Archive for category Genealogy How To

Census Genealogy

Posted by Jim Sanders on Sunday, 19 February, 2012

Are you ready for the 1940 US Census?

The 1940 United States Census will be released to the public this coming spring. Are you ready for what will be revealed? Perhaps it’s time to revisit what you can glean from the already released United States Censuses. But first, see how well you know the Census and take our quiz.

Take our Census Quiz – NO PEEKING AHEAD

How well do you know the census? Answer the following ten questions and see how you do. Don’t peek ahead in this blog. The answers will be revealed later.

  • What article and section of the US Constitution dictates a census be taken periodically?
  • How often is the US Census taken?
  • In what year was the first US Census taken?
  • In what year did everyone by name, except slaves start to be enumerated on the US Census?
  • In what year did the freed slaves start to be enumerated on the US Census?
  • Which part of the legislature body is apportioned based upon the US Census?
  • As of 2012, how many seats are in the US House of Representatives?
  • What mathematical formula is use to calculate the number of seats apportioned to each state?
  • What was the first year that the relationship to the head of household was captured on the census?
  • Which census year was almost completely burned during a fire?

US Census



Every ten years the United States takes a population census. One of the main purposes of this census is to determine the number of seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. Since there are 435 seats in the House, to determine how many seats each state gets, take the population of the state divided by the population of the entire United States and then multiple by 435. Since a fraction of an individual can’t serve, these numbers need to be rounded. Also each state is guaranteed at least one member in the House.

Often Overlooked Questions on the US Census by Year

Many facts and information are often overlooked on the census, not just names and dates. In this post we will look at some of the often overlooked facts. Most years the questions on the census changed. The later census records collected more data than the earlier ones. Many people, including myself have often overlooked some pieces of data collected. Let’s examine the data collected which can be overlooked.

1790 US Census

The 1790 US Census was the first census taken by the United States Government. There were not very many questions on this first census. It also listed only the heads of households. However there is one question, when and if filled out could be overlooked.

  • What type of information, if any did you find in the column for “dwellings / other information”?

1800 – 1810 US Census

The 1800 and 1810 US Census also listed only the heads of households and very little information. One question which might be overlooked on this census is listed below.

  • “All other free persons except Indians not taxed”. Who were these individuals? Would they be slaves who were freed?

1820 US Census

The 1820 census started breaking out the age brackets a lot more than the three previous census. It also asked 4 questions which might be overlooked if you are not careful.

  • Foreigners not naturalized
  • Persons engaged in Agriculture
  • Persons engaged in Commerce
  • Persons engaged in Manufacture

1830 – 1840 US Census

The 1830 and 1840 US Census both had two parts. The first part was the same in both the 1830 and 1840 Census. These census still listed only the heads of households. The breakout of the ages groups within this census was a lot more detailed. There are a few questions in part 2 which can be overlooked.

  • On the 1830 census part 2 besides the additonal breakouts of slaves and freed colored persons, there’s a question for foreigners not naturalized.
  • On the 1840 census part 2 besides the additonal breakouts of slaves and freed colored persons, there’s columns for people engaged in a number of vocations including (mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing and trades, ocean navigation, canal, lake, river navigations, learned profession & engineers)
  • On the 1840 census part 2, there’s also columns for revolutionary or military service pensioners

1850 US Census

The 1850 US Census was the first United States Census to list everyone by name in the household. Often overlooked columns on this census include;

  • “Married within the year”
  • “Value of Real Estate Owned” – How did your ancestors value of real estate compare to those living in the same area?
  • Don’t forget to look at the Slave Census for 1850

1860 US Census

The 1860 US Census offered a few more questions for each individual on the census then the 1850 Census did. Some of the often overlooked questions on the 1860 questions are the same as on the 1850 census.

