Tips On Writing a Productive Genealogy Query

Genealogy queries are an effective way to locate others who are researching the same family names you are and to share information with them. Creating a productive query is a simple process if you keep a few specific requirements in mind:

1. Pick a PRIMARY surname (last name) for the query.

        a. Multiple surnames are confusing and visually overwhelming.

        b. Use all CAPITAL letters for the surname - an eye catcher.

2. Start with the specific information that you are seeking.  Are you looking for the parents, children, wife of a certain ancestor? If so, START OFF with what you want to know:

        Examples of the start of a genealogy query:

          · I am searching for the parents (wife, husband, children etc.) of…

          · Seeking the maiden name of…

          · Wish correspondence with others researching the (ancestors, family of)…

          · Desire help with…

Don't start with generic requests such as:

          · Any information regarding...

          · Seek information on...

Don't give too much information.  you will spread yourself too thin.  Too much information can be confusing and visually overwhelming; your goal should be a query which is relatively short, to the point, and easy to read.

3. Narrow it down to a specific location or region.

        Name a specific town, county and/or at least a state.  If you say, "Searching for the JOHNSON surname in Alabama", your email box will be filled with several false leads.  To avoid false leads and other useless responses, it is best to restrict your query to a single family or person and be very specific about the region in question.

4. Narrow down the time frame.

        a. Write down exact dates, if known.

        b. If you don't known an exact date, make an educated guess.  Approximate dates are better than none. There is a big difference between 1720 and 1780. Use circa (c.) or about (abt.).

5. Only mention closely knit families, if necessary.

6. Evaluate and rewrite for clarity if necessary.

        a. Do not use all upper case letters except for surnames.  It's the equivalent of shouting online and makes your query difficult to read.

        b. Do not use all lower case letters.

        c. Perform a spell and grammar check when possible. Punctuation keeps it orderly.

        d.  Make sure you have the correct form of their, there, they're, your, you're, etc.

        e.  Use apostrophes where appropriate.  For example, 1850s and '70s are correct, but not 1850's or 70's.  Good punctuation helps to clarify your message.

NOTE:  If you decide to post a query, you are posting something that can be read on the internet by anyone in the world. DO NOT submit any private information about a living individual, or any information that could possibly be damaging to a living individual.  The Right to Privacy Act is serious!

Examples of some good queries:

I am searching for the ancestors of Sylvester Brown, who was born in Delaware Co., N.Y. in 1824. In the 1850 census he is found living in Litchfield, Bradford Co, PA, with his wife Julia Ann (b. in NY in 1823), and children Philo (b.1843 in PA.), Mary Jane (b.1845 in PA.), and Julia (b. 1846 in PA). Later children were Emeline (b.1851), William H.(b. 1854), and Charles (b. 1856). In 1856 the family had moved to Chautauqua Co., N.Y.  I have much information on this family and descendants up to the present time that I will share.


I am conducting a one name study of the FERNALD family in the U.S. for the years 1650-1900. Most of the family settled in the state of Maine, although a few may have lived in New Hampshire and other New England states.  If you have FERNALDs of that time, I'd be happy to share information.


I'm interested in the MURPHY family of MacDonald County, MO from 1850 to the present. I'm specifically looking for parentage and birth information of George MURPHY (b.c. 1830). I'd love to share information with other MURPHY researchers.

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