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Six Steps to Writing a Successful
Genealogy Query

Step ONE:

Pick the PRIMARY surname (last name) of your query.

Note that this is your "main" surname and should have the highest priority

"Shotgun" versus "Laser Beam" Genealogy Queries:

The Shotgun method: Is the WRONG way to organize your query

This is like you might imagine - BOOM! Anything and everything is listed. Every last surname that you are interested in is mentioned.

You can find this on personal genealogy home pages (which is great) but it is not advisable for a successful genealogy query. If you use the shotgun method and give too much information you are spreading yourself too thin.

The Laser Beam Method: Is the BEST way to organize your query.

Keep your information in a tight group or in a "laser beam" of solid information and your query will be the most productive.

Here is an example:

Looking for information on information about the descendants of Thomas SUGGS Sr. who was born abt. 1700 in Norfolk Co., Virginia. He was the oldest son of George SUGGS and Sarah IVES. He married Mary HARBERT in 1725. They lived in Anson Co., North Carolina and were likely the parents of four sons and three daughters. Descendants lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere.

Also researching the Cooter, Kerr, Ragan, Stamps and Teel families.

Note: see how well this reads? Even with a mention of all the children's names, this would still work well. This query covers a lot of ground and is very easy for others to read.

The "also researching" line -The RIGHT way: See the five families mentioned in the "also researching" sentence? These are families that are close knit with this particular group or cluster of (SUGGS) people.

The "also researching" line -The WRONG way: If you are only trying to save a few dollars and say: Also researching the (family #) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10,11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 etc. families, and list everyone under the sun who is NOT close knit with your query - you will get TONS OF FALSE LEADS.

Step TWO:

Start with any specific information that you are seeking.

Are you looking for the parents, children, wife of a certain ancestor?

If so, START OFF with what you want to know:

Examples of the start of a genealogy query:

Need parents (wife, husband, children etc.) of...

What is the maiden name of...

Any information regarding...

Seek information on...

Wish correspondence with others researching...

Are you researching...

Desire help with...

Step THREE:

Narrow it down to a specific location or region.

It's fine to say, "Researching the RAGAN surname in Georgia."

BUT- if you are searching for the JONES surname in North Carolina (and I am) you will get tons of false leads because there are so many of them.

If your query is for a very common the surname, you MUST list a smaller region or it will not work well.

My JONES line in North Carolina is concentrated (in a cluster) in Alamance Co., NC. If I mentioned any more than Alamance Co. (other than a surrounding county or two), I would be shooting myself in the foot.

Step FOUR:

Be as specific as possible.

You may be looking for a certain person. By all means - make them the focal point of your query.

If you are more interested on anything you can get for a certain group of families in a certain area - go for the END of the line. Or in other words - the OLDEST known folks that you have information about.

Step FIVE:

Only mention CLOSE KNIT FAMILIES in the "also researching" line.

Again, the last part of your query should say, "Also researching the A, B, C, D families."

Make sure that you do NOT everyone that you are researching.

They need to be very closely intertwined with your primary surname. Otherwise your query becomes too general and loses it's punch.

Step SIX:

Re-write for clarity.

Use all upper lower case except for "main body surnames."

After you have written your query read it aloud. Have someone else read it (a child if possible). Is it easy to follow?

Look at the SUGGS example again.

Looking for information on information about the descendants of Thomas SUGGS Sr. who was born abt. 1700 in Norfolk Co., Virginia. He was the oldest son of George
SUGGS and Sarah IVES. He married Mary HARBERT in 1725. They lived in Anson Co., North Carolina and were likely the parents of four sons and three daughters. Descendants lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere.

Also researching the Cooter, Kerr, Ragan, Stamps and Teel families.

IMPORTANT NOTE: please make sure that the SURNAME in the main body of the query has ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. See how the surnames are in all caps? Also, see how the surnames in the "also researching 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 families ARE NOT all caps? This is the format that is easiest on the eyes.

 

 

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