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Queries have been in existence for as long as there have been genealogists. A query is a request for information about an ancestor. You probably have read queries in magazines or genealogy society newsletters. Queries posted on the Internet serve the same purpose as those in magazines, except they reach a global audience.

Your goal is to learn to write successful queries, and then post them on the Web sites where they will be read by the largest number of people.

An Internet query is your chance to let the genealogical world know which ancestor you're seeking, and the type of information you desire. Your query may ask for information on:
  • A maiden name
  • The name of someone's parents
  • The location of a family after leaving for the West
  • Name of natural parents
  • Name of an unknown father
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Wife's maiden name
  • Place of death

What can a query accomplish?

When you post an Internet query, you're hoping that one of the millions of online genealogists will see it and send you family information. The odds of that happening probably seem remote, but they're not.

How To Compose a Query

A query is NOT a vague, catch-all request. It is a carefully composed advertisement constructed to elicit a response. If you placed a classified ad in your newspaper (or on eBay), to sell an authentic, Revolutionary War powder horn, you would include as much information as possible. You want potential buyers to have all the information necessary for them to pay you top dollar for your priceless antique.

When composing your genealogical query, include as much precise information as possible. The clearer your request, the more likely you'll receive a helpful response.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

  1. Write the surname you're seeking in capital letters. This makes it easier for your reader to spot the name.
  2. Don't include a long list of surnames you're seeking. Keep it to one (unless a Web site specifies otherwise).
  3. Ask for specific information. General queries will result in general replies.
  4. Don't abbreviate. Abbreviations have different meanings and can often confuse the reader of a query. Searchers will often not search for the abbreviated form and as a result, miss your query.
  5. Include the pertinent information you already have, i.e. dates, names, places. If you know your ancestor was in Buchanan County, Missouri, say so, don't just say "Missouri". If you were 20 when your 95-year-old great-grandmother died, then you can approximate the year she was born.
  6. Include a surname of a neighboring family if it is pertinent. In my family, my English PARTRIDGE men married GREENE women. I would include the GREENE name because it's possible that a Greene researcher would have information on my Partridge's.


I am seeking land record information on Benjamin Bullard of New Haven, Addison County, Vermont, USA. Benjamin moved from Medway, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, USA, after 1780, to New Haven with his wife Margaret Ward. Benjamin died in New Haven on 31 December 1827.



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