Making Friends and Keeping Them Online

One place to begin your search for others who are doing similar research is the Roots Surname List. (See Figure 11-2.) The Roots Surname List

(rsl.rootsweb.com) is one of the oldest genealogy resources on the

Internet and consists of a list of individuals, the surnames they're researching, and where on the planet those surnames are found. (For more information on using the Roots Surname List, see Chapter 4.) Other places to find fellow researchers include query pages on the World Wide Web, newsgroups, and mailing lists. (If you need a refresher on using these or other surname resources, you can find more information in Chapter 4.) After you identify some potential online friends, send them e-mail messages introducing yourself and briefly explaining your purpose for contacting them. Be sure to include a listing of the ancestors you're researching in your e-mail message.

Before we send you out to contact people, however, we must offer our most sage advice:

^ Before sending messages to a Web-site maintainer, look around the site to see whether that person is the appropriate one to approach: More often than not, the person who maintains a Web site is indeed the one who is researching the surnames you find on that Web site. However, it's not unusual for site maintainers to host information on their sites for other people. If they do, they typically have separate contact addresses for those individuals and an explanation that they're not personally researching those surnames. Some even go so far as to post notices on their sites stating that they don't entertain research questions. So when you see a list of surnames on a site, don't automatically assume that the Web-site maintainer is the person to contact. Look around a little to ensure that you're addressing the most appropriate person.

^ Make your messages brief and to the point: E-mail messages that run five or six pages long can overwhelm some people. If the person you send the message to is interested in your information and responds positively to you, you can send a more detailed message at a future date.

^ Ensure that your message has enough detail for the recipients to decide whether your information relates to their research and determine whether they can help you: Include names, dates, and places as appropriate.

^ Use net etiquette, or netiquette, when you create your messages:

Remember, e-mail can be an impersonal medium. Although you may mean one thing, someone who doesn't know you may mistakenly misinterpret your message. (For more on netiquette, see the "Netiquette: Communicating politely on the Internet" sidebar in this chapter.)

^ Don't disclose personal information that could violate a person's privacy: Information such as address, birth dates, and Social Security numbers for living persons is considered private and should not be freely shared with other researchers. Also, we don't recommend you send out much personal information about yourself until you know the recipient a lot better — when first introducing yourself, your name and e-mail address should suffice, along with the information about the deceased ancestors you're researching.

Figure 11-2:

Example of the Roots Surname List for the Helm surname.

Figure 11-2:

Example of the Roots Surname List for the Helm surname.

1 Get permission before forwarding messages from other researchers:

Sometimes researchers may provide information that they do not want made available to the general public. Asking permission before forwarding a message to a third party eliminates any potential problems with violating the trust of your fellow researchers.

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