One of the most valuable benefits of the Internet for family and local historians is the ability to share information worldwide, usually instantaneously. Someone thousands of miles away, previously unknown to us, may have the solution to a decades-old research problem. Likewise, we may hold the answers to others’ long-term mysteries.
The Internet makes it easy to find and contact other researchers that share our ancestry and interests. We can broadcast our problems and brick walls for others to review and respond to. This process of “broadcasting” is known as a “query.” You may also wish to publicize information you have collected, such as an index to a book. This is known as a “help,” but queries and helps are grouped together in on-line forums.
There are two basic methods for publicizing your queries and helps. One is a message board, where you post a message on the Web. Others read and respond to your message in their own time. The other is an e-mail discussion list, where messages are posted and read through your e-mail program. Please note that there is on-line etiquette, known as “netiquette,” that you should practice. An old, but still applicable, source is Mailing List Manners 101.
If you are new to family and local history research, you may need help developing queries. Click here for a very good, short instruction message. Here are some recommended guidelines:
- Give as much detail as you know (names, dates, places, parents, children, siblings) so those reviewing your query can quickly identify possible matches.
- If the forum allows it, “subscribe” to the “thread” (the message and any responses). If subscribing is not an option, bookmark the message and revisit it periodically to see what others have written.
- Message threads on most genealogy and history forums are available for reading by the public. Therefore, you should not include names, addresses, telephone numbers, or other personally identifying information about living individuals.
- You will likely get a lot of junk e-mail (“spam”) from queries you post on public forums. So, it is best to use a strong spam filter.
- It can often be helpful to have an e-mail address just for genealogy and history research, so that you can keep those messages separate from your other e-mail.
Some popular resources specific to Grainger County are listed below:
- Subscribe to Hawkins County Mailing List at Rootsweb.com
- Search Archived Messages from Hawkins County Mailing List at Rootsweb.com
As you browse around the Internet, you will find a number of messages boards and mailing lists that apply to your research. Check them out. As with any activity, your return depends on your investment!