Requesting information by mail

Diana
Diana Tibert
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Lets face it. We all dont live where our ancestors lived. Many of us dont even live where our parents were born. And many of us, for one reason or another, are unable to travel to these places. This can make researching difficult.

The Internet has opened the doors to the world wide database, but it cant do everything. A time will come when youll need to write a letter to a museum, genealogical society, archive, record office or library. Usually, people at these places are happy to help, but sometimes, they are underfunded, understaffed or inundated with requests.

To increase your chances of receiving a response, you must be brief and to the point. In other words, ask one spe

Lets face it. We all dont live where our ancestors lived. Many of us dont even live where our parents were born. And many of us, for one reason or another, are unable to travel to these places. This can make researching difficult.

The Internet has opened the doors to the world wide database, but it cant do everything. A time will come when youll need to write a letter to a museum, genealogical society, archive, record office or library. Usually, people at these places are happy to help, but sometimes, they are underfunded, understaffed or inundated with requests.

To increase your chances of receiving a response, you must be brief and to the point. In other words, ask one specific question with only the information needed to answer that question.

For example, when looking for a death date for an individual, state what you know: when and where they were born (include community, county and province because everyone doesnt know where every community is located), names of parents, spouse(s) and children (there is no need to list when and where they were born). Share any clues you have, such as died between 1891 and 1901 Census and the community they had lived.

Note the different spellings of first and last names and if the person was known by a nickname or middle name.

If you send pages of data and pedigree charts, it is time consuming and overwhelming for the person who receives dozens of similar requests a week. And asking for them to send everything you have on the Smiths will get no reply from even the most dedicated person. As a rule, keep the letter to one page.

Doing a little homework before sending the request will save time and money. Contact the organization to learn:

1. If they are able to answer such a request, and if so, who receives it and what is the address.

2. If there is a fee.

3. If access limitations apply. In other words, can only certain family members gain access to these records?

4. If a particular record is needed to gain access, such as birth certificate or obituary.

Finally, before you drop the letter in the mail box, include a self-address-stamped-envelope for the reply. Most societies cant afford to answer without one. Also, offer to pay for any expenses generated, such as photocopies, or offer a donation. Keep in mind, a $20 donation is a lot cheaper than travelling hundreds of miles, staying at a hotel and gathering the records yourself.

Keep a log of all letters sent. If you havent heard anything after six months, send a reminder and ask if the initial request was received. Be polite and understanding. Some requests, such as those made for Second World War records, can take up to two years.

Researchers File

Seeking information on my great-great-great grand parents, Alexander Fraser and his wife, Alice Macgregor, who arrived at Pictou in the late 1770s, not necessarily on The Hector. Contact: Lois E. Miller, 30 Cora Lane, Fletchers Lake, NS B2T 1A1; email: mrcil_lois@hotmail.com

Editors Note - Diana Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living at Milford, NS. Submit queries to: RR#1 Milford, Hants County, NS B0N 1Y0; email: tibert@ns.sympatico.ca

Geographic location: Fletchers Lake, Hants County

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