Now What? Communication Breakdown

By Grace Dobush Premium

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Q. I want to contact a person who posted on a genealogy message board a few years ago, but the e-mails bounce back. How can I get in touch with this person?

A. It happens all too often: A Web search for an ancestor turns up a nugget of information on a message board, but when you try to contact the person … no dice.

First, check the poster’s user profile. If it includes a personal Web site, visit to look for updated contact information. If you’re not that lucky, look for the person’s full name in the profile or the original posting.

You can then search for the name in an online directory such as BackgroundChecks.orgor Switchboard <>. Doing a Google <> search for the person may turn up contact information or the person’s activity on other websites—try adding the word genealogy to your search, or the family name you have in common.

Another tactic is to search Google for the person’s message board username, because people often use the same ID on different sites. GenieFreak293 may show up with more-recent activity on other forums. (For more secrets to using Google to find your ancestors, check out Lisa Louise Cooke’s Ultimate Google for Genealogists Collection in Family Tree Shop.)

You can take this as a lesson in genealogical karma. Whenever you get a new email address, always update your contact information on all the Web sites where you’ve posted queries. Or sign up for a free, Web-based e-mail account at <> or Yahoo! <> to use just for genealogy correspondence—then you’ll never need to change your email address.

From the March 2008 Family Tree Magazine.