RootsWeb:Using RootsWeb Mailing Lists

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This article originally appeared in The Official Guide to by Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG and Tana Pedersen Lord.

Joining a Mailing List

You can subscribe to (join) a mailing list at any time—and subscribe to as many as you’d like. First, use the searching techniques discussed earlier in the chapter to find a mailing list of interest; then, click on its link. The page that appears will tell you the name of the mailing list and what topics the list covers. Below this information are links that subscribe you to the list. You can choose from two types of e-mail distribution—regular mail mode and a digest (D) mode. The mail mode sends single e-mail messages to each subscriber as they are posted. The digest mode sends each subscriber the messages, but they are saved up and then sent out as a group. On large and busy mailing lists, you might want to use the digest mode. On the other hand, some ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have a problem with large digests, so the mail mode might work better. Sometimes you have to experiment to find the right mailing lists and the right mode. You can even try both modes to see which works for you.

To subscribe to the mailing list, click either the mail or digest (D) “Subscribe to” link. An e-mail message appears. Make sure the word “Subscribe” is in the subject line and the body of the message; then send the e-mail. It’s that simple. You should receive a welcome e-mail to let you know that you have successfully subscribed to the list.

One nice option of mailing lists is that you can unsubscribe and subscribe as often as necessary. For example, when you take vacation you might want to unsubscribe from the list so your messages don’t pile up and then re-subscribe when you return—make sure to search the mailing list’s archives to be sure you didn’t miss something important while you were away. To unsubscribe from the mailing list, access the right mailing list and click one of the “Unsubscribe from” links. An e-mail message appears. Make sure the word “Unsubscribe” is in the subject line of the message; then send the e-mail.

Posting a Message

Besides acquiring information from others interested in the same topics, mailing lists are a great place to post your own information, questions, and comments. Don’t be a genealogy bystander, get involved. Sending a post is as easy as sending an e-mail. First, make sure you have subscribed to the list. Open an e-mail and in the address field, enter the list’s name in this format: For example, if the mailing list’s name is “Bobbitt,” then you would enter: Make sure the body of the e-mail is just plain text, not HTML so it will be readable. Also, because this e-mail message will go to everyone on the mailing list, potentially thousands of people, don’t include any information in the e-mail that you don’t want everyone else to see.

Starting a Mailing List

Don’t see the mailing list you want? You can start one, but first double-check to see if the name, location, or subject is already covered by another list. To request a new mailing list, go to the homepage and find the “Mailing Lists” section, then click the “Requests for Mailing Lists” link or go here. Enter your contact information and details about the new list, and submit the form.

Note: If you request a new mailing list, you will automatically become its administrator. If you do not want to be a list’s administrator, do not request a list.

You can also “adopt” a list you’re interested in if it doesn’t already have an administrator. You do not need any special equipment other than Internet access to become a list administrator—even public access to the Internet at a local library works. Your responsibilities will include removing bad e-mail addresses, assisting list users with their questions, and resolving any problems. To find out more about a mailing list administrator’s responsibilities, go here.

The ROOTS-L Mailing List

Among the numerous mailing lists available on RootsWeb is ROOTS-L. This mailing list started back in 1987 and is the original genealogy mailing list on the Internet. (And actually, it is more or less the formal start of RootsWeb.) For those who are interested in any or all aspects of genealogy, this mailing list is a resource you won’t want to pass up. To subscribe to the ROOTS-L mailing list, access the homepage, find the “Mailing List” section, and click the “ROOTS-L Mailing List” link or go here. A word of caution: thousands and thousands of people subscribe and respond to this mailing list so be prepared for lots of e-mail! You can also search more than ten years of archived ROOTS-L messages from users all over the world.

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