that Get Terrific Results!
Writing a great query and posting it to
message board can quickly advance your genealogy research and
bust your brick walls! Many sites offer tips on effective
online communication techniques, which can be read if you take
the time before posting a query to the message board/forum or
sending an email. I want to point out a strategy that will make
your queries much more effective, that is, using the
on the query posting page to the greatest advantage by including
four (4) pieces of information:
and a “Hook”.
review the steps of an effective query whether print or
your question briefly in the subject line. Ask for information
on one problem or subject. Be specific and use a hook!
The hook gets your readers interested in your problem!
example: “Seeking parents & siblings of,” “Searching for
children of,” “Trying to locate the family Bible of”, “Was it
murder?” Do not ask “Please send all the information you have.”
Then be sure to add a surname, a date or time period,
and a location in the subject line. For example,
“Seeking cemetery info for
Amanda Fletcher, died Conroe, TX, early 1900’s.”
Do not be so general that no one can connect to your
information. The experienced genealogist, who may have much to
share with you, will pass over your query if he/she cannot
quickly identify information that connects to what he/she may
The Body of the Query
Explain in more detail what you are
searching for, and include the
names of the people that you know, capitalizing the
sure to include the woman’s maiden name if known.
the people you are looking for.
date or dates for the time period
you are researching.
Briefly state any information you may
already know, so that your reader
doesn’t waste time re-sending info you have.
Use standard genealogical abbreviations,
but if there is a chance of a misunderstanding, spell the word
An Electronic Query Different?
Electronic queries may be searched by various search engines,
they may be displayed in various forums or on surname boards,
but most of the time the information displayed first will only
be what you have put in your subject line on the query posting
Below Is a
Sample of an Ineffective Query:
Subject line-> HELP!!!!
Posted by Amy Smith
on Sunday, 27 Jul 2009
Surname: Smith, Jones
married George Jones both are from Montgomery Co. Doing my
family roots need some help in finding info.
What‘s Wrong With This Query?
Quite a bit actually! But the biggest mistake for posting to a
message board, is the subject line “HELP”. This is what will be
shown on the message board index before the query is opened to
reveal the contents of the rest of the message. This scream for
help will be quickly passed over by experienced genealogists,
because they do not have time to open it based on the
information given. What can be done to improve this query,
especially the subject line?
Example of an Effective Query:
line-> Seeking parents of Elizabeth SMITH,
& George JONES, Montgomery Co., TX 1880’s
by Amy Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
on Sunday, 27 Jul 2009
Surname: SMITH, JONES
parents/siblings of Elizabeth SMITH (b. ca 1865-1910), m. 2 Feb
1886 George JONES (b. ca. 1863-1916) in Montgomery Co., TX.
Elizabeth are listed in 1900 US Census living with their
children, Ann, George Jr. and Hannah in Conroe, Montgomery Co.,
The second example will be
noticed, read and may even garner several responses from
knowledgeable genealogists. The subject line grabs attention
because it gives surnames, location and a date. The subject line
is very important to those searching message board indexes. It
saves research time for everyone and produces more positive
results. Good query
writing is an art whether used in print or electronic format,
forget to write an effective subject line with a good hook!
Phyllis Stehm is a
genealogy instructor at Lone Star College, Montgomery campus in
ALL ‑ Academy of Lifelong Learning
Program and co-founded the Montgomery County Genealogists’
Internet Research Group (MCG-IRG).