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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Good Query Bad Query - Don't Fall into the Trap!

BH sent me the following query. I've removed all names,including BH's. I chose B's query because it's a perfect example of how NOT to write a query! But please don't think I am bashing BH or trying to make B feel bad. I'm not. Because I truly want to help BH find her ancestors, I want her to learn how to write a query that stands a chance of being answered.

Okay, here is the original query

I am trying to find lost relatives from the Ukraine, last name of my gradmother is H-------. I don’t know if that is the correct spelling, first name is M----. My mother’s maiden name is W--- and her first name was A---.Can you help me?

Let's look at what is wrong with this query.

First, as the responder, I have no knowledge of how old B. is. Therefore I have no way of estimating the years of birth of her mother and grandmother. So I have no timeline, no dates to work with. Was her grandmother born in the 1890s as mine was? Or is B a 20 year old whose grandmother was born in the 1940s?

Also, the questioner should NEVER make the person they are requesting help from, work this hard! Make it EASY for the person who wants to help you. Don't make them spend time trying to figure out something you know the answer to.

Number One Rule: DATES, DATES and more DATES! Estimates are better than nothing. Your query must include dates.

Next - what continent or country are we talking about? Yes you said they were from the Ukraine. Are they still there? Have they left for other countries? If so, which ones and when??

Number Two Rule: LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION! Provide at a minimum a country where your ancestors live or where you need help.

Lastly, you really have not told me what you want help with. Are you looking for living descendants? Are you trying to find your Grandmother's parents? I can't tell from your query.

Number Three Rule: WHAT? Tell the person whose help you want, EXACTLY what you want!

B, I really would like to help you. If you read this and recognize your query, please do send it back to me with dates, locations and exactly what you want help with.

Meantime, you may want to read Good Query Bad Query for more help with query writing. It may improve your chances of success in future queries.

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