
First things first...
Did you read anyone else's posting? Did you do a search on your family name on the message board? Sounds simple,
but many people don't. I'm in charge of the Rock County Message Board at Rootsweb/Ancestry and I see proof daily that people aren't utilizing the board to it's fullest potential.
Before you even consider posting a question, search the board thoroughly to see if someone has already asked it or if
someone is has already posted queries about your family's genealogy. If there is a thread (a list of responses to the query), read all before jumping into the conversation. Also watch out for anything submitted by a "Submitter" or a "Transcriber" or a message that includes "not my family" or something similar. Messages of this sort were usually posted by a kind heart who, trust me, probably knows nothing about your family. They just happened to run across the information and posted it. They won't be able to supply you any further information.
Ready, set, post!
Okay, not quite yet. There's a right way and a wrong way to get your message out there. Don't worry, the rules are
Be concise! This means no rambling. Keep the message short and to the point. If the reader wants more details, he'll
ask for 'em. Until that happens, stick to the bare necessities: what you want to know and any information that may help someone help you.
Check your spelling! Not only is bad spelling difficult to read, it can be quite embarrassing. If need be, write your
query in a word processing program, spell check it, then cut and paste it onto the message board.
DON'T YELL! Using all caps is "yelling" on the internet. It exudes hostility and is difficult to read. Common practice
is to capitalize only surnames, so that they are easy to spot.
Leave the jargon in the chat room! I see it all the time and it detracts from the information one is trying to get
across... LOL, <grin>, etc.
The title is everything! Truly it is. "Need help" rarely gets it, "looking for grandma" rarely finds her. Again, keep it
short and to the point. "SMITH, George (b. 1842), need death info" is good. "Obit look-up needed" is also good. "Where is Grandpa George buried?" is cute, but often skipped over.
Stick to the topic! There are message boards specific to just about any topic you can think of. Don't use them for
complaints (yes, there are boards for that) or for chatting with your friends (switch to e-mail).
Use your better judgement! If all else fails, read through similar postings that have gotten responses and see what
they've done. And be patient. Just because you've written the world's best query, doesn't mean that you'll get an immediate response.
Online references:
WIGenWeb-Rock County website
WI-ALHN-Rock County website
WI Unknown County Message Board at Rootsweb/Ancestry
Rock County, WI, Message Board at Rootsweb/Ancestry
GenForum - WI Message Boards
GenForum - Rock County, WI Message Boards
(c)2002 Lori Niemuth* <>
*Please be aware that I'm not a genealogy, history or geology expert. I welcome any corrections or additions.
©2002 ALHN-Rock County, Wisconsin
Last updated: August 5, 2002