How to Write and Manage a Genealogical Query

By Kathie M. Donahue, AG
copyright 2009

When using Message Boards and Mailing Lists online, it’s important to understand that your readers need to know details about your research problem or question (query). Following are instructions for writing queries. If you follow these instructions, you will have greater and more appropriate responses to your queries.

REMEMBER: You will be consulting people who are experts in their fields and very busy. An incomplete or improperly written query will probably garner a “sorry, no information” answer from most other experts. However, I am dedicated to teaching genealogy as well as answering questions in my area of interest, so, do, please, keep a copy of this instruction and consult it when you make your next request for information.

REMEMBER: In writing your query, answer the following questions, so far as you are able. If the information you have is uncertain, follow it with a question mark (?).

If you have no information about a detail, place a blank area in the query ( _______ ).

Abbreviate: birth (b), marriage (m) and death (d). If you have to list more than one marriage write them (m1), (m2), etc.


1. Who is the person you want to find information about (if a female, give her maiden name, or, if none is known, explain)?

2. When and where was this person born (b), where and when did he die (d), where and when did he marry (m)?

3. Who did this person marry? Where did this person marry?

4. Who were the children that resulted from the marriage (b, d, m) and what were the names of their spouses (no further information needed for the children’s spouses unless there is some pertinent reason to add more)?

5. Who were the parents (b,d,m) of the person on whom you are focusing (question #1)? Where and when did they live and die, etc?

6. Who were the siblings (brothers and sisters) (b,d,m) of the person on whom you are focusing (question #1)? Where and when did they live and die, etc?

7. With what tribe(s) do you think your focus person was associated?

8. Why do you think your focus person was Indian (physical characteristics, family story, Indian name, proximity to tribes, etc.)?


Write your query in a word processor (answering ALL of the questions), select and copy it onto your clip board; then go out on the web and look for places to deposit it. As long as you don’t use your copy command on anything else, it will remain in memory.

All you need to do to insert it is to click on the place where you want it to go, and click on “paste”. Simple, huh?



1 thought on “How to Write and Manage a Genealogical Query”

  1. In the summer of 1986 I met in San Fransisco a man of 45 years old of Native American descent with the name Richard Leon Winship. He told me that he had been working in construction (house building etc.) and as a rodeo clown. He was in San Fransisco to say goodbye to his sister who lived there and it was his plan to travel to Portland where his brother lived. He also wanted to say goodbye to him. He felt his life was coming to an end.
    We had a true conversation a couple of times, when we met in the streets of San Fransisco. His last words were “you make me cry man” and he walked away. I would like to make a postumous painting of him.
    It maybe interesting to know that he did’nt like the Dutch, but did like the French, because of their colonial past. I therefore think he may have been a Chaktow. I also noticed that the name Winship is not unusual among Chaktows. I’afraid this is an almost impossible query. But I would be so happy with a picture of Richard Leon. Thanks, Emo

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