  • “Married within the year”
  • “Value of Real Estate Owned” – How did your ancestors value of real estate compare to those living in the same area?
  • “Value of Personal Estate Owned” – How did your ancestors value of personal estate compare to those living in the same area?
  • Don’t forget to look at the Slave Census for 1860

1870 US Census

The 1870 US Census started to ask a signifcant number of questions for each individual.

  • “Month born within the year”
  • “Month married within the year”
  • “Value of Real Estate Owned” – How did your ancestors value of real estate compare to those living in the same area?
  • “Value of Personal Estate Owned” – How did your ancestors value of personal estate compare to those living in the same area?
  • Don’t forget to look at the Slave Census for 1860

1880 US Census

The 1880 Census was the first United State Census which indicated the relationship to the head of household. There are also a few other questions which were asked which are often overlooked.

  • Two questions which were asked included “Mother of how many children” and “# of these children living”. Use this information to try and find children who were born and died in between census years?
  • Immigration questions included “Year of immigration”, “# years in US” and “Naturalized Citizen”.
    Have you used this information to find naturalization papers? What about finding a ships manifest?

1890 US Census

Everyone knows the 1890 US Census was almost completely destroyed during a fire. However did you know that half of the special 1890 US census of civil war pensionairres survived?

1900 US Census

1900 US Census

  • The 1900 census had the same two questions about a mothers children which were asked on the 1880 census. These included “Mother of how many children” and “# of these children living”.

    Use this information to try and find children who were born and died in between census years?

  • The 1900 census had the same three questions about immigration which were asked on the 1880 census. Immigration questions included “Year of immigration”, “# years in US” and “Naturalized Citizen”

    Have you used this information to find naturalization papers? What about finding a ships manifest?

  • This is the only census which asked for the month and year of birth.

1910 US Census

1910 US Census

  • The 1910 census had the same two questions about a mothers children which were asked on the 1880 & 1900 census. These included “Mother of how many children” and “# of these children living”.

    Use this information to try and find children who were born and died in between census years?

  • Civil War Veteran

1920 US Census

1920 US Census contined to ask a signifcant number of questions about each individual.

  • “Speaks English” – If your ancestor came from a different country and spoke a different language, did he/she learn to speak English?

1930 US Census

1930 US Census today is the latest census to have been released to the public. However, earl y this spring the 1940 Census will be released.

  • Veteran (yes/no) and if so of what war?

Getting to Know the Neighborhood

More than just the questions which were specifically asked on the census you should try to look at the census in more detail. Really study the census about your ancestors. Look at other families in the neighborhood. You can find how well off you family was and whether your young ancestors had other children in the area to play with.

  • Was the neighborhood where your ancestor lived mostly from the same native country as your ancestor?
  • Were your ancestors neighbors young families with lots of children? Perhaps a number of these children were good friends with your ancestors growing up.
  • Some census years asked about value of real estate and personal estate. Was your families properties value higher than your neighbors, about the same or perhaps lower?
  • Starting with the 1880 US Census, the street address was given. If you live near where your ancestors were born, drive by thier old neighborhood. If you don’t live near the area, use Google Maps. You might be able to see how the street looks today or you can view a satelite image of the location.

Answers to the US Census Quiz

  • Article 1, Section 2
  • every ten years
  • 1790
  • 1850
  • 1870
  • House of Representatives
  • 435
  • Population of the state / population of the country * 435 or Population of the state / ( Population of the country / 435 )
  • 1880
  • 1890

How well did you do on our census quiz? How many of the questions from prior census records did you overlook? Take the time now to revisit your census records. Take your time and really study them and the neighborhood. You will learn a lot more about your ancestor if you do.

Preview for next week – Photo Genealogy Part 2

Dont forget to check back next Sunday 2/26. It will be a continuation of last week’s post about Photo Genealogy. Follow the progress of how some pictures of a 19th century photo album were identified.

