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The Penny Pincherís Guide to Genealogy Pt 3

by Janet Tabares


Mailing Lists are a good way to get in contact with others that are researching your surname or area of interest.  On Roots-web there are over 21,000 genealogy mailing lists to choose from, and the number keeps growing.

These are the types of genealogy mailing lists that are available. 

Mailing List Netiquette

Stay on Topic!

A good way to determine just how important it is to stay on topic for a given list is to just read messages going back and forth for a while.  This is called lurking, and can give a good idea about the mood of the list.  Some lists are very laid back and the folks talk about their kids, life, the universe and everything. Other lists are VERY topic oriented.  Donít bring up your kids school accomplishments here.  They can get very nasty in return.  Go with the flow of the list.  If a list is too active for you and a lot of the mail is non-essential, see if there is another list that will better fill your need.

Donít Cross Post

Posting a duplicate query on more than one mailing list is called cross posting.  Most lists donít allow this, so be very considerate of other users when posting duplicate information.  Make sure that the information you are posting is relevant to the list you are posting it on.  You will get nasty emails from folks if you are posting a recipe that was given to you by your great aunt on a list that is strict about staying on topic.  These folks donít like to have to sift through non-essential messages.  Yes, they could just delete them, but when you have deleted a hundred or so off-topic messages, you temper can run mighty thin.

Donít Flame Your Neighbors

Okay, so thereís a guy that is really getting on peoples nerves.  He is in general a pain in the neck, and doesnít seem to want to go away.  What do you do about him???  Privately email the list moderator.  They have the tools and responsibility to deal with problem children.  Usually, when someone complains about a fellow list member, the moderator, will take a look at what the person has written lately, and see if the problem was merited.  Did someone else start it? Usually, at that point they will send a message privately to the individuals involved telling them that things have progressed far enough, and to just stop talking about it.  If that doesnít stop the problem, and things get even more heated, the moderator has the ability to block a user.  This can and will happen if things go too far.  Be warned-Donít Flame Your Neighbors. 

Flaming is when you send nasty email, telling folks that they are a moron, that their mother was not married to their father at the time of their birth, and anything else that is meant to degrade, humiliate, or otherwise antagonize a fellow list member. Just donít do it.  We are better than that.  I might expect that kind of childish behavior on a list that teenagers frequent, but most of us that are doing genealogy are adults.  We should act like it.


Here is another thing that may get you into hot water with the list moderators.  How many times have you opened an attachment to find that it contained yet another attachment, and so on and so onÖ?  This takes up valuable space, and bandwidth.  Think of it as carrying all of you important papers with you printed out, versus all of them scanned and on one floppy disk, which one is lighter?  The floppy disk is, of course.  If when forwarding a message to another person, you were to cut the extraneous information out, the message would be much smaller.  I prefer to copy and paste the information into a new message and then send it. 

Attachments can also contain viruses and as such never send an attachment to someone without first telling them to expect it, and whatís in it.  This will save you from wasting your time, and it will get your message to the intended receiver.  I usually just delete messages that have attachments unless Iím expecting them. 


Donít send anything in HTML.  Just donít.  It takes up bandwidth, and costs extra money for those responsible for the bills. These are free lists.  They donít cost us anything. Letís be considerate.  If you have a picture that you think the rest of us would like to see, send the URL to the site you have it posted on, or tell us about it and let us email you privately to get a copy of the picture, or file or whatever.  Queries should be posted in text format.  Thanks!

Okay, thatís the basics of Netiquette for Mailing Lists.  Now on to the types of Mailing Lists

Surname.  The Surname Mailing Lists on Roots-web are divided alphabetically.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

To find a list look under the first letter of the surname you are searching.  These lists are Surname specific.  Please donít post a query about your ancestors on the Jones mailing list when their surname was Williams.  The only time you would do that is if your Williams family married into a Jones family. 

You will find that when writing to folks on mailing lists that their Jones family may or may not be related to your Jones family.  There may be multiple spellings of Jones as well.  Be specific when writing queries or posting information to the lists.  In your subject line, put the time frame, and a name such as [Hoover] Peter b. 1843, Pittsburgh, PA

This way when a reader is perusing the list, and all of their family is from New York, and they never lived in Pennsylvania, they could bypass reading that message. 

Another thing to understand about Surname mailing lists is that sometimes the name of the list is automatically put into the subject line of all outgoing responses, and sometimes it is not.  If you are a number of mailing lists you will find that you prefer that the name of the list be on the messages.  This helps determine whether or not a person wants to read that message right away, or wait until later.  If you find that a list you are on does not automatically do this, you should at least have the surname that the list is for in all caps or use the [ ] symbols to set it off from the rest of the subject line.  Always put something in the subject line!!!!  There are folks out there that will automatically delete any incoming mail that does not have a subject line. Some have their email program set up to do this automatically, and do not even see any messages without subject lines. 

Why would anyone not want to open a message without a subject line??? Well, its quite simple-they are afraid of viruses and nasty things like that.  Itís just a good idea to not open something with an attachment or without a subject line. It may be perfectly safe to do so, but maybe not.

