Writing A Query

Writing a Query

Posting a Query

As a family historian, you will ask for information from other researchers who may be tracing the same family lines. Queries may be published in magazines, genealogical society publications, or online mail lists or forums. Writing a concise short paragraph that clearly defines your question will help readers understand what you want. Follow the hints and use the Query Abbreviations to write an effective query.

Writing a Query

Not sure how to write a good query? View an example and read some helpful hints for Writing a Query below.

Good queries are: Clear—Specific—Simple—Concise

Subj: Allen Smith of Barren Co KY, 1821-abt 1857

Researching Allen Smith, b 1821 VA, mov to Barren Co KY bef 1850, m Susan Carter.
dpl Metcalfe Co KY abt 1857. Bro of Geo. W. Smith, Civil War veteran. Will share
GEDCOM. Email [email protected].

How to Start

Each query should ask a specific question or questions about one particular individual. Clearly state your question right at the start. For example: “Seek bpl/d/m of Allen Smith…” Sometimes you might want to ask a question about a number of people; for example, a husband and wife. If this can be done simply, without causing confusion, it is acceptable. However, if there is no obvious connection between these individuals or if the query becomes too complicated, then submit a separate query for each individual.

Subject Lines

Subject lines in email queries and on message boards should be short and to the point. Surnames, place names, and dates are all that is necessary. Do not include unnecessary text. More complete details can be provided in the body of the message.

Sentence Beginnings

Avoid beginning sentences with pronouns; this can cause confusion especially when a number of individuals have been mentioned and it is unclear which one you’re referencing. By using actual names to begin sentences, you can avoid ambiguities.


If you want to use accepted abbreviations for your query, consult the list of Query Abbreviations below.

What Not to Include

Any information that is not directly related to your query should not be included. It is often tempting to include some of the interesting facts you have discovered about your subjects and to explain your relationship to them, but remember—your goal is to write a query that can be read quickly and easily, and to get a result. You can best achieve this by keeping it clear, specific, simple, and concise.

Use these standard Query Abbreviations to save space and help ensure a concise, readable query.

These standard abbreviations are used in creating effective genealogical queries.

abt about
aft after
aka also known as
anc ancestor/ancestry
arr arrived
b born
bap baptized
bef before
bd birth date
bpl birth place
bro brother(s)
bur buried
ca circa
cem cemetery
cen census
ch child(ren)
Co County
d died
dau daughter
dd death date
desc descendant(s)
d/o daughter of
dpl death place
em emigrated
esp especially
exch exchange
f father
fam family
fr from
g grand
gg great grand
h husband
imm immigrated
incl includes
liv lived
m married
m1 married first
md marriage date
mo mother
mov moved
mpl marriage place
par parent(s)
poss possibly
prob probably
r resided
re: regarding
rel relationship
Rev Revolutionary War
s son
sib sibling(s)
s/o son of
vic vicinity
w wife
wid widow