Tips for making a request

To contact a resource owner, click on the link at the end of the citation.

How does BWO work?

Search the lists for the information you are seeking. There are pages for general information, surnames, various countries, the states listed by county, and more. When you find a resource that you want to have the owner search, click on the 2- or 3-letter code at the end of the resource's description. That will take you to the owner's listing and a request form that will be sent automatically to the owner. Follow the instructions on the form to frame your requests. For further information, see Tips for Submitting Requests. That's it!

Tips for submitting requests

Research efforts by owners vary according to their schedules, etc. Please contact owner for search particulars even if specified below.

Please make sure your return email address is correct - our lookup volunteers receive countless requests they are unable to fulfill because of invalid email addresses. It is YOUR responsibility to provide the correct email address. Provide the email address within your message, too, just to be sure.

If your email service has a "whitelist" [where you accept emails only from those on an approved list] please add the lookup volunteer's email address to that whitelist - otherwise, they will not be able to respond to your request in a timely manner.

Here are some suggestions, from Marjean Workman, about contacting owners:

  1. Please put a subject line such as "BWO" to catch the recipients' attention, so that your mail is not deleted by accident. Many owners get 300+ mail message a day and only read the subject lines.

  2. You must select one resource to request a lookup from. On each lookup volunteer's form is a pull-down menu, listing all of the books they have offered for lookups. If you do not select one of these books, then your request will not be answered. Do not request a general lookup from all of a volunteer's books - this is a look up service, and people do not have time to do research for you. (Marjean notes: "I have been receiving many requests that give me a page or two of family history with dozens of names. They ask me to please search my reference sources, but never tell me which books they are interested in. I can sometimes guess which books based on the locations they give, but they often give many other locations and names in these family histories, and I have to sort through it to determine who was living where and when. I also may be wasting my time doing look ups in references they have already seen if they do not list which ones they are interested in.)

  3. Please do not address your requests to the Editor of Books We Own. I know less about genealogy than almost anyone else on this list. My job is to make sure these pages are up to date, and free of errors.

  4. Please be aware that lookup volunteers are NOT obligated to provide photocopies or scans. In some cases, photocopies and scans are not permitted due to copyright protection. In other cases, a volunteer may not have the time to run out and make photocopies. Do not assume that photocopies/scans are part of the service provided by lookup volunteers. However, if the volunteer has indicated they will provide copies/scans, please be sure to note whether the owner is requesting an SASE. If the owner is making copies of information and sending it to you, be sure to ask how much it will cost, so that you can reimburse the owner for his or her expenses.

  5. Here's a sample request:

  6. Subject: BWO Look up of Fingerhut in Ohio
    Please look in your books Early History of Coshocton County, Ohio
    and Cemeteries of Paulding County, Ohio for John, James, Sarah
    and Lucinda Fingerhut who lived in Coshocton County from
    1820-1850 and Paulding County from 1850-1900.
    I will be happy to reimburse you for your costs.  Thank you.
  7. Here is an example of what NOT to do (submitted by Donna, one of our volunteers):
  8. Hi:  Looking for marriages of Hugh Lott 1930-1944  Could be either GA/AL  He was the son of Wiley Lott.

    The biggest problem with this request? The lookup volunteer who received this request does lookups only from census records for a specific county. Not only were no resources mentioned in the request, but the request specified a lookup from marriage records, not census records! The moral of the story: Read listings carefully so you know exactly what information a lookup volunteer can offer!!!

Here is a final thought from the late Elva Coombs, a former lookup volunteer: "We 'owners' are grateful beyond imagination when one of our 'clients' sends back a simple 'thank you for your efforts'. 'Thanks in advance' simply does not do it."