Monday, March 28, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Pet Peeving on Message Boards

I've been wanting to write a "Tip" on Message Board posts, pretty much since starting my blog, but never got around to it because I always had something else to blog about that caught my attention.  As I went through my Google Reader today, I realized it was time.  Not because I think anyone reading my blog needs's more that I needed a bit of a rant.

When posting on a message board, make the subject line of the post something that draws people in and makes them want to read it.  Now I'm not suggesting that you post anything completely unrelated like "Ancestor busted as prostitute" and then in the post, " that I've got your attention..."  That will irritate and most likely get you flagged or removed.  Of course, if you actually have an ancestor busted as a prostitute and are seeking more information, then that's a completely satisfactory subject line!  What I'm trying to illustrate is not to expect to get very many responses when your title says something like:

"Trying to find my grandfather" 
(not enough info, especially if on a common surname message board), or

"Brown family", or

"Lee genealogy", or

"Looking for connections"

Those subjects don't tell anyone anything and I usually don't bother to read them.  I've got quite a few posts to read through each day, either as blogs, message board alerts, or news and I just don't have time.  If I see a subject like that, I just say to myself, "Well, they aren't really serious about this, or they would have said more".

Seriously, if you're researching someone with a common last name, you've GOT to put more detail in the subject (and, of course, the post).  Those boards have so many messages posted daily that people are looking for what pertains to them.  Such a general subject line will more often than not be ignored.  A better title for a common name would be "Lee family of the Hazleton, PA area", or "Brown family moved to Elmira, NY from PA".  That narrows it down considerably and would tend to get better responses.

One last peeve, and then I'll stop, because I so could go on, is content of the post.  Don't say, "I'm looking for the parents of Joe-schmo Hermann who moved to the US from Germany. Please help".  Again, pretty common last name, and it's not saying where they moved to....Wisconsin?  Texas?  Maine?  Where?  I would venture a guess that the majority of Hermanns in the United States came from Germany...can I have a time period?  A location before and after immigration, if you have one?  Tell the people reading the post all the details you have!  Let them know if there are details that you believe to be true, but haven't verified yet.  Something is better than a generalization.

OK...I feel a little better now.  I know some people are new to genealogy and jump right in and that's awesome, but a lot of this is common sense.  And sadly, I don't think that some of these ridiculous posts/titles are only from those new to genealogy.  Ah well...


  1. Hey, I'm looking for the Cash Family from Europe that moved to America. Please help.

  2. I'm adding to your rant (which I fully support).
    When responding to a post, include at least a little bit of source information so I can locate the source. I'm new to genealogy and pretty frustrated by searching old messages and finding information that could be useful, really useful, if only I knew it was documented. This wlll be coming up in one of my posts later this week.

  3. Alright there, Ryan! May your tech-support callers be even more annoying today :p