Query Success in Genealogy Facebook Groups

As a member of many genealogy Facebook groups and an admin in one (shoutout to GAA), I have seen a lot of questions on my newsfeed! Unfortunately, many people never get their questions answered, even if there are willing volunteers out there. You can improve the success of your queries on genealogy Facebook groups by following these easy steps.

1. Formulate a specific question.

Vague questions often get skipped over because volunteers don’t have enough information to search and don’t want to go through all the clarifying questions they need to ask to get the details they need. It’s hard for someone to look at a query like “I am looking for information on my great-grandfather John Doe” and know where to begin. You are most likely to get a response if you pick just one or two facts that you are looking for, maybe a birthdate and place or his parents’ names. If you find an answer to those questions, you might be able to continue doing research on your own and you can always return to ask another question later! Try something like: “I am trying to find the death date and place of John Doe.”

2. Provide pertinent information.

If volunteers are looking for information that you already have, then you are missing a chance to learn new information. They also need to know what identifying information they are using to search. You should aim to provide as much vital information as you know and summarize other details. It is also important to summarize the sources you have already found or places you have searched. Stay focused on details relevant to the question you are trying to answer. Consider including: parents’ names, birth date, birth place, residence locations and time frames, marriage date, marriage place, spouse, children’s names and birth dates, death date, death place, burial location, occupation, and military service. For example, if you are searching for a death place and date, it is useful to provide details that might show up in death records to assist with the search.

3. Choose one group for your post.

As someone who is a member of many genealogy Facebook groups, nothing is more annoying than scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing the same post in three or four different groups. That means that volunteers are repeating work when perhaps someone else has already posted the answer in another group. Consider the question you are asking and select the most appropriate group for your query. This could be a general national or international group but it also might be more useful to post in a local or regional group if you are asking about records from a specific place. If your question goes 24hrs with no resolution in the first group you try, then you can move on to posting the query in another group.

4. Read the rules.

Almost every Facebook group has a list of guidelines for posts on their page. You should definitely read all the guidelines before you post! Many groups particularly do not allow posts seeking living people, including biological families, so be aware of this before you ask this type of question. Asking a question that violates the rules can cause you to be banned from the group, which means you won’t be able to post queries there in the future!

5. Be responsive.

Check your post often to see what comments you have received. Most replies will come in the first few hours, but you might continue getting responses for a week or more. Try to respond to everyone who offers suggestions or information, this is a conversation! Answer clarifying questions. Confirm or refute new information. Thank everyone who offers help even if it isn’t fruitful. If your question gets answered, many groups expect you to mark your question as “resolved” so volunteers can move on to other questions. This is also polite to do even if it’s not a rule. You can do this by hovering over your post and looking for an icon that will open a menu, then selecting “Edit.” At the beginning of the post add “SOLVED” or “RESOLVED” to indicate that you no longer need assistance and update the post. Some groups may also expect that you close the question by turning off comments using the post options. Again, read the rules and review previous posts to see what the etiquette is in the group.

Have you ever posted a successful query on a Facebook group? Share your experience and advice in the comments below!

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