Thursday, February 28, 2008


The following message from the list manager was recently posted on a genealogy list-serve that my wife subscribes to. The important thing isn't the name of the list, or the identity of the list manager- the important and interesting thing is the opinion expressed in the message. The list manager believes that people you help on the Web owe you something, even if that something is a simple thank-you, and even if the help you extended doesn't help solve the problem. What do YOU think? Do you have a right to expect a thank-you from people you help? Is the act of offering help its own reward, or should you expect more? Even more important- should you start compiling an "enemies list" of persons who have not said thank-you when offered help? What do YOU think?


Although the activity on our list has been pretty much non-existent- I wish to address a subject that really needs improvement among researchers.

The whole theory of the mailing list for genealogical research depends greatly on the give-and-take trading methods of the persons on the list. Most all of the answers given or information found is done so on a voluntary basis.

For the most part this works as it should. There are, however, a few that spoil things for the many.

For the benefit of new list members (and in the long run, for the old members):

There is a term called "Netiquette" used to describe the common courtesies extended to others on the internet. These actions are no more than what you would extend to someone in person.

The really simple and basic rule of researching on the mailing list is-

If people voluntarily take the time to do research for you and thereby do you the favor of giving you more information-


Even if the information that they send you IS NOT what you were looking for.

The lookup person still invested the time trying to do that work for you.

They deserve a common courtesy for this act.

I myself spent several hours not long ago looking through census records, marriage records, birth and death records for a person. I sent them about 7 emails with a total of 5 census pages and data on marriages and migrations found as well as information on other family members.

Although during the time I was sending emails inquiring as to the correct information needed, they wrote back "real quick and in a hurry". This was BEFORE I sent them the information.

Since I sent it, I have heard NOTHING, ZIP, NADA.

This, unfortunately, is not the first time this has happened. I have access to a vast amount of information, and I don't mind assisting people-

Yet it would be nice if some form of acknowledgement were sent. I keep telling myself that I should stop answering requests for help, but that simply makes
everyone suffer.

I maintain the data on the website for others and do my own research, and besides that I do have a life. I am not asking for profuse outpourings of gratitude, but a simple thank you.

I am left with one alternative so as to not affect the ones who are appreciative and do extend thanks:

If you have asked for assistance in the past and have received it, but not acknowledged it, then please do not ask for it again.

I am now keeping a list of those persons, and I will not be used again in this manner.

To keep others from being used, I would suggest that you all consider something along the same lines in your record keeping.


Anonymous said...

Three thoughts on this:

1) Giving thanks is common courtesy.

2) Giving assistance without expecting anything in return is higher on the ladder of charity than giving with an expectation. But the one who gives and expects something in return is still giving.

3) Expecting thanks is different than demanding thanks.

Anonymous said...

I agree it is very nice to get a thank you from someone that you have tryed to help. Usually the ones who do not thank you don't come back,anyway.