projects like the World
Family Tree prove, your fellow researchers can be an excellent source
of previous research. Genealogy is one of the most popular pastimes in
the United States, so there's bound to be someone out there who is researching
one of the same family lines as you it's just a matter of finding
A "query" is a message that tells other people which family lines you
are researching. Electronic bulletin boards and message boards can be
excellent places to post queries because they can reach a wide audience.
Online services such as America Online and CompuServe have genealogy forums
where you can post these types of messages, and you will also find that
the GenForum is handy
for the same purpose.
In addition to posting your own query, you of course will want to
check for queries that may have been posted by other people who are
researching the same family line as you. An added convenience of electronic
message boards is that you can often search for a name electronically,
instead of by hand, making your searches much faster. Check the message
board that you use for instructions. When you do search through query
messages, don't forget to consider alternate spellings of your family
Another option is to submit and look for queries in a genealogy magazine
or newsletter. Everton's Genealogical
Helper is one popular national outlet for this purpose. The magazines
of some national organizations, such as National
Genealogical Society, allow queries in some of their publications.
You might also want to check for a genealogical magazine or newsletter
that is published in the area where your ancestors lived it will
often be published by the genealogical society in that area. If someone
is researching the same family line as you, it is possible that they
subscribe to the newsletter and have already posted a query, or will
see a query that you post
to Formulate Your Query
Before you post a query message, take a few moments to plan out
what it is that you want to say. You may want to create a general
query asking for more information about an entire family branch,
or you may have a specific question, such as "What was the name
of John Henry Scott's father?" No matter the nature of your question,
you should be sure to include information such as names, dates
or date ranges, and locations. These types of details will help
people who read your query decide if you are researching the same
family line, or just a family that happens to have the same last
name. Also, don't forget to include an e-mail or regular mail
address so that others can contact you. (On the Family Tree Maker
Online message boards, it's not necessary to add an address into
the text of the query, just be sure to fill out the name and address
fields that are already in the form.)
For example, you might create a query that said something like this:
Need parents and siblings of John Olsen, born June 12 1882
in Adams Co. PA, married Beth Williams in February 1902 in Lima, NY.
Died in Lima NY in 1961. Contact Jane Doe at email@example.com if you
Or a more general query might look like this:
Am researching Jamison, Barker, Goode, and Jackson families
of Wise Co., TX, c. 1875. Contact Jane Doe at firstname.lastname@example.org if you
are researching the same family.
Above, we talked about posting queries in the newsletters of
local genealogical societies, but you may also want to take a
more active role in the society. By networking with other members,
you may find the infamous "someone who knows someone" who is working
on the same lines as you. Even if you don't find another person
who is working on the same lines, other members of the society
may be able to give you tips on researching families from the
area. They may know where hard-to-find records are or be able
to give you clues about the immigration and migration patterns
of people who lived in the area. Local ethnic organizations may
also be able to offer you this type of information. While these
types of details may not be as helpful as specific information
about your great-grandpa Joseph, they may certainly give your
research a push in the right direction.
Other networking ideas:
- Make an effort to attend genealogy conferences, and when you do,
attach a short list of family names to your name tag.
- Be sure that everyone in your family knows that you are researching
the family roots, and try to meet all of those distant cousins at
large family gatherings such as weddings. Using this strategy, you
may find another genealogist in the family, or you might turn up information
about old records in the family, such as a family Bible.
- Contact a family name association groups of individuals who
all have the same last name. Of course not everyone with the same
last name is related, but someone in the group may be researching
the same family line as you.
Forget to Check Sources
If you find another person who is researching the same family line as
you that's great! The two of you may be able to answer some of
each other's questions and fill in some holes in your trees. However,
remember that you should still check the facts on any information that
you receive from your new friend. Make sure that the individual is a careful
researcher and has documented the sources of any information that you
add to your own tree. Don't hesitate to ask questions and share alternative
interpretations of the information that you have.
The benefit of working with another researcher is that you can compare
data and discuss your findings and interpretations of different events.
When you are lucky enough to find another person who is working on the
same family lines, be sure to take advantage of that!