Photo Genealogy

Posted by Jim Sanders on Sunday, 12 February, 2012

Do you have old photos and not know who is pictured in them? How do you go about trying to find out who is in the picture? A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how a 19th century photo album was sent to me. I was a descendant of the original owner. All but a couple of pictures in the album were unmarked. This series of posts will chronicle what I went through and am still going through to identify the people in the pictures. There are so many pictures in the album and so many different strategies I employed that I will chronicle my progress in a series of posts to this blog. Normally I post something every Sunday. For this series, I will post every other Sunday leaving the other Sunday’s to explore a different topic. Also, as this series of posts are progressing I will post a still unidentified photo from the album on Wordless Wednesdays. This will be for both the weeks I will be posting about the photos as well as the week we will touch upon a different subject.

First, I wanted to preserve the images by scanning all of the and making a digitial copy. This would allow me to share these pictures electronically with family members and friends. Perhaps some family members would be able to identify some of the individuals. Below is just one of the images from the album.

Unknown subject Sanders or Fraher

I wanted a fairly good quality so I scanned them at 300 dpi (dots per inch). I also wanted to preserve the order of the pictures so I named them as sandersphotoalbumXX.jpg. Here XX would equal 01 for the first picture in the album, 02 would be for the second picture, etc.

The book itself had a handwritten note in it which read “Presented to Miss Mary Fryher By Mr. Jos. C. Sanders, New Britain, Conn. Sept. 24/1884”. From this I knew which side of the family many of whom the pictures would be of. Mary Fryher and Joseph Sanders are my great grandparents. They were married on 24-May-1886. This would mean the album was a gift prior to getting married based upon the date in the book. Some of the pictures in the photo album might be friends, but most would likely be family members.

Joseph Sanders - Mary Fryher - Photo Album

Now it was time to review the families that might be involved. In order to provide a good context of the family in question, I’ve provided quite a bit of detail so that we can explore how I was able to identify a number of pictures. Feel free to jump ahead of the family group sheets. The three family group sheets are the parents of Joseph Sanders, the parents of Mary Fraher and last but not least Joseph Sanders and Mary Fraher’s family.

Family of John Charles SANDERS

The parents of Joseph C. Sanders were John Sanders and Mary Clark Tripp. Here is a basic family group sheet of the family.

John Charles SANDERS : Birth: 23-Mar-1833 in England, Marriage: 08-Sep-1861 in New Bedford, Bristol, Massachusetts, USA, Death: 07-Jan 1901-in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA (Parents Henry Lewer Sanders & Barbara Anne Warwick)
+ Mary Clark TRIPP Birth: 21-Aug-1842 in Fairhaven, Bristol, Massachusetts, Death: 11-Apr-1907 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA (Parents James Henry Tripp & Ann J. Clarke)

Children:
1: Henry L. Sanders : Birth: 11-Dec-1862 in New Bedford, Bristol, Massachusetts, USA, Marriage: 05-Apr-1883 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 11-Nov 1944 in Everett, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA
+ Hattie Croteau : Birth 06-Sep-1863

2: Frances Emma Sanders : Birth: 04-Dec-1864 in Fairhaven, Bristol, Massachusetts, USA, Marriage: 28-Dec-1881, Death: 19-Feb-1955 in Fall River, Bristol, Massachusetts, USA
+James B. Parsons : Birth 16-Apr-1864

3: Sarah Abbie Sanders : Birth: 04-Oct-1866 in Suffield, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 18-Nov-1885 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 12-Jul 1942 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+ Frederick A. Otto : Birth 1859

4: Joseph Charles Sanders : Birth: 02-Apr-1868 in Tariffville, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 24-May-1886 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 13-May-1946 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+Mary Agnes Fraher : Birth 12-May-1863)\

5: James Frank Sanders : Birth: 12-Mar-1870 in Tariffville, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 03-Nov-1872 in Tariffville, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

6: Anne Clark Sanders : Birth: 19-Feb-1872 in Tariffville, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 1889 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: Unknown in Unknown
+ John McKnight : Birth May 1868
+ Will Ritner

