A mailing list is a group of people who have some topic in common, in this case, some aspect of genealogy. It could be a surname, a geographic location, a profession, or any number of other topics or themes. People on the mailing list receive mail from every other participant and when a participant responds to an email, it goes to everyone in the group. Most mailing lists have members with widely varying levels of knowledge and experience on the subject so the knowledge of each individual in the group contributes to what can became a collectively powerful resource.
Rootsweb Mailing Lists offers over 30,000 lists categorized by surname, U.S. state, country, and other. (You can click on the image at right to enlarge it or click on the link above to go to the page.) In the Surnames category, each letter of the alphabet offers several screens of names. In the U.S.A. section, choose a state and additional options will include cities, counties, and subjects like cemeteries, Civil War, ghosttowns, railroads, and veterans, etc. The International category is broken down into countries and within those countries, is subdivided into geographic regions, time periods, and other subjects of interest for the country. The Other category includes topics like ethnic areas, medical, military, newsletters, research techniques, etc., and each is subdivided further.
The lists are so extensive that browsing the categories could take many hours. To find out if there is a mailing list for a specific topic, you can click on Find a List Search.
When you find a mailing list you'd like to join, click on the link to it and you'll be able to read specific instructions about how to subscribe (and unsubscribe if you decide it's not the mailing list for you).
If you're interested in a mailing list but would like to know a little more about the conversations that take place, you're in luck. Rootsweb archives all the mailing list conversations. You can view them at Rootsweb's Threaded Mail Archives. You'll need to know the title of the mailing list of interest. Then you can click on the letter of the alphabet and choose a month and year to review the emails.
But perhaps you already know you don't want more mail in your inbox but you want to find out if anyone has discussed your topic of interest on any of the email lists. Rootsweb has made that possible for you. At Mailing List Archives Search you can type in a keyword and learn whether your topic of interest has been discussed on any of the mailing lists.
Some mailing lists are very active with a dozen or most emails each day; others are quiet with one or two emails per week. I like having the availability of subscribing, reading without subscribing, and searching.
Do you use Rootsweb Mailing Lists? If not you may be missing out on some helpful resources.
This is a post written to participate in Alona Tester's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge at Genealogy and History News. Thank you, Alona.