Ancestry Search – Contacting Others During Your Ancestry Search

In a previous article I discussed an ancestry search and the value of sharing the information you uncover during one. Sharing is one thing, but approaching complete strangers and asking for data is another. On the other hand, other genealogists may be sceptical of using the data you have to offer. Genealogy isn't immune from the dynamics of different personalities, nor the flaws of human nature, so we should keep some things in mind when sharing info. Here are a few things to think about when deciding to share what you've found during your ancestry search.

Etiquette of an Ancestry Search

Once you've compiled the names and addresses of websites that may attract genealogists who may be interested in your ancestry search, the next step is to contact those people. Much of the communication on the internet is done via email or by posting in forums or newsgroups, so you have time to consider what you might say. It's best to create a brief but detailed template that can be used for either a forum posting or an email, as it will save you quite a bit of time if you're targeting a number of sites. Some sites require specific formatting when posting notices and you may have to modify the structure of your message for them, but that will take less time than composing a whole new communication for each site. Here's an idea of what you might write:

MORRIS, 1886 -1943, Edinburgh, Scotland and Wales

I have information on the family of Alexander Webb MORRIS of Edinburgh, Scotland and formerly of Wales. Alexander was born sometime before 1886 in Wales, but moved to Edinburgh, in that year. He was married to Mary O'NEILL in July 1901, and they had 2 children; Patrick Reginald MORRIS b. 7 Apr 1902 and Rebecca Diane MORRIS b. 14 Mar 1903.

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There's an unspoken rule amongst genealogists conducting an ancestry search, and that is; if you are posting something you are willing to share, so there's no need to say it specifically. Keep your message short and to the point, and if you require additional information for your own ancestry search, simply add something like: "additional information appreciated". This will make it clear that you have run out of leads and need some help with your own ancestry search.

Social Networking Sites like Facebook and My Space are becoming increasingly popular as platforms for people sharing information about their ancestry search. These are free and easy places to create a genealogical profile, and you can add photos, genealogy links, surname information, just about anything to do with an ancestry search. There are also various groups within these sites, and you can find groups according to Surname, Geographical Location, Family Type (Adoptees, Alternative Families), and just about any classification or sub-group you can imagine.

Protect Your Privacy and Respect that of Others During your Ancestry Search

It's important to be cautious when sharing information about yourself and your ancestry search online, especially on social networking sites, as not everyone is a family historian. You can select who is able to view your information on Facebook, and if anyone else wishes to view your data, they must send you a request first. This gives you a chance to check them out and decide if you want to allow them to view the data from your ancestry search. Especially be careful when posting any information on living relatives.

Sometimes we overenthusiastically offer up data that our relatives consider private, and thus we should respect the privacy of others during our ancestry search.

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There have been instances where information uncovered during an ancestry search has been posted online and resulted in heartache and tragedy. People have discovered that their parents were never married, and Private Detectives frequently scour genealogical websites looking for people who don't wish to be found. Getting written permission from anyone whose information you wish to share during your ancestry search is highly recommended to avoid any legal issues down the road, especially if they are not related to you.

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