RootsWeb:Posting to a RootsWeb Message Board

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


Found a new ancestor? Want to post a message on RootsWeb about a family line you are researching or want to share a document that you’ve discovered?  Naturally, your goal is to reach the greatest number of interested researchers as possible. Posting your own queries on the RootsWeb message boards is an excellent way to find others who are researching the same families and who may have the information you seek.

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Create an Effective Message

Today’s online researchers are busy people, so you want to make sure that your message is posted to a relevant message board and is easy to understand. Does your message primarily concern a surname or single family? Then post it on the message board for that surname. If it pertains to several families or generations all living in the same geographic area, post on a specific locality message board. If your message is more closely tied to a research topic such as an ethnic group or occupation, you may elect to post on a message board for that topic.

Now that you’ve chosen the most appropriate board to post to, you’re ready to write your message. To post a brand-new message, click the “Begin New Thread” link at the top of a message board. To respond to a specific message, click the “Reply” link located at the bottom of the message. If you reply to a post, it will be “threaded” with the message to which you are replying. Threading means that responses are grouped with the original message rather than standing alone as an original post. Posting a response (reply) to an original message also means that if the previous posters in the thread have elected to receive e-mail notification of responses, they will be notified of your new message.

The most important element of your message may be the subject line. The subject line catches people’s attention and determines whether they will read the rest of your message. Make the subject line complete, concise, and try to cover the basics of who, when, and where. Do not use vague subjects such as “genealogy,” “searching,” or “looking for grandfather.” You can assume that anyone posting or reading these message boards is searching for genealogy-related information.

Here is an example of how to create a good subject line. If you are posting a query about John Smith who was born in 1832 in Pittsburgh, a bad subject line would be: Looking for Smith family history. An informative subject line would be: John SMITH, born 1832, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” After you write a subject line, put yourself in the place of someone scanning through hundreds of posts on the message boards. Does your subject line identify the content of your message? If it doesn’t, consider rewriting it.

When you’re posting a message, you can further help users locate your query by completing the Surnames field. Users can use the message board’s Advanced Search to specifically search this field for surnames. Enter only the surnames that you have included in this message; do not include other surnames just because you are researching them. List surnames one at a time and separate them with a comma. For example, enter “Smith, Cousins, James, Kohlhammer, Van Allen.” It doesn’t matter whether you list the names in upper, lower, or mixed case but surnames that have common spelling variants such as Wood and Woods should be listed separately and not as Wood(s) or Wood/Woods.

Tips for Successful Posts

To make your posts as effective as possible, read through these tips:

  • Don’t post messages that are offensive, contain advertisements, or infringe on copyrights—these posts will be removed immediately.
  • Message boards are read and used by researchers around the world, so watch those abbreviations. Don’t assume everyone knows where or what “SF, CA” is. If in doubt, spell it out.
  • Resist impulse posting. Take a few moments to think about your query before you post. Planning ahead helps avoid the embarrassment that a hastily prepared, poorly thought-out, query can sometimes cause (like mixing up your family names, giving the wrong dates, and misspelling words).

Add an Attachment

To use the message boards to their fullest potential, you might want to consider adding an attachment to your message. Certain types of attachments—GEDCOM files and graphic files, including pictures and scanned images—may be attached to any board message. The potential uses of such attachments are endless. Post a transcription of a will, deed, or family Bible record and add a scan of the image of the original record for others to view and download. Maybe you have unidentified family photos you would like to upload so that others might view, and possibly identify, the people in the pictures. And, in addition to posting a query, you can attach a GEDCOM of your family tree that may be downloaded by other researchers.

To add an attachment, click the “Attach a file” link at the bottom of the message and select the file you want to attach to the post. The files will be accessible when anyone views your message.

Correct a Message—After It’s Been Posted

After you have posted a message, you may learn that the information in your message is incorrect or perhaps you are no longer interested in researching the line you mentioned. Whatever the reason, you have a couple options that will help you “correct” your original message. If you want to completely remove the post, you will need to enlist the help of the board’s administrator; click the “Report Abuse” link in the message you want to delete. Explain why you want the post removed and include the fact that you are the author of the message. Another option is to “update” the post. You can do this by posting a follow-up response to your original message. While viewing the message, click the “Reply” link and list any additional information you have obtained or clarify any mistakes. Anyone who finds your original message will also find your update.

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