Sunday, January 3, 2010

Making Use Of Genealogy Forums ~ GenForum In Particular

How do forums help family historians? They allow you to network, network, network. The number of people doing genealogy continues to grow by leaps and bounds and we all need help in one area or another. That's the point of GenTips: to help others with their family tree and genealogy research. One of the best is called GenForum, where you can ask questions, respond to others and find people all over the world who might be researching your ancestral line or the locality where they lived.

The forums at GenForum are broken down into three basic types:
  • By Surname - Just about every imaginable surname has it's own forum. If the last name is somewhat common, there is usually quite a bit of activity. Even some of the less common surnames can generate tons of inquiries, so there is always a good chance of finding someone else who is researching your line. Check for maiden names as well. I've been surprised to find someone researching a sister or brother of a great-great-grandparent more times than I can count.
  • By Region - The regions being discussed could be quite general, like England, Scotland, Germany, or the United States. These are good for general information about each country and the records available. The region then becomes more specific, broken down by state, county, parish, etc. Even though someone may not be able to help you with the particular family tree or branch you are researching, there are areas or geographic localities that some researchers have built up a great deal of experience and they can be a tremendous source of information about where to look for certain records and also be aware of certain families if they had lived in the area for any length of time.
  • And by General Topics - This section is broken down by General Topics, such as General Genealogy, Immigration (including Emmigration and Migration), Religions (church records), Wars, Miscellaneous (just about anything related to family history) and of course, Genealogy Software and the Internet (how to navigate the Internet to which software program is best and why isn't it working on my darn computer!)

Another way to use GenForum from their home page is the shortcut option to enter whichever forum you are looking for in the Forum Finder and clicking FIND, and away you go.

Of course, one drawback of such a massive number of forums is that even when you find one that you have interest in, there are usually hundreds and hundreds of posts that you will need to wade through, but when (and I repeat, WHEN) you find something about one of your ancestors, you immediate want to contact whomever posted the message.

There will be posts from years ago as well as messages from just a minutes ago and you will want to read them all. Don't expect an immediate flood of responses if you post a query. You may be lucky, but some posts just don't generate a reply for years, then, presto! some distant cousin says "Hey, I'm looking for them too! Let's compare notes." I've had both experiences, immediate good luck and responses to long forgotten posts.

Either way, read everything you can about your surname and the places your family came from for clues. You never know what may turn up.

Another important point is that GenForum is just one of many family history forums - there are forums dedicated to individual families, countries, states, counties, cities, just about any genealogical topic under the sun will have its own forum tucked away somewhere on the Internet.

Eventually, GenTips will probably have to have a forum when the traffic gets heavy enough to warrant it, but not just yet. In the meantime, definitely go to a forum and read what's being posted and leave a question. That's step one in connecting with the hidden masses who may be able to help with your research.

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