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By Frank Passic

The Lithuanian Museum Review, #192, March-April 2001, pp. 6-7.
Published by the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 6500 S. Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60629
Tel: (773) 582-6500. E-mail: editor@lithuanian-museum.org

Last issue we discussed the Lithuania "Message Boards" as a resource when doing genealogical research on the internet. This month we’re going to discuss a closely related site: the Surname Message Board. The Surname Message Board is where people who are researching a specific surname can post message and inquiries. Others who are researching the same last name you are will then see your message and will offer help and supply answers. Because of their specific nature, I have found these Message Boards very useful in making contact with unknown distant relatives researching the same name surnames I am.

As I mentioned in the last article, there are numerous sites you can go to that feature Message Boards. The two popular sites I have found that attract alot of traffic and which will be seen by more people are: www.familyhistory.com, and www.genforum.genealogy.com. We will therefore use them as examples for this article.

Kondrat Lithuanian List

If you choose either the above mentioned sites, you will get their home page. On the top you will see a blank space entitled "Find a Message Board" where you could type in the surname message board you are looking for. On genforum the blank space at the top is called "Forum Finder." Instead of doing that however, I want you to manually search for a particular surname. The reason is there can be various spellings of surnames and I don’t want you to limit yourself to just the spelling you may type in. I want you to see the wide array of various spelling that might exist for the same family surname so you don’t miss that important contact you’ve been looking for.

On familyhistory you’ll see the alphabet listed A through Z. On genforum under "Surnames" you’ll see an alphabet also. Click on the first letter of the surname you’re looking for. For example purposes, we’ll choose the surname of my maternal great-great grandparents, Kondratas. I click on the "K" letter and come to names that start with the letter "K." But what I get is a listing of names that all start with KA, not KO. So in familyhistory there is a line of choices for the letter "K" that goes through the alphabet, "KA, KB, KC, KD, KE," etc. Click on "KO." The genforum site lists all of the surnames in alphabetical order without having to do that, but you’ll have to scroll down the long page to get to the "KOs."

I now see all the surnames that start with the letters "KO." I even spot some Lithuanian ones, but find that there is no surname message board entitled "Kondratas." Do I submit my name and have them add one? Not yet. In looking over the listing of surname message boards that start with "KO," I find that there is however a Kondrat surname message board, a Kondrato, a Kondratowicz, a Konrad, and under "KU" a Kundrotas, and under "C" a Conrad. The surname could have also been spelled Kondratavicius. All of these could be sites that a Kondratas might turn to find relatives and post messages.

As we all know, Lithuanian surnames had a way of being changed when a person came to America. Even in Lithuania, depending on what country occupied Lithuania, names were spelled according to the "counquering country" spellings--especially in the 19th century when only Russian and Polish were allowed. So instead of immediately creating a new surname message board of your own, your first goal is to discover how many possible surname message boards exist with various spellings that could easily be the same family! For example, if your surname started with the letter "S" with the accent mark, be sure and also look under "Sh."

Click on each of these various spelling surname message boards. Read the message titles on them that people have submitted. You may very well find someone researching your own family and wonder "how’d they come to spell it that way when we spell it this way?" After you have looked at all the message boards for your particular surname and its spelling variants, you are now ready to post your own messages.

When having several spelling message boards it is best if you write up a message to post that is the same for all of them for consistency until you start receiving replies. As we discussed last issue, it is important to have a title the catches the attraction of the viewer so that they will want to click it on and read your message. Each site will have its own directions as to how to post messages, which are usually quite simple.

Kondrat Name Lists

As an example, we could title a message, "Kondratas, Luoke, Lithuania." The message text could state something like, "My maternal Kondratas ancestors lived in the greater Luoke, Lithuania area (Telsiai County) in the 19th century. I have numerous baptism/marriage certificates from various family branches that I obtained from the Lithuanian State Historical Archives, and other materials. If your Kondratas ancestors were from the Luoke area, feel free to contact me and we can share information. Frank at: albionfp@hotmail.com. Also, there are numerous Kondratas/Kundrotas/Conrad obituaries in the obituary files at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 6500 S. Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60629. (773) 582-6500. E-mail: genealogy@lithuanian-museum.org. They also have a great detailed map collection which shows even the tinyest villages. Feel free to contact them."

Notice that in the above example I gave some basic identifying information that would narrow the topic to Kondratas’ from the Luoke area. I also specifically mentioned my E-mail address so it could be easily resourced when the message was copied on a printer. Yes, the site does have you type in your E-mail, but it doesn’t appear in print on the message itself. Some computer servers do not allow you to directly E-mail someone from a www. site; instead you have to go to an E-mail provider to do so. So be sure and put your E-mail address in the text itself if you want someone to directly contact you.

As we also mentioned in the last article, there are a couple of ways you can be contacted. A person can click on "reply" to your message and type in their own message. That message will be posted under yours on the main surname message board, and you will be notified in you own personal E-mail that a reply was made to your message. Or the person can bypass the surname message board and E-mail you directly and those on the message board will never know that someone replied to it. There are valid reasons why a person may or may not choose either method; it is a matter of personal choice. You can also reply to messages you read and post replies.

In the above Kondratas example, notice that I also put in a "plug" for the Balzekas Museum. The more viewers see the Balzekas Museum mentioned, the more they will be apt to contact us, the genealogy department, and join the Museum. We would like them to receive a copy of our Museum Review, our gift shop catalog, our genealogy department literature, and other materials. These surname message boards are a great way of helping the Balzekas Museum get new members and help people at the same time.

Finally, after your have posted your message on the various surname message boards, you may wish to start one of your own, especially if there are no close spellings to the surname you are researching. This is usually listed under "Create a Message Board" which you click on and supply the requested information. When doing so, try to spell the surname in its most basic form. Avoid feminine endings such as -aite, -iene, and extravagant endings such as Kondratavicius. Keep it simple, i.e. Kondratas. In other words, you need to create an "umbrella" surname that will attract various spelling forms and thus increase your chances of genealogical success.

When you do receive replies to your messages, be prompt and answer the respondent. Understand that people are at all levels of genealogical research and help them if you can. If you can’t help, then refer them to the genealogy department at the Balzekas Museum. Also encourage people to supply the Museum with copies of their own family genealogy and copies of obituaries for the genealogy department. These will be greatly appreciated.

This month search the surname message boards. Let’s see how many Balzekas Museum members can find their own surname and post their own messages. You’ll be glad you did.

More articles about genealogy by Frank Passic.

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