Ten Commandments Of E-Mail

Gold Bar
First, a few tips to improve your odds when requesting genealogical information.
  • Be brief.
    It's usually best to ask only one question in any message and explain only the facts absolutely necessary to get your answer. More information becomes confusing.

  • Never ask someone to send you "everything they know"
    whether it's about the person, family or area you are researching.
    It will only annoy them and make it easy to ignore your message. Instead, ask a specific question first, and when you get an answer, then ask another.

  • Include the name, dates and places you are asking about.
    In other words, instead of asking 'Who were William Taylor's parents?, ask 'Who were the parents of the William Taylor, (father of Basil and Noah), who was born in 1811 in Ohio, married Rebecca McCardle in 1886 and died in Ohio in 1906?'.

  • Tell the person you write to how you got their name and address;
    whether it was from a fellow researcher on the line you're asking about, from a newsletter, from a web site or something else. It will give you an introduction, something like a 'letter of reference'.

  • Offer to share.
    Share any information that you might have that your addressee would be interested in. You might have the answer to their biggest mystery.

  • State that you will promptly reimburse the addressee for any costs.
    This applies to copying, postage or other costs they might incur on your behalf. Then do so ~ promptly.

  • If reimbursing costs is a problem for you, offer to do research in your area in return for information from the person you're writing.

  • Always say "Thank You"!
    Say "Please" and "Thank you" when you first write and say "Thank You" again when you get a response. Even if the other person didn't find the information you asked for, they did spend their time reading your request, looking for an answer and replying to you.
Gold Bar

Now, on to

The 10 Commandments of General E-mail.

In addition to the tips above ...

  1. Include a clear and specific subject line.

  2. Edit any quoted text down to the minimum needed.

  3. Read your message three times before you send it.

  4. Think about how your recipient might react to your message.

  5. When in doubt, save your message overnight and reread it in the light of the day before you send it.

  6. Check your spelling and your grammar.

  7. Do not curse, flame, spam or USE ALL CAPS.

  8. Do not forward any chain letter.

  9. Do not use e-mail for any illegal or unethical purpose.

  10. Do not rely on the privacy of e-mail, especially from work.

Gold Bar

And the "Golden Rule" of E-Mail:

That which you find hateful to receive, send not unto others.

Gold Bar
Return to Genealogy Tips

McKenzie's Mint

"Seize the moment, Marabor.
Live Now.
Now is always the most precious time.
Now will never come again."
--- Jean-Luc Picard

Exit Frames