Finding Relatives Online
9/27/2009
Although most people see technology as part of the future, it often brings family historians an important part of the past. That's what happened to genealogist Carolyn Meek Nelson when she received the 182-year-old Bible that belonged to her great-great-grandfather, thanks to an Internet mailing list.

Back in the 1950s, Bert and Ethel Dawson had bought the Bible at a Goodwill store in Missouri. Half a century later, a friend of theirs placed a notice on the Vandyke mailing list—one of the 20,000-plus genealogy lists at lists.rootsweb.com—with the names in the Bible. "We found the posting and quickly replied, showing our direct-line connection to this J.H. Vandyke," says Nelson, who received the Bible from the Dawsons last summer.

Theirs is only one of many networking successes achieved through Internet mailing lists. The Internet has thousands of mailing lists just for genealogists. These include lists for surnames, locations, states, counties, countries, software, beginners and research techniques.

Once you subscribe to a mailing list you'll receive a copy of all the e-mails sent to the list by its members. If you subscribe to a "small" list, you may receive one or two pieces of e-mail a week; with larger ones, you'll get several pieces a day.

When you subscribe, you have the option of receiving the e-mails via mail mode or digest mode. In mail mode, you'll receive each message as a separate e-mail. In digest mode, separate e-mails are batched together and sent as one large e-mail.

Your chances of networking success via mailing lists are excellent. On county lists, you'll be reading messages from people whose ancestors were neighbors of your ancestors. On surname lists, everyone subscribed is looking for different lines of the same name.

For other mailing list options, see:

You'll find time-saving search tips for using mailing lists in the February 2001 Family Tree Magazine article on Internet searching strategies.