It’s such a treat to enter a family name in a search engine like Google or Mocavo and come up with some real information! We’ve all had that experience - and it’s very exciting to read posts from other people interested in the same line. They may be distant offshoots of an ancestor several generations back, or barely related by marriage, but it can still be a rewarding discovery. There is the opportunity to exchange information, or at least garner clues, and perhaps find new photographs or locate copies of significant documents.
What irks me, though, is to find messages, on GenForum, for instance, with addresses that are no longer valid. I recently came across a years-old query which included reference to the “Delany Evans Papers,” and have not been able to reach anyone who knows what those are. (My third great grandparents were Rosannah Serbee and Theophilus Evans, of KY and IN)
But my own mistakes are just as frustrating. In one case I copied portions of what must have been a lengthy paper -- there are breaks with page numbers -- loaded with Ohio-based Minton family history. But I did not copy the source (if it was there), or even the website address. And now I can’t locate them! Without a source citation the information really loses much of its credibility, and I’m not able to go back to fill in the gaps.
Have you ever posted a message on Rootsweb or fired off a reply to one you found there? Then, months later, a response comes and you’re deep into work on another line? It takes a minute to shift gears, you have to find the relevant file, and then you must take the time to produce a satisfactory answer. A caution: in the instance where your correspondent is asking YOU for information, be careful what you promise. Let the other person be specific about what he or she would like. (And pray that if the result ends up posted on Ancestry it at least includes your citations.)
In every case where I make contact with a potential data-sharer, I try to avoid potentially incendiary remarks or comments (there is wisdom in the dictum about avoiding discussions of religion or politics), and take care to be prompt in expressing my appreciation for the information, whatever its source or credibility.