Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

Mailing Lists
Guide to efficient use

 

I have been using Internet mailing lists for years - mainly as a responder i.e. providing answers. This guide is a way of sharing my experiences. I hope this will help you to get good replies to your queries.
Please print this page to have it handy when you use a mailing list

When ASKING

A lot of this will require the inquirer to do more work but I think this is fair since the responder is often doing a lot of research work for free to reply.

  1. Try to find the answer yourself first using the standard genealogy sites like this SweGGate. If you don't know where to look then ask for such advice first.

  2. The mail subject line is important
    Most mail programs can sort mails on the subject line (alpha sort, left-to-right) so you can easily find all related mails (called a "thread"). This is useful to avoid wasting time to ask the same question or providing duplicate replies. 
    Please use specific keywords so that anyone can identify related topics.
    Do not reuse
    subject lines from other mails if your mail is not related to that mail (mixes unrelated topics). 
    Always reuse
    the identical subject line if it does (sorts correctly). 
    More Do:s and Don't:s

  3. Sort out your known facts, think through your question carefully and phrase it concisely.

  4. Unless you are a frequent participant (known to most members), please mention whether you are 
    a/  beginner at genealogy  OR 
    b/ beginner at Swedish genealogy  OR 
    none of these. 
    If you do this then the reply can be be adapted to your level, giving you a better answer and saving the responder at lot of time if basics can be omitted.

  5. State your intended use of the requested information. This will often influence the volume and format of the reply.
    Also remember that all replies are copyright the sender. (more)

  6. Limit the scope and/or the number of questions in each mail. A request for a complete ancestry or "all info about John Smith" is much less likely to be answered than a few specific questions.

  7. Suggested format:  (please use the inserted links to expanded text)

    A  Question summary State that your intended use is non-commercial (Why).
    Keep it short but it must create an interest to reply. 
    Do not include too many questions in each mail.
    B  Background info Present known facts in tabular form in a logical order (by relation, time etc). Include ALL relevant facts in the first mail and leave out irrelevant facts. Never publish entire family trees. (What)
    C  Question in detail Formulate specific questions - like 
    "how can I find out where ...", "where do I look for ..."
    "any info is appreciated" does not invite many people to work for you !
    D Signature Please sign your mail ! It is much nicer to know who to reply to. It is OK to use first name only. Do NOT include trailers, e.g. about your other research, interests etc, proverbs or ad:s.

     

  8. Remember that on most lists only a few people answer most of the questions so don't be frustrated or repeat your question if you don't receive a reply within a few days
    If after several days you have no reply then look through your mail and compare to this guide to see if you can change anything and then send your question(s) again. Please mention that the second mail is a repeat question.

  9. Please remember to send a thank you to those who sent you info. A personal mail is most appreciated but if you send it to the list do NOT include the reply in your note - instead name the persons. (more)

When REPLYING
  1. Unless the question is a very simple one always aim at educating the inquirer - better teach someone to fish than giving one fish

  2. Always use the "Reply to sender" function in your mail program. This makes sure that the reply is linked to the question in the archives. If you don't then an archive reader may miss your answer.

  3. Always reuse the identical subject line to facilitate identification of question mail - 
    that way you don't have to quote so much in your reply. This also makes it easier to find all related info when reading the list archives.

  4. Answer the question(s) only and give immediately related info. Many inquirers give only a fraction of the info they have in their question so additional info may well be a waste of your time. When you have more info inform about it rather than research and provide it directly.

  5. Add general research guidance only if obviously needed and then whenever possible by giving links to relevant sites or name other sources. Lists often have mails repeating the same advice several times a week - the same info that can be read on several web-sites. It is easier to save a link to a web-site and go back there than finding an old mail.

  6. Don't quote the entire question in your reply. The person who asked knows this already. A good subject line is enough to identify the question. Occasionally it is good to quote small sections of the question especially if the same mail contains several questions.

If you have comments or suggestions on this topic - please drop me a line:

To home page List Guide Last updated by F Hae 2005-05-28 09:07 Fredrik Haeffner, 2003-5