Netiquette on genealogy mailing lists

Diana Tibert
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A few weeks ago, I was shocked by rude comments posted to a genealogy mailing list. The person making the comments was a long-time member and active on the list. I guess this was why it was surprising - they should have known better.

Although each mailing list has an administrator who can step in to stop a discussion or point out what can and cannot be posted, they are not on the Internet 24 hours a day. They are researchers like you and me and have a life.

After hitting the send button, there is no net to catch an inappropriate email message. It is sent to everyone on the list whether you want it to or not. Because of this no return policy, mailing lists are the perfect places to practice email etiquette, also known as netiquette.

One of the first lessons we learn in the world is to mind our manners. When writing a message, use the words please and thank you. They will take you a long way in the genealogy world and may even invite someone to help you break down a brick wall.

Tone is something we project with our voice. We also project tone in email messages. After writing a message, read it over a few times. Does it sound demanding? Rude? Insulting? Or does it sound respectful and polite and project a feeling that you are happy to receive any help that is offered?

If the message is negative, rewrite or delete it. Ignorant and smart-aleck comments are not welcomed and although you might think you are making a valid point, other members will often come to the defense of the person you are offending.

Comments made in haste can come back to haunt you. All messages posted to mailing lists are archived, so someone searching the archives 10 years from now can read your post.

It goes without saying that offensive language is not tolerated and the sender of such gibberish may be permanently removed from the list.

Genealogy lists are given that name because they are a place where genealogy is discussed and shared. It is not a place to post the most recent recipe you tried or the latest star gossip. You must stay on topic or others on the list and/or the administrator will contact you. That said, many mailing lists do allow history if it pertains to the area in which the mailing list is designated.

Remember, on mailing lists you are judged by the messages you post. It is better to ignore and delete a posted message that you disagree with or think is stupid than to post an unkind reply.

Researchers File

Seeking descendants of Mary Charters and John Brown who settled at Fox Creek/Chartersville, N.B. in 1810. Their children (and spouses) were: John B. (Jane MacEachern), William Charters (Caroline MacEachern), Mary Ann (William Lutz); Rufus Milledge (Elizabeth Trites) and Smith. Brown Family Reunion at Wallace, NS, June 28-30, 2008. Contact: Debby Brown-Warren, 39 Lansdowne Court, Riverview NB, E1B 3E5; email:; phone: 506-386-1696.

Diana Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living in Milford, N.S. Submit a query. Its free!: RR#1 Milford, Hants County, NS, B0N 1Y0; email:

Organizations: John Brown, Wallace, Lansdowne Court

Geographic location: Milford, Chartersville, Hants County

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