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Roots and branches

Question: I have written to libraries for information, but do not hear from them. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: Many times, there is not enough information given to the librarian or volunteer who will be doing the research. Here are some suggestions.

Give all the information you can, such as alternate spellings, maiden names (listed as such), other marriages, and residences, if known. If the name is a very common one, additional information is needed to identify the one you want.



If you have a source for a date such as a birth or death certificate or a newspaper article, site that source. Find out if the library prefers regular mail or e-mail.

Always proofread your letter. One letter difference or number difference can confuse the issue. On dates, use the day, spell out the month and use all four numbers of the year. Don’t make them guess if it is 1802, 1902 or 2002.




Don’t ask for too much information at one time. Most librarians do not have time to go through all sources looking for your name.

Some genealogical societies help out at libraries and may charge a small fee after a certain amount of time. When requesting information from libraries, other researchers or family members, enclose a self addressed stamped envelope. If the library does not charge for copies, send a small donation to show your appreciation.

You may want to send a copy of your pedigree chart to the library for their file. Many libraries have a genealogy section where these are kept in folders and available for other researchers who are looking for you family.

Do not include living relatives in the information, but do include your name and address so that you may be contacted.

Always be polite.

Josie Plescia Vaughn is the librarian of the Nevada county Genealogy Society. Send questions to NCGS, P.O. Box 176, Cedar Ridge 95924, or e-mail


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