Sunday, May 1, 2011

LISTSERVS for Genealogists

Yesterday Barb Hogeland posted a comment to my blog of April 30th asking for suggestions about how to organize her growing mounds of paper she has acquired in her research. Those who know me well know that I'm the last person she should ask for advise on that topic. However, below is a small segment from my forthcoming book Crash Course in Genealogy which is due out next month, In it is mentioned a listserv that is focuses on just that topic:

As you know Listservs exist on almost any imaginable topic. While blogs generally have a single author, Listservs spread the joy of authorship around. Any member of a list can post on topics within the scope of that particular list. As with blogs, some genealogical lists are general, but most have a particular niche. One with which you should become familiar is Genealib. The welcoming message to new members describes its scope: “This list is intended as a communications tool for the benefit of genealogy librarians. We encourage postings by practicing librarians, retired librarians, vendors, and others who have contributions that can assist practicing genealogy librarians in the performance of their duties.” To subscribe, send an e-mail to with the following (without the quotation marks) in the body of the message “subscribe genealib your_full_name.”  Even if you don’t think you are ready to start posting, you can learn a lot as a lurker.

Also in parallel with lists of blogs, there are lists of lists. hosts many of these lists. The two big categories are surname lists and locality lists. You certainly should find out if there is such a list covering the area in which your library is located. To find out if there is already such a list, RootsWeb hosts a list search engine at Generally, you will want to enter your local county. However, you will get responses that include lists for surnames that are common in your location. The search engine is good for recall and not as good for precision. However, precision can be improved by grouping search terms with quotation marks.

In addition, there are about 60 uncategorized lists on such topics as the RVing-Genealogist, which is a place for discussing the “conducting of genealogy while traveling in a recreational vehicle,” and the Record-Keeping-Methodology list, which provides a virtual place for the” discussion and sharing of information regarding the storing, filing, archiving and recording of genealogical data collected by both physical and electronic means.”

Lists on RootsWeb can be experienced in at least three ways. The more conventional way is to subscribe and receive posts directly in your mailbox as they are posted. This would be your choice if you are actively involved in ongoing discussions. However, if you are primarily lurking, you may choose to receive the messages in batch (digest) mode and minimize the number of interruptions that may result daily on busy lists. A third option is to not subscribe at all but to occasionally visit the archives of the list to browse or to search for a specific topic.

I’ll try to address her question about exploring legends about Native American ancestors in a future post.

1 comment:

  1. Dave, Thanks. This is a terrific pointer to my dilemma of getting all that stuff organized. I'm also scanning everything I can and am off to Hemet, CA to get pics etc scanned of my husband's fam. I will let you know how I'm getting along with it all. It sometimes feel overwhelming. But I'm plugging along a little each day. Its fun.