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Proformat News
No: 74
April 2012
April Seminars
15: Glenelg Heritage Walk: Esplanade and shopping precinct, Friends of SA's Archives, 2:00 to 5:00pm
17: Finding your way around the English and Welsh censuses 1841­ 1911, Elizabeth Civic Centre Library 7:00 to 9:0pm

May seminars
4: Tracing your English ancestors, WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30 to 9:30pm
6: Family History on the Web, WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00 to 1:00pm
7: Finding SA families in newspapers, WEA Centre Adelaide 8:00 to 10:00pm
12: Heritage Walk—Historic Houghton, WEA Centre Adelaide 2:00 to 4:00pm
20: Heritage Walk—North Adelaide Cathedral precinct, WEA Centre Adelaide 2:00 to 4:00pm
21: Bound for South Australia (19th century immigration), WEA Centre Adelaide 7:00 to 9:00pm
23: Pitfalls in family history, Payneham Library 10:00 to noon
25: Tracing your Scottish ancestors, WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30 to 9:30pm
26: Coming to grips with the new FamilySearch, WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00 to 1:00pm
27: Heritage Walk—Port Adelaide heritage precinct, WEA Centre Adelaide 2:00 to 4:00pm

See the seminar program for more details and bookings.

Adelaide Proformat's stand at Congress2012

In this issue:
April seminars
May seminars

Feature article
Making links


Graham Jaunay
Adelaide Proformat

Glandore SA 5037

Tel: +61 8 8371 4465

Breaking news: fb

Drafting charts
Locating documents
Seminar presentations
Writing & publishing
SA lookup service
Ship paintings

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Proformat News acknowledges the support by awe AWE

Making links
In the previous newsletter we outlined the 7 steps to a successful research outcome, but a successful research will have two main avenues of focus. The first is determining records that may be available and locating them in archives and libraries. The second, sometimes overlooked, is what I like to call making links. In fact connecting with distant relatives is the primary way of developing a family history!

Making links is the active process of locating living distant relatives and working with them to increase knowledge of the family history. The value of this avenue of research cannot be under rated and in fact in my personal experience this project has proved far more fruitful than poring over records in sundry repositories.

The advantage in locating distant relatives is that their knowledge may add to the bank of knowledge you already hold. Often the more distant the relationship the greater the chance of discovering new information. This should not be surprising as your ancestors' siblings may have been the inheritors of the information rather than your direct ancestor.

When making an initial contact you need to be as diplomatic as possible in your approaches to previously unknown relatives, since it is natural for them to be a little apprehensive about your enquiries at first. One usually effective approach is to offer to share with them information you have already compiled about their family.

Do not use the telephone if the person does not know you. Unfortunately telephone sales people have effectively ruined this approach and so use the post or e-mail. Before writing to a stranger for the first time put yourself in their shoes and imagine you receiving a letter like the you are about to write. You will probably find yourself asking the following questions and so make sure you cover these points in your correspondence...

   • How did they find me?
    Introduce yourself. Always indicate where you got their name and address from and try to refer
    to a person known to the recipient. Resist asking for too much information in your first letter.

   • What are they after?
   Explain why you are writing to them and exactly what you would like them to tell you and so
    allay their fears that you are after the family silver.

   • What's in it for me?
    Offer to share any information that you have on their family that they may be interested in.

   • What will it cost me?
    Enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope AND your email address. Offer to pay for any out-of
    pocket expenses incurred.

   • I can't be bothered.
    Make it as easy as possible for the recipient to reply by asking pertinent questions rather than
    just tell me about your family.

   • I don't know anything about my family.
    Try to get their interest by enclosing something that would be of interest to them and suggest
    that they could perhaps ask other members of the family about whom you may not be aware.

   • Our family has got dark secrets that we want to keep secret.
    Give an assurance that you will respect their privacy and not pass on any information they give
    you without their permission. Be sensitive to birth and marriage dates especially with older
    people. Be tactful.

   • Is this person really interested in me?
    Send a personal letter, not just a copy of a standard letter, to show that you have gone to some

   • I have difficulty reading and writing.
    If you know the recipient is old and frail by definition, the most interesting ones are—consider
    using a 14 or 16 point font for the covering letter. Think about enclosing a simple questionnaire.
    Enclose a family sheet and ask them to fill in the blanks.

