Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Searching Genealogy Mailing List Archives

One of the most interesting genealogy tasks I pursue every year is to search the Rootsweb-sponsored and archived Mailing Lists. This used to be very difficult when you had to select a specific list and search it month-by-month.

Now, you can search one specific or all of the lists at Rootsweb using a search box at http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/search. If you choose the Advanced Search tab, you can specify search terms that are in the body of a message, in a subject line, on a specific list or posted on a specific date (such as June 2005, 2005, or a range such as 2005-2007).

If you just input a surname in the "Body" section of the search box, you will receive a list of every post with the surname in the text of the posts, including the submitter of the post. If I just want, for personal vanity reasons (who me?), to find out how many mailing list posts I made in a specific time frame, I could put "Randy Seaver," or my email address, in the "From" line of the Search Box (I have made 21 posts in 2008 to date).

I use this Mailing List Archive Search box on a yearly basis to:

1) Find information submitted about my major family surnames - Seaver, Carringer, Vaux, Auble, Dill, etc. I go through them one by one and determine if I need to add the information to my database. I may discover a distant cousin in the process.

2) Look for information about a specific person, especially for common surnames like Smith, Miller, Johnson, etc. If you get too many hits, for a common given name and surname, you can add a town or county to narrow the search. For instance, I can search the entire mailing list database for "Ranslow Smith" (using the quote marks) and find that there are only 3 posts with that search term, all of them mine with an email address from 12 years and 6 ISPs ago. If I search for "Russell Smith" I get 2,218 matches, but if I specify "Russell Smith" AND Jefferson NY, I get 10 matches in the specific area I'm searching for him.

3) Look for information posted by a specific person. You can put the person's name or email address in the "From" line. This can be useful if you find an older mailing list post and want to contact the author, but the given email address doesn't work. If you input the author's name in the "From" box you may find a more recent email address.

The Search of the Rootsweb Mailing List Archives is really pretty useful and time-saving. And it's FREE!

I noticed that, as of today, there are 33,668,488 documents in this Rootsweb Mailing List Archives, dating from the early 1990's. This is a fantastic resource, especially for researchers just starting their search.

The posts are also found using a Google search using appropriate search terms.

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