Jonathan Scott vis­its some ge­nealog­i­cal wa­ter cool­ers, pick­ing out the best fo­rums and mes­sage boards for fam­ily his­to­ri­ans

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The best fo­rums and mes­sage boards to help fam­ily his­to­ri­ans

Mes­sage boards, cha­t­rooms, mail­ing lists and fo­rums have been at the heart of the ge­nealog­i­cal com­mu­nity since the 1990s, help­ing to power the ex­plo­sion of in­ter­est in fam­ily his­tory that fol­lowed the launch of the in­ter­net.

If you’ve hit a brick wall, fancy an in­ter­est­ing read or wish to tap into the mood of the wider re­search com­mu­nity, fo­rums are the place to go. Even if you don’t feel in­clined to reg­is­ter and be­gin post­ing your own queries, the dig­i­tal com­mu­nity is so vast that you may well find use­ful cor­re­spon­dence be­tween re­searchers fac­ing sim­i­lar prob­lems.

In­deed there are fo­rums and wikis for ev­ery ma­jor branch of fam­ily his­tory, and some highly spe­cial­ist ones that fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual re­gions, pe­ri­ods of time, con­flicts, soft­ware or com­mer­cial prod­ucts.



This is cer­tainly the busiest and best of the UK-fo­cused, all- en­com­pass­ing fam­ily his­tory fo­rums, cur­rently boast­ing 4.9 mil­lion posts from 217,439 mem­bers. There are sec­tions aimed at begin­ners, oth­ers on dat­ing and restor­ing pho­tos, and, at the time of writ­ing, home­page sign­posts for ev­ery­thing from re­search­ing the armed forces, to Ro­many and Trav­ellers, to one-name stud­ies. The hand­writ­ing help sec­tion en­cour­ages users to up­load any mys­te­ri­ous doc­u­ments, so the wider com­mu­nity can chip in, de­ci­pher­ing hard-to-read pas­sages or ex­plain­ing ar­chaic terms. There are ban­ner ads, but not enough to be­come an­noy­ing, and there’s also an archived Ref­er­ence Li­brary with threads go­ing back to 2003.

2Great War Fo­rum

1914-1918.in­vi­sion­zone.com/ fo­rums

The best of the many mil­i­tary fo­rums, which, like its par­ent site ( 1914-1918.net), is de­signed specif­i­cally with fam­ily his­to­ri­ans in mind. Many use it to post pho­tos of men and women in uni­form, so mem­bers can help iden­tify reg­i­ment or unit. In­deed, the most pop­u­lar sec­tions are ‘Units and For­ma­tions’ and ‘The Para­pher­na­lia of War’ – uni­forms, cap badges, in­signia, medals, equip­ment and more. There’s a sec­tion de­voted to doc­u­ments where you can post queries re­lat­ing to source ma­te­rial such as ser­vice records and medal in­dex cards, cur­rently with 3,728 top­ics and some 20,637 replies.


ge­nesre­u­nited.co.uk/ boards

An es­tab­lished and pop­u­lar fo­rum from the com­mer­cial sec­tor is Ge­nesRe­u­nited’s ‘Com­mu­nity Sec­tion’. Within, you’ll find the ‘Gen­eral Chat’ and ‘Find An­ces­tors’ boards boast more than five mil­lion posts alone. There are in­spir­ing tales of re­search and re­u­nions in ‘Suc­cess Sto­ries’, plus on­go­ing hunts in the ‘Find Liv­ing Rel­a­tives’ sec­tion. ‘Mil­i­tary Chat’ isn’t so busy, but there’s an in­for­ma­tive re­search tips thread go­ing back to 2009. Plus, the ‘Sug­ges­tions’ board al­lows users to re­quest changes/ad­di­tions to the par­ent web­site. It’s not as fo­cused and for­mal as some, but the fo­rum is ac­tive and easy to use.

4Who Do You Think You Are? Mag­a­zine

whodoy­ou­thinky­ouaremagazine.com/ fo­rum

While we pre­fer not to blow our own trum­pet in th­ese pages, the WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine Fo­rum has some ex­cel­lent fea­tures not avail­able else­where. First and fore­most there is the free WDYTYA Fo­rum app ( whodoy­ou­thinky­ouaremagaz ine.com/news/down­load-ourfree-fo­rum-app), de­signed to help you get the best from the fo­rum, en­abling you to write, com­ment and dis­cuss on the move, and up­load pho­tos straight from your mo­bile de­vice. The most pop­u­lar sec­tions are the gen­eral re­search queries, closely fol­lowed by photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. The fo­rum also hosts pop­u­lar live web chats with ex­pert re­searchers – usu­ally timed to co­in­cide with the WDYTYA? se­ries.



Cu­ri­ous­Fox calls it­self a “vil­lage by vil­lage con­tact site” aimed at fam­ily and lo­cal his­to­ri­ans. To test ac­tiv­ity in an area, just search by place name and you’ll be pre­sented with a list of posts from re­searchers. To post your own en­try, you need to join as a free or paid mem­ber. If you’ve paid (£5.50 a year), all users can con­tact you. If you’ve opted to join as a free mem­ber, only paid mem­bers can con­tact you.

Watercooler chat for

the in­ter­net age. Ex­plore fo­rums to ex­pand your re­search

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