Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday's Tip - Use Message Boards to Find Distant Cousins

I was met with looks of amazement on Monday teaching my Beginning Computer Genealogy class when I introduced the segment on using Genealogy Message Boards and Mailing Lists as ways to find information about ancestral families.  The reaction was that AOL-type message boards are long gone, and that snail mail takes so long and is expensive.

I explained that Genealogy Message Boards:

*  are an online collection of queries from genealogists and family historians, and responses to them from other genealogists. 

*  are websites that registered users can freely participate in.

*  there are Surname, Locality and Topic boards available online.  Thousands of them.

*  are searchable in the whole collection, or on specific boards, or in a search engine like google.

*  are an excellent way to find distant cousins that may have more data than you do, or you may be able to help them.

*  the user can contact the submitter by email (assuming the email address is still valid).

The two largest Genealogy Message Boards systems are found at:

1)  Rootsweb/Ancestry Message Boards -- http://boards.rootsweb.ancestry.com.  There are over 161,000 message boards on this system with over 17 million messages.  There is an online tutorial of how to use this message board system at www.LearnWebSkills.com.

2)  Genforum Message Boards -- http://genforum.genealogy.com.  I don't have a count of message boards for this system, but there are over 37 million messages.

There are several smaller Message Board systems, such as:

*  Cousin Connect -- www.CousinConnect.com.  There is no count of boards and messages here.

*  GenQueries -- www.GenQueries.com.  There is only one large board and no count of queries.

*  The www.USGenWeb.org site had message boards attached to many county and state web pages.  Some of them are still available to browse and search. 

The point is that many other researchers may have plowed the same ancestral ground that you are scratching around in, and you may be able to find useful information, and distant cousins, by searching on Message Boards for your surnames and localities.

I make it a point every January to go into both large Message Board systems and check for posts from the past year (you can select the time frame using the Advanced Search link). 


M. Diane Rogers said...

Excellent tip, Randy. At a talk I did the other day only 2 people in the room were on a genealogy e-mailing list. I thought the # would be low, but even I was surprised. So many missed opportunities! (I do recommend joining a list, lurking for a bit to get the feel of the list, then posting your queries, but if the message board posts go to a list so more people see them, as many Rootsweb ones are set up to do, that's almost as good.)

Elizabeth O'Neal said...

Randy's right (as usual): as the admin for a couple dozen or so mailing lists and message boards for Rootsweb/Ancestry, I can attest that people still actually DO use these resources. They're not as busy are they once were, but there are still plenty of folks out there posting, reading, and lurking on the lists/groups. Don't forget this still-valuable resource!