7: John Leonard Sanders : Birth: 15-Dec-1875 in Tariffville, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: Unknown, Death:26-Jan-1913 in Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+Emma Louise Samlow : Birth 25-Mar-1875

8: Herbert Ephraim Sanders : Birth: 09 -Feb-1876 in Tariffville, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 27-Aug-1901 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 27-Aug-1960 in Westfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, USA
+ Alice Beach : Birth 01-Feb-1882
+ Gertude E. Stowe : Birth 21-Oct-1880

9: Ada May Sanders : Birth: 24-Jul-1878 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 19-Nov-1896, Death:24-May-1955 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+Joseph T. Suprenant : Birth 14-Oct-1873

10: William Jennings Sanders : Birth: 19-Nov-1880 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 27-Nov-1901 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 13-May-1956 in Cheshire, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
+Josephine C. Hahn : Birth 17-Dec-1882

11: Edith Elma Sanders : Birth: 18-Aug-1884 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA : Marriage: 02-Apr-1903 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 04-Jun-1973 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+Adolph John Wagner : Birth 18-Mar-1878

Family of Patrick FRAHER/FRYHER

The parents of Mary Agnes Fraher/Fryher were Patrick Fraher and Sarah Sayes. Here is a basic family group sheet of the family.

Patrick Fraher : Birth: 1830 in Ireland, Marriage: Abt. 1852 in Ireland, Death: Bet. 1880–1881?
+ Sarah Hayes : Birth: 1834 in Ireland, Death: 27 Sep 1896 in Meriden, New Haven, Connecticut, USA (parents Robert Hales)

Children:
1: James Fraher : Birth: Sep-1853 in Ireland, Marriage: 22-Jan-1883 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 28 Aug 1907 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+Mary A Barry : Birth: Dec-1865

2: Francis Fraher : Birth: Abt. 1855 in Ireland[, Marriage: unknown, Death Unknown

3: William Fraher : Birth: Mar 1859 in England, Marriage: 24-Mar-1885 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 16-Sep-1901 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+Spouses: Maria Jones

4: Patrick Fraher : Birth: 1860 in England[, Marriage: Unknown, Death: unknown

5: Michael Fraher : Birth: Abt. 1863 in Essex, New York, USA, Death : apparently died as an infant before 1870

6: Mary Agnes Fraher : May 1863 in Port Henry, Essex, New York, USA, Marriage: 24-May-1886 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 17-May-1933 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+ Joseph Charles Sanders : Birth :02-Apr-1868

7: John J Fraher : Birth: 01-Aug-1865 in Essex, New York, USA, Marriage: 14 -Jan-1884 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: unknown
+ Catherine L Coyle : Birth 1863

8: Sarah Fraher: Birth: 1866 in Massachusetts, USA, Marriage: 02-Oct-1889 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 21-Dec-1937 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+Julius Schmidt : Birth: Aug-1869

9: Elizabeth B. Fraher: Birth: Jun-1869 in Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 10-Feb-1890 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: unknown
+Edward P Coyle : Birth Mar-1869

Family of Joseph Charles SANDERS

Here’s the family of Joseph Charles Sanders and Mary Agnes Fraher

Joseph Charles Sanders : Birth: 02-Apr-1868 in Tariffville, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 24-May-1886 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 13-May-1946 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA (parents : John Charles Sanders & Mary Clark Tripp)
+Mary Agnes Fraher Birth: 12-May-1863 in Port Henry, Essex, New York, USA, Death: 17-May-1933 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA (parents : Patrick Fraher & Sarah Hayes)

Children:
1: John C. Sanders : Birth: 26-Jun-1887 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 28-Mar-1923 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

2: Joseph James Sanders : Birth: 21-Nov-1889 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 12-Oct-1911 in Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware, USA, Death: 22-Oct-1974 in Geneva, Ontario, New York, USA
+ Margaret Yost : Birth: 06-Aug-1894

3: Frederick H. Sanders : Birth: Jan-1892 in Meriden, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, Death: 19-May-1893 in Meriden, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

