Mining Message Boards

In the years before the Internet and computers, people seeking to make connections with others who share research interests would post queries in genealogical periodicals. When family history met the Internet, one of the most popular tools available to genealogists were message boards.

The message boards on Ancestry go back more than ten years and there are currently 17 Million posts on more than 161,000 boards. Have you checked to see whether there is information on the message boards for your family?

Searching the Message Boards
The Message Boards can be found on the Community tab at From there you can search for a surname, place or topic, or browse the boards alphabetically. The search function is in most cases the easiest, unless you’re searching for a name that could refer to something else. For example, one of my family names is Poland. When I search for that, I end up with a bunch of hits referring to the country Poland. By browsing alphabetically, I can be sure to end up on the correct message board without wading through hundreds of posts by people researching an ancestor from Poland.

Once you locate a message board of interest, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the number of posts. You can choose to search that surname board adding in a given name or a location to narrow it down to just the posts that are relevant to your search.

RSS Feeds and Favorites
If there’s a message board you’d like to follow closely, you can choose to subscribe to that board through an RSS feed. Just go to the message board you’d like to subscribe to and then click on the Subscribe to RSS link in the upper right section of the message board box. Then you can browse through the latest posts by using your browser’s feed list. (In Internet Explorer, your feeds are found in the Favorites Center. Just click on the Favorites star and then select Feeds.)

You can also add message boards to your “Favorites” at Ancestry. Just click on “Add to Favorites” and it will show up on the Community tab whenever you’re logged in.

Don’t Forget to Post
Message boards are a great way to broadcast your interests and allow fellow researchers who share your interests to find you. So go ahead and post your own query. Make sure you include enough information about your interests. Give a brief sketch of what you know about your ancestors, including given names, dates and locations. A post that just says “Looking for information on the Dooner family” won’t help much since presumably everyone on that board is looking for information on a Dooner family.

If you learn something new after you’ve posted a query, although you won’t be able to alter your initial post, you can reply to the string adding newfound information. (A string is like a conversation. Original posts and any replies to that post are included in the string.) Most people will browse through the entire string of posts if it applies to them.

The message boards are a free service of and a great way to connect with other researchers working on the same or similar lines. Click here to start your search now.

3 thoughts on “Mining Message Boards

  1. Julianna:

    I’m interested in searching for posts on some of the US state/county message boards from the early days (1998-2002, say). I find that paging through the 13,000+ threads on the Cook County Illinois board, for example, takes forever. Is there an easy way to look at all the 1998 posts, instead of having to keep clicking “next”?


    Dean Richardson

  2. Looking for info on Shauger (or Shawger) family in Sussex County, New Jersey…..Vernon/McAfee especially…Need direct info on Elizabeth Jane Shauger married David Edwin Sisco, Sr.
    She died 1912 – 1914…I cannot find where she is buried altho
    husband is at Hardyston North Church Cemetery.

  3. I am looking for family members of Walter Whitman Wrigley, and Angus Ruis and Annie Ruis. Angus Ruis came from France, to Canada. He meet and married a Annie Ruis in Nova Scotia Canada. They had 8 children and moved to Alberta. He worked as a miner in Frank and the crowsnest area. Walter Whitman Wrigley was born in Nova Scotia and moved to Alberta. He was one of the Frank slide people who lived through this slide. Walter Whitman Wrigley married a Martha Loretta Ruis. These people are my Grandparents.I would love to be contacted by you. Loretta Preston

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