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
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.
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
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
Do not reuse subject lines from
other mails if your mail is not related to that mail (mixes unrelated
Always reuse the identical subject line if it does (sorts
More Do:s and Don't:s
Sort out your known facts, think through your question carefully and phrase it
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
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)
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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)
Unless the question is a very simple one always aim at educating the
inquirer - better teach someone to fish than giving one fish
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: