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November Newsletter

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor

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QUERIES - by Charles Hansen

        Sooner or later you will néed to post a query. What is a query? A query is a way to learn more about your family - but will your query be answered?

        When I first started in genealogy I took a beginning genealogy course at the community college night class. One of the lessons was writing a query. Back then you would write a query and send it either to a local genealogical society for their bulletin or to any of the major national genealogical magazines. Most of the genealogy societies will post queries free to members, but you paid by the word for the query in the national magazines.

        The instructor had brought in a stack of old Genealogical Helper Magazines, and told us to open to any query page and check out the queries. There was usually several of the type where the query read; I am searching (and then there was a list of 10-20 surnames) in (name of state), and then the name and address of the person. Would you reply to a query worded like that? It might if one of the surnames was Hellenbolt, but in all the years I have been subscribing to these magazines I have yet to see anyone else list a Hellenbolt Surname. Can you imagine paying by the word to post a query that may never get an answer?

        The other type of query that I really hate is the one that says I am researching the Hansen surname also please send me ALL you have on your Hansen's. Since I have quite a lot on my Hansen surname, and except for new births, I will probably never find any more cousins. My Hansen surname started with my grandfather in Denmark, and his father was Hans Mikkelson. All of the children of Hans were named Hans-sen or son of Hans. Daughters earlier were named Hans-datter, but by the mid 1850s all the girls got the sen also, and soon the patronymics ended.

        These days, I answer queries sent to the local genealogical society and sometimes I get good queries, some are horrible. The kind I hate are the ones that say, My John Doe was in your area in 1914 because I have a picture of him taken that year, what happened to him? Maybe I can find something or not, but the age of John Doe may help. If he is in the census, there might be several other John Does, and an age would help sort them out. The major records someone generates are birth, marriage, and death. With the age they are easier to check also.

        A query should be short and to the point, it should tell what you know about the person. If you are looking for the marriage record, say so. Give the age(s), and if you know the spouse, put that down also. Do your homework, were marriage records kept then?? Is it the right county or state? What if you don't know the ages, or the spouse? Say so, let the person doing the look up know what you know. I received a query not long ago and it was twenty five pages long, containing pictures of a couple of generations, and the ancestors back six or seven generations. All they wanted was an obituary. It was interesting reading, but way too much information for the query.

        Presently, I think most queries are posted somewhere on the internet, and while there is no cost-per-word for the posting good query writing will get more answers. Keep them short, give all the details you have, and ask for what you néed to find. Also remember there are years and years of written queries in the major genealogical magazines, and in the bulletins of the local genealogy societies. Did one of your cousins post a query to find you or your family?? Most of the major genealogical magazines will be at the library, and they may have a lot of genealogical society bulletins also.

Recommended reading & viewing:

  • Domestic Resources
            Domestic Resources are found in our Community Pages and has much to help the researcher. It is added to frequently with the new items being marked as such. Two states - California and Delaware each have all the counties listed for each state. More states will be "complete" soon, and I urge you to go exploring even if you are not looking for immediate help.

    NEW TO GENEALOGY? - by Carol Sanderson

            One part of our bulletin board is aimed at genealogy. We have some members who are relatively new at it and I am sure that there are those who just come to look who are also new and perhaps looking for help in getting started.

            The reasons for searching for our roots are many... but ultimately they all come down to the fact that we want to know more about our ancestors, what their lives were like and where they were from just so that we can feel part of a much larger family.

            How do we start? One must start with the known first yourself, then your parents, grandparents and so forth going further and further back. Write down all that you can about yourself and then talk with your parents, aunts, uncles and any living relative you can about where they were born, lived, went to school and worked. Write it down or if you can tape the responses to your questions.

            After that is done and you want to continue on, there is help out there. Some people start with census records using them to trace their families back into the early beginnings of this country. Others start with the vital records. If they are fortunate enough to live in the area where the parents and grandparents lived, go to the vital record office in the town as that is where they usually are. The vital records are bound in books and can be very fragile. I have looked at some that were over two hundred years old. Being very polite to the clerks is something that I'll say but I would hope that every one would be that way. You make things easier for you and also for those that may come after you. Ask the clerks about searching... they will help you.

            By the way, some states have copies of all of the vital records from the towns and cities in their state. Churches that the family members attended or belonged to are another source of information. Other things to look at are deeds, wills, probate records, tax lists, voting lists and lots of other things. Remember that these people were living in the days before computer and almost everything they did left a paper trail. As you gather this information you néed to record where you found it so that if you néed to go back you will not have to hunt all over again. The other and probably more important reason for this documentation is for others who follow you. If they want to check then they will not have to hunt.

            Another place to get help is from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They have what are called Family History Centers that are an extension of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. One does not have to belong to their church to use these. The centers are staffed by volunteers who are knowledgeable in genealogy and are willing to help.

    Recommended reading & viewing:
        Family Tree Magazine
        Genealogy & History Library Links

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