USA Locality Specific

AK | AL | AR | AZ | CA | CO | CT | DC | DE | FL | GA | HI | IA | ID | IL | IN | KS | KY | LA | MA | MD | ME | MI | MN | MO | MS | MT | NC | ND | NE | NH | NJ | NM | NV | NY | OH | OK | OR | PA | RI | SC | SD | TN | TX | UT | VA | VI | VT | WA | WI | WV | WY | misc

These lists are for a given place in the United States of America.  Usually the list is set up for a given County within a given State i.e. Harris County, Texas is TXHARRIS-L.  You can use this link to subscribe to this list.  Besides Counties, there are lists with a State for religious groups, regional groups, ethnic groups, cemeteries, and Census Lookups.  Not all States will have the cemeteries, religious, regional, ethnic groups or Census Lookups mailing lists.  Mailing lists are a volunteer effort. Therefore, there are lists where people thought that there was a need usually spurred by there own personal need for information.

When I first started using Mailing Lists in my research, not all Counties in a given State were represented.  A lot has changed in that time. Looks like most if not all the Counties in the United States are represented now.  Here is something else to consider about locality mailing lists-change of County boundaries.  You could be posting your query in the wrong county.  What if the records you need are in the county next door?  You need to check where the county lines were at the time of the event. 

Some of the lists are very active, and some not so.  Be sure to save the welcome message that is sent to you when you sign up to receive these messages.  Refer back to it when you need help with something, need to unsubscribe, or need to tell the moderator about a problem.  The instruction on how to do these things will make life a lot easier than having 15 to 20 people sending messages to the list explaining how to do __.  Theses messages get sent to everyone, so knowing how to do simple things and being able to contact the moderator makes everything that much better.

International Locality

These lists are less extensive by Country than are those in the United States.  Some only have 1 list for the entire Country.  I suspect that depending on the Country, you might need to speak the native language to be able to converse with these good folks.

These would be a good place to get information that you could only get if you went there.  You might find some locals that are willing to help you out with your research.  Be aware though, those doing research in countries other than the US are not as likely to want to exchange favor for favor.  The reason-there may not be anything that you could look up for them.  Their ancestors were probably in the same country if not the same area that they live in now.  Folks in other countries may offer to help you for a fee.  Since you probably cannot help them its only fair that you compensate them monetarily. (PS the links to these are not working yet-should have them fixed tomorrow)

Africa | Angola | Albania | Argentina | Armenia | Australia | Austria | Burundi | Belgium | Benin | Burkina Faso | Bangladesh | Bahamas | Belarus | Brazil | Bhutan | Botswana | Central African Republic | Canada | Switzerland | China | Cote D'Ivoire | Cameroon | Congo | Comoros | Cape Verde | Cuba | Czech Republic | Germany | Djibouti | Denmark | Dominican Republic | Algeria | Egypt | England | Eritrea | Western Sahara | Spain | Ethiopia | Finland | France | Micronesia | Gabon | Ghana | Gibraltar | Guinea | Gambia | Guinea-Bissau | Equatorial Guinea | Greece | Guatemala | Honduras | Croatia | Haiti | Hungary | Indonesia | India | Ireland | Iceland | Israel | Italy | Kenya | Korea | Liberia | Libyan Arab Jamahiriya | Liechtenstein | Sri Lanka / Ceylon | Lesotho | Lithuania | Latvia | Morocco | Madagascar | Mexico | Miscellaneous | Mali | Malta | Mozambique | Mauritania | Martinique | Mauritius | Malawi | Namibia | Niger | Nigeria | Northern Ireland | Netherlands | Norway | Nepal | New Zealand | Philippines | Papua New Guinea | Poland | Portugal | Paraguay | Reunion | Romania | Russia | Rwanda | Saudi Arabia | Scotland | Sudan | Senegal | Sierra Leone | Somalia | Sao Tome and Principe | Slovakia / Slovensko | Slovenia | Sweden | Swaziland | Seychelles | Chad | Togo | Tunisia | Tanzania, United Republic of | Uganda | United Kingdom | Ukraine | Vatican City State | Wales | Samoa | South Africa | Zaire | Zambia | Zimbabwe

Other There is another type of Mailing list also. Under Other at Roots-Web you can find lists that cover these subjects: Administrative | ArchiveCDProject | Cemeteries | Census | Ethnic | Ethnic-African | Fraternal Organizations | FreeUK | Genealogical Societies | Heraldry | IIGS | Medical Genealogy | Military | Miscellaneous | Newsgroup Gateways| Obituaries | Occupations | Regional | Religion | RootsWeb Support | Software | Technical | The BMD Project | USGenWeb | WorldGenWeb

Go check out Roots-web today!  They have many features to help you out!

Here are some of my other Genealogy Articles

The Penny Pincherís Guide to Genealogy Pt 1

The Penny Pincherís Guide to Genealogy Pt 2

The Penny Pincherís Guide to Genealogy Pt 4

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