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Topic: The DAVENPORT surname, anywhere, any when.

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Making the Most of Mailing Lists. Once you subscribe to any RootsWeb Mailing List you will begin receiving all messages that are posted to it.  Lurking  -- a geek term meaning reading messages without taking part in the discussion -- is recommended until you get a feel for how the Mailing List is managed. Each list has its own rules or guidelines set by the list administrator within the bounds of the RootsWeb AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) and an atmosphere resulting from the interests of the list members and administrator. Any special rules will usually be explained by the administrator in the Welcome message that you receive immediately after joining and in revolving taglines added to the list messages or via periodic administrative notices.

Most RootsWeb Mailing Lists are publicly archived in both a threaded/ browseable and a searchable format. Browse through the threaded list archive to discover what discussions have taken place recently.

If you join a Mailing List in an attempt to get an answer to a specific question or to learn about a particular ancestor, it would be wise to check the searchable list archive first to determine whether the question has been answered in the past or whether your ancestor has previously been discussed.

Once you have done this homework, you are ready to type up an e-mail message and post a query. Plan it with the subject matter of the Mailing List in mind -- always mention how your query pertains to the subject of the list whether that be a surname, geographic area, or a genealogical research topic.

Your query should include what you already know. Remember to specify what information you seek. Always include the name of the individual or family of interest, along with some dates or at least some sort of time frame, and the location where the individual(s) lived or where certain events took place. Be as concise as possible, but include all pertinent information. Keep in mind that Mailing Lists have subscribers around the world -- don't assume that everything is U.S.-connected or that others will understand your abbreviations. Leave no doubt, spell it out.

Review the text of your query, then enter a meaningful description in the subject field of your e-mail message. Good examples: --"James Jones and Sarah Jackson, seek marriage record ca 1885" --"Need 1880 census lookup for John Barton" --"Bradshaw surname in Brisbane"

When your message text and subject are complete, address your e-mail to the Mailing List address (regardless of whether you are subscribed in list or digest mode) and send it. For instance, if you are sending the message to the SMITH surname list, address your message to

If, instead of writing a new query, you wish to reply to a message that has been posted by another list member -- select either the REPLY or REPLY ALL option before creating the text of your response. Pay close attention to which address(es) are displayed in the SEND TO box of your e-mail. Some Mailing Lists are set by the administrator to reply to the sender only, while others are set to reply to the entire list. If a Mailing List is set to reply to the sender hitting REPLY will send the response *only* to the poster, while hitting REPLY ALL will send a copy of your reply to both the poster and the entire list.

However, if the Mailing List is set to reply to the list, hitting REPLY will send the response the list. If an administrator has a list set to reply to the list, and an individual list member has his e-mail program set to include a specific REPLY TO address, SmartList (RootsWeb Mailing List software) will not override that setting and, in that instance, hitting REPLY will send your reply only to the individual. That's why it is important to be certain that the address(es) to which you wish to send the message are the ones displayed in the SEND TO box of your outgoing e-mail -- before hitting SEND.

When replying to a previous list message or digest copy/quote only the short pertinent part(s) of the message to which you are replying. Never quote an entire message in your reply. Be sure that your e-mail application is not set to automatically copy and send back an entire message or digest. If you are replying in a thread and the subject changes, don't forget to change the subject line. Also, if you are replying to a digest message, remember to change the subject to reflect the actual message you are addressing instead of leaving the digest number as the subject.

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: Vol. 5, No. 40, 2 October 2002.

The RootsWeb Review archives can be accessed here:


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