Author: Mark W. Swarthout
Published March 1, 2003, Updated October 2005
It may seem a small thing, but it is definitely worth your while to spread your wealth of knowledge as much as possible. The more people that know what you are looking for the better off you are. Over the last two years I have talked about a large number of sites and tools available on the Web for your use. To encourage you to participate in many of them, I have provided some examples from my own research and activities. These activities have provided some major connections for my genealogical research in the last few years.
Posting on Query and Message Boards
I can’t tell you how much information you obtain by posting on bulletin boards provided by the various genealogy organizations and groups. GenWeb, Ancestry, Roots all provide public posting areas divided up by regions, surnames, counties and other divisions. Two important things to remember. First, make sure you provide a valid email address and keep it current. Nothing can be more frustrating to a good Samaritan then to have their message of valuable information bounced back by an expired account.
Second, be patient! Once in a while you will get a speedy reply to your question, others may take years to provide any results.
Your Own Web Site(s)
Wow! This has provided me a great deal of pleasure over the three years since I have published my Swarthout family information on the web. I have corresponded with individuals from all over the world an such a wide variety of subjects.
I have had a museum curator contacted me about the origin of a photograph of Gladys that had been donated to his museum. Individuals doing biographies of individuals touched by our family have asked if I know of any connections. And dozens of people that are interested in the family, the locations and the relationships.
My Fairchild pages recently helped make a connection with a fourth cousin that has pictures and documents of our common ancestor. How did we make the connection? He was searching for information on a nephew and found my Lander County web site, one of the few that has an actual page with information on him. My web site is now greatly enriched with a number of new pictures, more information and mastheads connected to this family!
Don’t forget to use your search engines on a regular basis! I run a set of searches about once a year or so. It is amazing what additional information will pop up in the course of a few months. You may discover a new web site, new information on one that you had visited earlier, or increase your knowledge of the area in question.
While Google remains my primary search engine, Kartoo has become a close second. This relatively new site provides a ‘mind mapping’ search results, a graphical output that gives you a sense of how good a match it is and cross referencing key words between sites. Give Kartoo a try and see if you don’t appreciate a new way of looking at things. My article on Search Engines will provide more information.
I know, there are a lot of downsides to mailing lists. They increase your spam levels and depending on traffic can generate a lot of messages. I subscribed to one list for a few days that generated twenty messages a day, and that was in digest mode! Use the digest mode to limit your input to a message or two a day. Take a look at the archives before subscribing to insure that the content is something you are interested in. And if you can contribute, by all means, do so! A signature line that provides some idea of the names and areas you are working in will provide the occasional private message that may get you that elusive connection. And a bit of cleverness in your email address can foil the spam miners. (Use the word AT instead of the @ sign can help!)
People Want to Help
There is little doubt that people what to help you. The help may unfortunately be in the form of destroying a connection you thought was solid, but wouldn’t you rather have it correct? But in the process, they have a reason for believing so, and hopefully can provide the documentation that shows it. I have had numerous contacts simply because they remembered my last name when they ran across a bit of information.
Through all the various means, I have accumulated lots of bits and pieces. Rather than dump them into the electronic ether, I have attempted to put them on the web site. While the name or connections means little to me, perhaps it will be that key puzzle piece for someone else.
What you give will come back! So take a bit of time to share. Not only does it provide more connections for further information, it serves to preserve your work and provides you a back up source if something happens to your information.