Using this method which treats the recipient as a person rather than a source, usually gets a fairly good response rate. Most people like to feel they are helping as long as they understand what you want and why you are writing to them.

The problem remains—how do you find potential links?

This is relatively difficult with common names so look through your family tree and select less common names and the places they were living in. Search for present day people with that name in the same area using telephone directories,electoral rolls and the Rootsweb mailing lists at The former may be online or listed at electoral offices in the current roll (Australia only) and libraries for recent past electoral rolls and given that it is a fact that a reasonable number of people are still living in the same region as their ancestors were a century ago, you are likely to pick up people who may be in a position to assist. As to the latter, it will give you access to fellow researchers wanting to share information.

When you open the website you are confronted with the following screen. Click on the browse link.

This will lead you to a page of surname initials and so on.

What about the common names in my family? Search them via the close relatives with less common names. If a Miss Smith married a Mr Puttick then try and access the right Smiths via the Putticks.

Consider using social media to locate fellow researchers. If the principle outlined in six degrees of separation that promotes the theory that everyone is approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth, then clearly using social media may be one effective way of travelling those six steps! If experiments with Twitter prove correct, the degree of separation may be far less! It was found that separation was less than 4 between two random Twitter users and the link required an average of just 67 requests for information via Twitter. (Reza Bakhshandeh et al: Degrees of Separation in Social Networks, 2011)

If you do not have a Twitter account, then go to their website and establish one. It is free and easy to do. Use the hash tag [#] in front of key words as in #genealogy to ensure all interested in genealogy get to see your tweet. Hence a simple tweet that covers all bases could be, 'Searching for the family of John #Puttick of #Bridport. #genealogy #familyhistory.' For an explanation of this concept see the Twitter help site. Other features that will spread your message far and wide is @Anywhere. Adding this to your message puts your message into a range of other sites if a text match occurs. Any website that chooses to enable Twitter's @Anywhere functionality on their web pages will display these Twitter features embedded within their site.

To sign up to join Twitter all you need to provide is your name, email and a password. You do not have to tweet as a member you can just lurk and watch for messages of interest although this is rather pointless and akin to standing on the nearest street corner waiting for someone to walk by whom you recognise as a relative! The problem is no matter how long you stand on the corner and how busy that corner is, the passersby will not carry identification labels on them. The hash tag in tweeting is the important label—do not forget it.

A Facebook page for your family history is also a great way of spreading your message and it has even more potential. Setting up a Facebook site is a far more complex exercise than joining Twitter. Start by making your site completely private while you set things up. Take great care in what you plan to make fully public. Divide your account into a public area and a not so public area. In the public area report all your searches for remote family members and ancestors. In your not so public area (for friends as Facebook says) allow those who make contact and share your research interests access to that material of a more private nature.

You can also have a private area in Facebook that only you can view. You may like to treat this as a remote server to securely hold some of your precious photographs as a backup. If you do decide to take up this option remember you are entrusting your material to a third party—you may want to consider this carefully first.

If you are considering publishing a blog to promote your research, then subscribing to a site like Google's Blogger is a great way to start simply because the software has done all the hard work of developing a wide circulation without much effort on the part of the blogger. The online interface is reasonably easy to manage although you are limited to the site's layout options. The advantage in using blogs to spread information about your family and your research program is the ability to say much more than you can on Twitter and the fact the message is dispersed rather than static waiting for visitors as is the case with Facebook. Most good quality blogs have a social media aspect in that they are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other.

In all cases you need to be careful about what you say. Even though you can edit the material, once it is posted it is not only there for all to see but can prove very difficult to remove.

Another tip—keep your messages interesting. That sounds easy but it is not. Like practically everything else on the Web, blogs are easy to start but hard to maintain. This basic newsletter takes hours out of the month to write and polish. It may be difficult to believe but in fact writing is one of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks for a human being to undertake. So, unless you write uninteresting childish junk remember that all forms of social media are time demanding. As a result, much material is not updated and you should write your messages with this in mind.

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