Genealogical Query Optimization

Genealogical Query Optimization (GQO) is the process of crafting a clear, concise, and effective question that will help you find genealogical information. A well-written query can save you time and frustration. It will attract the attention and assistance of others who may have relevant knowledge or resources. It can also serve as cousin bait.

Here are tips on GQO:

  • Start by considering where to send your query. Where is it likely to be seen by those with expertise in the area(s) of interest? Is it geographically specific? Does it relate to a specialist occupation, religious or military group? Try a Facebook page, or a local family history or other specialist society forum.
  • Start your query by selecting a person and write a heading that summarizes your question. Include their name, time period, and location. For example, “Seeking information on the origins of John Smith , born c. 1837 in either Liverpool, Lancashire, England or Kilkeel, County Down, Ireland, died 1914 in Carmarthen, Wales.”
  • Provide adequate background information. Give the full name, known by names, dates and places of their birth, marriage, death, and other significant events. Depending on the query parent, sibling, spouse, children and other FAN club people should be mentioned. Be selective — don’t swamp with detail, espcially irrelevencies no matter how fascinating! Less can be  more. Make detail available by linking to a family tree or other resource.
  • If trying to resolve conflicting evidence, as above, mention it. In my case he’s listed as born in Liverpool in the Welsh censuses for 1881, 1891 and 1901 censues, but in Kilkeel in the 1911 Welsh census. Also, mention resources you have already tried that didn’t help. In my case he has not been found in the censuses of 1841 to 1871.
  • GQO is a skill.  Frame your query in a straightforward manner so that the person reading it can quickly and clearly understand the situation. Any response that isn’t spam deserves a friendly, polite reply. Keep anyone who expresses continuing interest in the loop.

If you’re seeking additional advice have a look at The Dos & Don’ts of an Effective Genealogy Query, Writing a Query and Writing an Effective Genealogical Query


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