Sunday, January 24, 2016

Giving help by email ....

Regular visitors to this web site will realize that I am not spending as much time updating the site and newsletter as I use to - but the behind the scene activities in the form of emails is much the same as it ever was. Many are circulars and in general can be ignored, and spam goes straight into the dustbin. Simple messages requesting or suggesting amendment to online pages are normally dealt with immediately and I am always happy to get a number of requests from a serious local or family historian seeking information which I try to service reasonably quickly - but often don't have time to add the answer to the public pages.

More of a problem are the messages which are genuine requests for help which lie outside the guidelines:
This site provides a specialist local and family history service relating to Hertfordshire between the end of the Civil War (1660) and the end of the First World War (1918).
Recent requests include being asked to help find the foreign father of an illegitimate child born in Hertfordshire the 1940s - the problem being that the alleged father is said to have returned to his home country on hearing of the pregnancy. Other requests clearly are not "specialist" as they could have been answered by the questioner in five minutes simply typing their question into Google. In some cases the only help the questioner wants is for someone to look up information on a paying site and pass it on for free.

Recently I got a request concerning the descendants of a Hertfordshire man who emigrated some 150 years ago. I politely replied that researching non-UK records was outside the scope of the web site and in reply got another request this time relating to Hertfordshire. The email also contained complaints that they had been unable to get information because some people/organisation expected payment for their services. I replied as follows:
As I said in my previous email I give people free advice when they have hit "a specific snag" and this is my free advice:
From your email it is clear that that your "Specific snag" is that you are not prepared to spend your own money - yet selfishly expect other people to spend their time and money giving you free advice.
Your research had come to an end because, while you have sufficient information to do so, you have decided not purchased the relevant birth and marriage certificates needed to fill in the gaps in the mid-19th century. There is already plenty of relevant advice on the importance of purchasing relevant certificates in every modern elementary book on English family history research (free to you in your nearest public library), and also for free on many web sites, including this one. You have either failed to look at this free advice or chosen to ignore it.
As I explained in The "Genealogy in Hertfordshire" web site in 2016 I have other demands on my time and see no point in spending any more time giving you free advice which you are likely to ignore.
The real point of posting this is that in the past I have always tried to reply politely and helpfully to people who ask questions which a genuine - but not relevant to the service I provide for free. My patience is beginning to run out as replying to emails where the sender has ignored the guidelines means I have less time to keep the site running.

So in future all emails requesting help where the question asked clearly falls outside the guideline with end up in the bin without as much as an acknowledgement. I cannot afford to spend time replying to questions from people who are too lazy (or deliberately ignore) the guidelines.

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This is the newsletter for the Genealogy in Hertfordshire Web site. Comments on this blog are moderated and may be transferred to the web site where appropriate. If you have a local or family history query you want answered you must use "Ask Chris" - See box in right hand column. Anonymous comments cannot be answered.