4: William Herbert Sanders : Birth: 30-May-1894 in Meriden, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 27-Nov-1927 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 20-Sep-1964 in Newington, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+ Marion Isabel Laurie : Birth 19-Nov-1899

5: Florence Sanders : Birth: 27-Aug-1896 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: 24-Jun-1925 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Death: 26-Aug-1981 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+ Seward Buck

6: Howard Henry Sanders : Birth: 21-Jun-1899, Marriage: unknown, Death: Feb-1967 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+ Francis Haber

7: Robert Lester Sanders : Birth: 13-Apr-1902, Marriage: 1955 in Elkton, Cecil, Maryland, USA, Death: Mar-1963 in Southington, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
+ Mary Porter

8: Thomas Tripp Sanders : Birth: 14-Jun-1905 in New Britain, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Marriage: unknown, Death: Jan-1965 in Connecticut, USA
+ Aldonna Norkun

Photo Genealogy Resource Materials

To get myself familiar with how to go about trying to determin who was pictured within the photos, I went to my local library to find some resource materials. There are a few really good books which provide detailed information. A couple of these books are;

  • Unlocking the Secrets in Old Photographs by Karen Frisch Ripley
  • Uncovering your Ancestry through Family Photographs by Maureen Taylor

From these books and other resources I consulted, I found it essential to document a few things about each picture. The key elements I chose to document are;

  • Photo number in the order within the book
  • Approximate date of the photo
  • Description of the photo
  • Size of the Photo
  • Type of Photo
  • Possible Subject or Family Group
  • Studio

Now, finally with all the background information laid out and the family groups most likely involved identified it’s time to start looking at some photos. My first strategy employed was to show the photos to family who might have known some of the individuals pictures.

William Alfred Sanders, James Joseph Sanders, ?,  ?

My father thought the two individuals standing were from left to right were William Herbert Sanders (his father) and Joseph James Samders (his uncle). The other two he didn’t identify, possibly other uncles? Unfortunatly, most of the people in the picture were not recognized by my father, his brother or his cousins I showed them to. There were no living relatives from an older generation left.

As you show the photos to your relatives there are at least three distinct possibilities. The first possibility is that they correctly identify one or more of the individuals within the photo. The second possibility is that they do not recognize and can’t identify anyone within the photo. Another possibility also exists is that they incorrectly identify one or more people within the picture. You need to be aware of these as ask your relatives whether they know who is pictured. In my case with the picture above, my dad was fairly certain of the identification of his father and one of his uncles, so I’m confident of two of the individuals.

This next picture is one of the few pictures in the photo book which were marked. It was marked on the back as “Mrs. J Smith 15 Fanen Ave New Haven, CT”.

Sarah (Fraher) Schmidt

Based on the family group sheet of Patrick Fraher and Sarah Hayes, I know this is their daughter Sarah Fraher, who married Julius Schmidt.

This is where I will end this post for this week. I’ve outlined this series of posts, we’ve reviewed the familes in question. Several good reference books were mentioned and we started to look at a few pictures. In two weeks, we will talk about the types of photos, how to put an approximate date on them, photographers imprints and more. Don’t forget to look for the Wordless Wednesday posts. I will post a still unidentified photo from this book. Feel free to leave a reply if you think you know the date or any other details about the photo

Newspaper Genealogy

Posted by Jim Sanders on Sunday, 5 February, 2012

Newspapers and Genealogy Go Hand in Hand

Everyone I know who’s been doing family history research for any length of time has been utilizing newspapers in their research. Some of the most common and best known information you can find in newspapers include birth announcements, marriage announcements and obituaries. But these are just the tip of the iceburg. You can find so much more about individuals in newspapers. You can learn about events in their lives such as the time my ancestor was badly bitten by a dog as a little girl in the 1870s or you may find out your ancestor was arrested for drunkeness. More about these stories later.

