Making the Most of Your Queries

By Ted Pack

I love genealogy query boards. I work as a computer programmer. In my work I give advice about things that probably will sound like geek to most of you — intentional denormalization, common record definition sand license-plate primary keys.

Getting my clients to take my advice is like pushing a 600-pound bag ofJell-O uphill. So, late at night, I sometimes try to answer genealogy query board posts. I can sometimes help beginners who aren’t related tome. I find it refreshing to give advice that people will take. Three times out of 20 they even thank me.

I read dozens of queries a week. Some posts are better than others are. Just for fun, how many flaws can you find in the following query? Assume it is posted on the SMITH surname message board.

Subject line: Smith family — please help

My grandfather John Smith married Malinda McCorkle. They had six children; Frankie, Johnny, Mutt, Jeff, Bubba, and Bobby. Bobby married DeeDee and worked for the railroad. Jeff lived in Springfield. Please e-mail me at with any information.

1) Poor heading.
2) Grandfather has no date.
3) Grandfather has no place.
4) Nicknames.
5) No maiden name.
6) No state. The post doesn’t mention a county, country or continent, either.
7) No request. What are you looking for, ancestors, descendants or a biography?
8) E-mail me.

There is a paragraph about each point, and some other tips forbeginners, at

NOTE FROM PAT : Check it folks, it has lots of good tips

Used with Permission. Previously published in RootsWebReview: Vol. 7, No. 20, 19 May 2004. (Copyright 1998-2004, Inc. and its subsidiaries.)

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