How not to ask for help with your genealogy research question?

Many folks involved in genealogy research love to help each other but there’s a right way and a wrong way to ask for that help. The following is not it and I’ll explain why.

“Hello, I have posted once before and no one responded. This is my second post. I am looking for a Francisco Maynard. His children were in Rochester, New York. He came there from the eastern end of New York. His wife was named Lydia. I have found 3 different Franciscos who have wives named Lydia. One in Buffalo, one in Batavia, and one in Rochester. Can anyone help me figure out which one is mine?”

One might think this is an innocent query but it’s really asking for a tall order for volunteers.

  • The volunteer has to determine which Francsico is yours.

  • They have to research the three potential men.

  • They have to make a determination.

Folks hire genealogists for this type of work. If you want volunteers to do this, you need to help them out and do some of the leg work yourself.


Start by giving background details


Give enough details about the first person that someone can address the ultimate question Additional details may include the approximate birth year, birthplace, occupation, and the name of his children (and that’s just off the top of my head).


Clarify which person you’re trying to expand upon before you ask someone else to tell you which out of a set of possibilities belongs to you.


Explain where you are at in the process


Finding three men could mean you did a quick query on an online database and you’re trying to evaluate results. If that’s the case, you have to be taught out to evaluate results. Finding three possible men could be based on a wide variety of conflicting details, in which case, you really want to know how to evaluate evidence.


It’s important to answer where you are in the process. Otherwise, you’re really trying to get free research and not everyone wants to climb your tree for you.


Ask a more specific question


It may seem the questions ‘which is mine’ is specific but compare it to:

  1. What records am I overlooking?

  2. How much weight should I give to the death record?

  3. Is it possible for one man to be in two places during the 1920s?

  4. Given where I’m at in the research process, would you conclude that the Batavia Francisco is most likely of the three candidates?

If you can not ask a specific question, then you should consider hiring a professional researcher, go to a genealogical society meeting, a genealogy library, or find a family history consultant to help you get to the heart of your question.


↪️ Are you new to genealogy? Grab your copy of this FREE Beginner Guide:


How I got help for my genealogy research query


When I was trying to get help for my brick wall known as Agnes Anderson, I was very specific.

“I am trying to learn more about Agnes Anderson. She was born in Howard County, Missouri in 1881. She died in Columbus, Ohio on 22 May 1820. She never married but had one daughter, Marie Anderson, born 21 May 1820. I think her parents are Wm Anderson of Sweden and her mother is Amanda Sparks of Licking County, Ohio because they are so named on her death record. I am wondering, should I believe the death record for Agnes when the informant was recorded as “hospital records?”

I provided the birth date and place and death date and place for Agnes Anderson. I also identified other individuals I had discovered and where I obtained her parental names. Then I followed with my specific question. I further explained all the additional census records that I had discovered and what I could not find (the birth record in Howard County, Ohio).


A volunteer intrigued by the case took a peak and quickly informed me about something I did not know – that Agnes Anderson had two death records and the second might have the clue I needed to answer my question.


If you’re not getting responses to your queries, then follow these three steps:

  1. Give background details

  2. Explain where you are at in the process

  3. Ask a specific question


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