Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Searching the Rootsweb Mailing List Archives

Way back in the heady early days of online genealogy, many researchers leaped on the Rootsweb Mailing Lists found these days at http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com. A researcher could (and still can) subscribe to a surname, locality, topic or organization mailing list, and receive each message via email. The emails arrive as either single messages, or in a digest of one or more messages each day.

Did you know that the archives of over 30,000 mailing lists are still available, dating back to them id 1990s? The mailing list archives can be searched by:

* List name and then year and month, in thread format

* The entire archive can be searched at http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/search. If you choose the "Advanced Search" tab, then you can search ALL mailing lists in this system (over 36 million messages) by:

** Keywords in the body of the message (and you can use quotes to find specific people)
** Keywords in the Title of the message
** From: put an email address in the field
** List: put in a specific list
** Date: put in a specific date (e.g., 2009, Jun 2009, 21 Jun 2009)

The search results provide a list of matches, and it seems like the highest ranked matches have the keywords grouped.

Some things you can find do using this Archiver site:

* Find a later email address for a submitter. For instance, my email address in 1998 was rjseaver@delphi.com. If someone wanted to contact me, they could search the archives with my name and use, say, 2010 in the Date field, and see a current email address.

* Other researchers working on the same family. I usually search for a combination of the husband's and wife's surnames, e.g. [Carringer Spangler] or search for husband's and wife's full names, e.g., [Martin Carringer Mary Hoax], or a person's full name with a place name, e.g., [thomas dill eastham].

* Posts about specific topics, e.g., [Ireland church records], [Virginia probate records], [reasonably exhaustive search], etc.

* Your own past mailing list posts - what you sent out and/or commented upon. This is a better archive than saving email posts in your email program.

* Select a specific list, and read it month by month rather than subscribing to it via email. For instance, I browse the Dodge County, Wisconsin (WIDODGE-L) and Jefferson County, New York (NYJEFFER-L) mailing lists occasionally rather than subscribe to them.

You can find a specific mailing list by searching on the http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com page - put some keywords in the "Find a mailing list" field.

This Mailing List Archive is especially useful when you are starting the survey part of a genealogy search - you're trying to find what other researchers have found.


Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

My email address way back when on rootsweb no longer exists either. Thanks for pointing out to folks how to find the new addies.

Greta Koehl said...

There are some good resources in these lists. I found a vital clue that led me to my ggg-grandfather just from browsing the archive for the "Newby" list.

Jennifer said...

Helpful, Randy, thank you. I read a lot in specific lists, but never remember to do a broader search. You never know who is talking about what where.