Thursday, August 1, 2013

E-mails part II

My first post on emails was My Inbox is Empty.  This was about emails that I receive that require some action on my part or emails that have important info I need to keep (usually these are confirmation emails from things I have ordered or passwords etc.)  Today I want to talk about another type of email that I send and receive.  I send out tons of emails to people that have online trees on and on FamilySearch.  I will see something in someone’s tree that is intriguing and I will send them an email asking them about it.  So what do I do with the information that I receive back?  It depends on what is in that return email.

If someone provides information along with the sources for that information then I make an entry on my Research Calendar to get the original document(s) that support the person’s claim.  For example, let’s say a person has a marriage date that I need.  When I ask where they got the information let’s say they tell me that they got it from a local marriage abstract book.  I now know the jurisdiction and date the marriage took place so I can write to the county clerk to get a copy of the original record.  I won’t add the information to the database until I receive the document.  What if they actually have a copy of the original document?  I will still request a clean copy of the document myself from the clerk’s office.  Why?  Because I am OCD about certain things and this is one of those things. Perhaps he/she got this copy from another researcher who got it from another researcher who got it from another researcher.  This one copy could have been copied 15 times before it gets to me.  I would rather just get a clean copy.  There are certain types of documents that I won’t be able to request clean copies of such as Bible pages.  Many times someone will get images of Bible pages and then the Bible goes MIA.  In that case I will be happy to ask for copies with me offering to pay all copying and mailing costs or if I am lucky, they will be digital images that can be emailed.  In this case I will have to explain all of this in my source citation. When I put this information on my research calendar, I include the information from the email along with a full citation. 

If someone provides information but they don’t have a source for it then I go a different route.  Let’s say someone has a death date that I need but when I ask them where they got it from they say they must have just copied it off of someone else’s tree.  For the time being, I will add the information to my research notes with a complete citation using the person as my source but I don’t add the information to my database program.  I will have to draft a more complex research plan for this one.  The death date came from somewhere.  It may be right or it may be wrong.  No way to know at this point.  I am assuming that I haven’t been able to find the death date on my own thus far using the normal avenues (death certificate, SSDI, mortality schedules, Find A Grave, online newspapers etc.)  So where did this death date come from then?  I will end up emailing every single person on FamilySearch, and any other trees I find on the internet that have this death date. All of these emails will be listed on my research calendar.  I keep track of everything. 

What if I send an email and I get no response?  I write that fact in my research calendar with the particulars, who I emailed, what email address I used, the date I emailed and the fact that I never got a response.

I rarely keep actual copies of these types of emails.  I just transcribe the information with a full citation in my research calendar or in my notes.  I do this for two reasons.  If I have the information on a research calendar or in my notes then everything I have on a certain person is in one place.  I also don’t want to print needless paper.  I could make an electronic copy of the email and keep it on my computer but I don’t do that either because most of what is contained in emails is just informal information, clues if you will.  I still have to get the original documents to support the claims anyway. 

I also write emails to county clerks and archives/repositories looking for more information.  If a county clerk sends me something like, “Requests for marriage records must be in writing and copies are $1.00 each”  that is something that gets documented in my research binder.  I record the date as well as the person’s name and their contact information.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Great ideas. This helps me understand how to use notes and research calender. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge like this.

    1. Thanks so much for your very kind comments. I am planning on doing more on research calendars. I want to showcase how the different genealogy database programs handle this. They all have built in research logs and they work pretty good.

    2. P. S. So Tanya SIMMONS Weiss, where are your Simmons people from??

  2. Michelle, I've checked the names on your photos to find a connection but am not familiar enough with my Simmons ancestors to make one. My uncle did this side of the family and I "adopted" his research. From early to late 1700s they were in Currituck, NC; early-mid 1800s - Wilkes Co. GA and mid-late 1800s - northwest Florida (mostly Washington County). How far back does your research go? Any connections you can think of?

  3. Hmmmmmmm, my James Simmons was born 1764, maybe in SC, maybe in VA, not 100% sure yet. DNA matches hook him up with VA. I have no reason to believe that he was ever in NC or GA. By the way, Wilkes Co, GA is close to where I live :)