Main Page

      Course Outline



I - Getting Started

      Home Sources


      Recording Information

      Citing Resources

II - Using Online Resources

      Online Databases

      Search Engines


III - Gathering Key Records

      Vital Records

      Federal Census Records

IV - Exploring Further

      Probate Records

      Military Records


 V - Sharing Information

      Discussion Lists



RootsWeb's Discussion Lists


Home Sources Checklist

4-Generation Ancestor Chart

Family Group Sheet

Birth Date Calculator

County Boundary Database


Sharing Information


After successfully completing this module, you will be able to:
  • Join discussion lists for sharing information about your research.
  • Search the archives of discussion lists for previous postings about your ancestors.


Other people familiar with your ancestral line can provide valuable information and documentation. One popular method for finding people with similar ancestry and genealogical interests is discussion lists.

Genealogy-related discussion lists generally focus on specific surnames, localities, and topic areas. To participate in a discussion list, you must first send an email to the list's administrative address to "subscribe" to the list. This action adds your email address to the group. Then whenever anyone sends an email to the discussion list, you will automatically receive a copy of the email. If you need assistance in your research, you can send an email to the list. Everyone subscribed to the list will receive your request. 

It is important to learn to write effective messages in order to increase your chances of receiving helpful responses. First, briefly summarize your query in the subject line of the email (discussion list) or form (message boards). Many people receive hundreds of junk emails every week. A specific subject line will make your email or message stand out.

In addition to a detailed subject line, it is also important to compose an informative message. Include names, dates, and places pertinent to your query. Refer to women by their maiden names, and include town, county, and state information. Below is an example of an effective subject line and message:
  • Subject:  Joshua HAMMOND, of Middlesex Co., CT (1859-1923)

  • Message:  I am trying to find the parents of my great-great grandfather Joshua Hammond. He was born in Killingworth, CT about 1859 and died in Chester, CT on 7 NOV 1923. He married Lydia Houle, daughter of Samuel and Eliza Houle, in Killingworth, CT on 14 AUG 1886. They had the following children: Daniel, Elizabeth, Sarah, and William. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Before posting a query to a discussion list, you may want to create a separate email account. When you send an email to a discussion list or post a query to a message board, the contents of your message along with your email address becomes public.

If you want to keep your regular email address private, you can get a free email account at Yahoo Mail.  If you decide to set up a separate email account, you must send an email to the discussion list's administrative address FROM THIS NEW ACCOUNT. If you send the email from your regular email account, all the list mail will go to your regular account.



RootsWeb hosts thousands of discussion lists for genealogists. If you would like to participate in discussions with other researchers, you can subscribe to a list. The most active discussion lists are the lists associated with specific locations (e.g., Quebec, Canada) or research topics (e.g., DNA).  Lists associated with specific surnames are usually not active.

NOTE:  Rootsweb's discussion list site does not support frames.  Before clicking the PRACTICE link, click here to print the instructions on using the site.



At this point in your research, you may want to move from completing paper-based Ancestor Charts and Family Group Sheets to inputting your information into a computer program. There are dozens of genealogical applications, and each program has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. When selecting a program, make sure it has the ability to read and save GEDCOM files. GEDCOM is the file format used by genealogists to exchange genealogical data electronically. A GEDCOM file ends with a *.ged extension.

If you would like to research some of the available programs, the following web sites provide brief descriptions and product reviews.




    1. Find and subscribe to a discussion list for an area or topic that you are researching.

    2. Post a message to the list. 

    3. Research some of the available software programs for organizing genealogical information.

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