According to progenealogists.com, an official ancestry.com research firm,
The Internet offers…many great opportunities to share and exchange information. One of the more frequently used and prominent…is through message boards, including bulletin boards and forums.
[These] allow people to communicate freely with one another in a public forum. …the amount of information that can be shared is tremendous.
…message boards broadcast our interests and inquiries to other interested readers around the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Message boards are wonderful tools for [those] trying to connect with others…
When searching on-line for your family history you will find many of these forums, bulletin boards and message boards.
They can be filled with treasures of information about parts of your family tree, however, they can also lead to piles of junk.
To utilize these boards best, you should read the entire article from progenealogists.com, “Effective Use of Genealogy Message Boards”. (about a 20 minute read)
As I have used on-line boards for years (and dug through my share of treasure and junk!), here’s my personal tips and notes on the use of various family history forums and bulletin/message boards on the web:
1. I have found the best information at these on-line board sites:
ancestry.com > collaborate > message boards (please note that rootsweb.com message boards are the same as ancestry.com)
genealogy.com > community > message boards
yourfamily.com > genealogy message board (please note this site is not very sophisticated, but has some good info)
mocavo.com > community > groups
2. When searching the on-line forums and bulletin/message boards you can:
- always search by surname and then narrow down your search within that surname message board to a specific first name, date, place, etc. to help find further information on your possibly family line
- many boards also let you search by: region / location and general topics such as: immigration, emigration, migration, religion, military, census, cemeteries (to name a few)
3. When searching by surname, watch out for genealogy boards that have the ‘surname’ and another board that has the ‘surname+s’.
For example on ancestry.com they have a surname message board for: ‘Schofield’ and ‘Schofields‘. So, I have to remember to search both with my inquires about that part of my family history.
4. Open up a Word document on your computer while searching the genealogy boards on-line.
Cut and paste key pieces of data you find from the boards into the Word doc along with the web address where you found it. (Trust me…otherwise later you will wonder where you found that!)
Also, when you have filled up a Word document, PRINT THAT WORD DOCUMENT OUT.
I know that sounds old-fashioned, but trust me when you do family history you will sometimes take breaks for months or even years and trying to go back and find that site on your computer with internet favorites or the computer saved file may be difficult or impossible (websites change, computers do crash and/or get replaced). If you keep the paper and make a file in a cabinet in your home, you will always have it.
5. If you decide to interact in the forums or boards on-line. Choose your opportunities wisely. Do not flood the boards with your same copied generic requests. Others will note that and not want to interact with you.
When you do enter an inquiry or comment, be short with much detail and a willingness to share information with the other person(s).
I have found four of my distant cousins through these forums and all of us shared detailed family history with each other afterwards via paper mail packages. It has been invaluable. (And so cool to find out you have distant cousins all over the U.S.)
6. Finally, FOCUS and watch your time.
Believe me it will be easy to get mesmerized by all the info and drilling down and down in a query thread on a message board.
You will get lost and end up repeating some of your work again later. As well as hours of your life gone.
Before you even turn on your computer, pick a specific topic you are going to research and the amount of time you want to dedicate and stick to it.