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Friday, July 1, 2011

Rootweb Mailing Lists

Five members of the Alsace-Lorraine list on Rootsweb answered my request for help with Claude Schmitt's death record. The mailing lists in which I am a member are immeasurably valuable. I would never have progressed as far in my family history research without them. If you're like me (in need of a genealogical 12-step program) lists are a good way to get your daily fix.

So why was I met with blank stares when I mentioned Rootsweb mailing lists at the local Family History Center? Could it be the label? "Mailing list" conjures up images of junk mail and additional trips to the recycling bin. But nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the people in my FHC play group was confused by the concept. It is a little challenging to grasp if you haven't seen a list in action. So I put together a sort-of-tutorial for her and left it at the Family History Center for other visitors to see. Maybe it will help someone in cyberspace as well:

Where can you find other genealogists interested in the area you are researching? On a Rootsweb mailing list!

Start at this web site:

Scroll done the left column to MAILING LISTS and click INDEX (Browse all lists)

Let’s pick one of the 30,000+ lists to use as an example. See USA? Just below USA, you’ll see all 50 states. Click MN. Next we’ll choose a county. Click Hennepin.

This web page explains the Hennepin County list; who might be interested in joining and where to look for additional information about the county. One way to measure the usefulness of a list is to see how much activity it generates. To check the activity for this list, click Browse the MNHENNEP archives link near the bottom of the page. These numbers show us this is a pretty quiet list.

Before we judge a book by its cover, let’s see the typical questions/answers people post. Click May 2011. There’s an interesting exchange (called a thread) starting with a request for a recent obituary. You can click on any message to read it.

Want to see another example? Let’s go back to the list index. (Click the BACK arrow a few times to reach the complete index.) How about exploring an International list? Click on Sweden. We could choose a specific area of Sweden if we wanted, but for now let’s click the general Sweden list. Then click Browse the SWEDEN archives (just like we did for Hennepin County above).

Notice a difference? There are many more posts on this list. Click May 2011. See all the different threads? This looks like a great list if you have Swedish ancestors.

If you wanted to join this list, you would follow the instructions on the page titled SWEDEN Mailing List. You can click on Subscribe to SWEDEN-L if you would like to get each message individually, or choose Subscribe to SWEDEN-D if you want to receive all the messages for each day grouped together in one email. All the email fields are filled in automatically when you click on the link, so just “send”.

A confirmation email will be sent with instructions to complete your subscription request. It will contain additional information about the list. (Remember you can leave a list at any time; simply choose the appropriate Unsubscribe option and voila, you’ll get no more emails from that Rootsweb mailing list.) 

BEFORE YOU SEND EMAILS TO THE LISTS YOU JOIN, consider lurking on a Rootsweb mailing list for awhile before you post. In internet culture a lurker is a person who reads discussions on a mailing list, but doesn’t actively participate. Lurking will help you

• become familiar with this specific list’s etiquette

• learn who will be helpful to you and how you can help others

• get lots of information about your area of interest 

When you are ready to post your first question, comment or concern remember two things.  
  • Your post will be on the internet forever. (Remember those archives we looked at when we were exploring lists?) and
  • Don’t expect anyone else to do all your research for you. List members are most helpful when requests are reasonable.
For example, you could ask things like:

• Where would I find information about boundary changes in this state?

• Can anyone recommend a good translator?

• Which cemetery would a German (or Spanish etc) family have chosen in this place in 1875?

• Have you seen the new database on Ancestry?!?

• Would someone please help me translate these words…?

And finally ~

Please use the Golden Rule ~ a Rootsweb mailing list is the same as any other community. Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Look forward to making new friends, finding long lost relatives, and conquering records you never imagined.

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