The article below is about my uncle who died when he was just a baby. This was in between census years so he did not show up on any census record.
James Joseph Fox

Newspapers have been around in the United States since before the Revolutionary War. A founding father, Benjamin Franklin himself was a newspaper man. In 1732, Benjamin Franklin published “Poor Richard’s Almanac”. Newspapers spread the news of the Boston Tea Party and other events in the Revolutionary War throughout the colonies. During the Civil War, many military items were written about. Even the lowest private can be found in many of these artilcles. Even if your ancestor is not found in the newspapers you can read about the events happening in their local community which undoubtable influenced your ancestors daily life.

More and more newspapers are being digitalized and being put on-line. Some subscription websites such as Genealogy Bank and NewspaperArchive.com offer a wide range of newspapers on-line. There are also some collections you can use for free. Your local or state library may have subcriptions to digital collections of newspapers and some of these you may be able to access from the comfort of your home with using your own library card.

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Unfortunately, there are still more newspapers which have not been digitalized and been put on-line, than those which are on-line. These newspapers can usually be found at local, county and/or state libraries or archives. Local historical societies also have very good collections. You may have to be a detective to find out where old local newspapers from your ancestor’s area ended up. Call around and you’ll be sure to find where they are located.

The following article was from a newspaper clip collection one of my great aunts had and was given to my mother. John Fox was my great uncle and there are several lengthy articles were about him and the accident which took his life.

John Fox Accident

Whether you found a newspaper archive on-line for free or have a paid subscription you’re in luck. These archives generally have an all words index. This means every word in the newspaper article archives have been put into the index. If you’re looking for your ancestor using microfilm of the newspaper at a local library or archive, you’ll have to scroll through the pages looking for your ancestor. For this reason, I usually search for a known event such as a brith, marriage or death. An obituary can occur weeks or months after the death and wills may be mentioned out even farther than that.

When using an on-line newspaper collection, I’ve used a few strategies to find my ancestor. When searching use various spellings of your ancestor’s name. Some newspaper archives let you search by type of article. Some of the categories to search for include birth announcements, marriage announcements and obituaries. You can read all the birth announcements around your ancestor’s expected birth date. You’ll have to look a few weeks after the event as well. Sometimes it took a while for this type of news to make it into the newspaper. If your ancestor was in the military, especially during the Civil War, you can look for the ancestor’s military unit. Even if you don’t find your ancestor, you can learn a lot about the unit he served in and about the battles the unit fought in. My ancestor John D. Laurie fought in the 10th Connecticut infantry. Common search phrases for this could be “tenth connecticut”, “10th connecticut” or “10th C V”. This strategy lead me to an article which reported him as injured and left on the battlefield.

John Laurie - 10th CT - Civil War Missing

Newspapers can offer amazing images into some events in your ancstors life. Read the short articles below. Where else but in newspaper research would you find out about such events.

Ford_Sidney_Daughter

Patrick Fraher/Fryher

I hope these articles inspire you to look for your ancestors in newspapers. There’s a lot more than just names and dates to your ancestors.

Genealogy Message Boards

Posted by Jim Sanders on Sunday, 29 January, 2012

Finding Your Family History in Genealogy Message Boards

Genealogy message boards can be a fantastic way to further your research. You might end up meeting a previously unknown cousin or two. I found a second cousin of mine through a genealogy message board. Both of our mothers did not know about each other. Now they write to each other every so often. You also may be able to break a brick wall or just get some help for a specific problem. But how do you get the most out of a genealogy message board?

My first foray into Genealogy Message Boards was a number of years ago when I was just getting interested in genealogy. I reviewed my dad’s research and started recording my wife’s side of the family into a family tree program. I picked up a number of beginner genealogy books and read through them all. A lot of the books highly reccommended searching through and posting queries on a genealogy message board.

However, in order to take advantage of genealogy message boards, you will first need to find one. Below are some of more popular genealogy message boards around today.

You can also check out Cyndi’s list to see if there are additional message boards which might be of interest to you.

The first thing you will want to do is to browse through the message boards for a surname, area or subject that you are researching. Read the posted messages and see the responses back. See the various formats of the queries for yourself. Pay attention to how the subject of the query is written. See the details provided in the response. See which ones have the best responses and learn from them. I learned a whole lot about how to post a search just by reading what worked for others. Now try to perform a search for your own ancestor. After you’ve searched for your own ancestor in the already posted queries, it’s time to post your own query.

When you decide to post your first posting, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. The first thing you will need to decide is what question in your research you’d like to get some help with. Which board is the most appropriate to post your query to? You might try a surname board or perhaps an area such as a county or state board. Once you’ve decided what question you want to answer and have found an appropriate board to post it to, you will now need to formulate the query. The first part of that is the subject or header for your query.

Here are a couple of dos and dont’s for the subject of your query.

The Subject or Header of Your Genealogy Query

Dos:

  • Include SURNAME in capital letters
  • Include a first name
  • Include a location
  • Include a date

Dont’s:

  • List only a surname in the header, especially if you’re in a surname message board.

GOOD HEADER: SMITH, John died 1-Jan-1900, Springfield, MA -Obituary Lookup Please
BAD HEADER: John Smith

The next thing you will need to do is to write the message body of the query.

The Message Body of your Genealogy Query

Dos:

  • Provide detail about what you are looking for
  • Ask a specific question
  • Captialize Surnames
  • Limit your detail for three or four paragraphs

Dont’s:

  • Don’t ask for any or all information about an ancestor or surname. These will most likely be ignored.
  • Don’t ask for more than one or two specific questions
  • Don’t write so much detail that it takes pages and pages to go through.
  • Don’t use many abbreviations. Some people who are viewing your post may not realize what your abbreviations is for.

GOOD DETAIL:
I’m looking for the obituary of my great grandfather John SMITH who died on 1-Jan-1900. He died in Springfield, MA. His wife’s name was Jane and their children were John, James and Mary. He was about 70 years old when he died. Your help would be appreciated.

BAD DETAIL:
I’m looking for any details about John Smith from Springfield.

The good detailed listed enough information about the question (finding an obituary for John Smith) that was required. It lists his wife, children and the date and where he died. They will most likely also be listed in the obituary. The bad detail is looking for all information about John Smith, but which John Smith? When and where are you looking? Which Springfield? Obviously not enough detail was provided to get any guidence with for this query.

How will you know someone has responded to your query? Most genealogy message boards will send you an email when someone responds to your query. However, I would still reccommend you keep track of where you posted your queries in case you miss the email or it is lost for some reason.

You never know what type of information someone might help you find. I’ve had a lot of help with someone looking up an obituary for me in a library I just would not have been able to get to. I’ve had help with finding census records. Some others go way beyond what was asked for and provide clues and family history you never knew existed. When you do get a response even if they tried and didn’t find anything make sure your thank them. Coming from experience they really do appreciate it.

Posting on message boards can lead to tremendous finds. Someone contacted me about a posting I left on a message board once. She had a 19th century family photo album. She was trying to find a descendant to return the photo album to a family member. It turns out I was indeed a descendant. It has more than 50 pictures including tin types and carte de visites. No one in my family ever knew about this photo album.

On the inset there’s a written statement “presented to Miss Mary Fryher by Mr. Jos. C Sanders New Britain, Conn. September 24/1884″. Joseph and Mary are my great grandparents. They were both from New Britain, CT.

I will talk about this album and the pictures contained in this album on some future post. It’s been an amazing journey to try to find out who is depicted in these photos. Below is just one of the tin type pictures from this album.

Patrick Fryher & Sarah Hayes, New Britain, Conn

For now though, go to one of the message boards listed above. Find what genealogy treasures await you and what answers other researchers can help you with. Post a comment on this message board with your best tip for using a message board or perhaps some family heirloom which is now back in the hands of a descendant.