Before defining our Guidelines we should remember that our aim is to communicate on the Internet clearly and concisely but without causing offence. Some believe that the strength of emails is that they are spontaneous and you can have your say without the more formal style of a letter. But the very spontaneity of an email may cause offence if you inadvertently use an ill-considered phrase or a patronising attitude.

I am sure we would all agree that offensive emails are almost unknown in our UDFHG community. Quite the contrary - we are blessed with members who are anxious to please, to impart knowledge, to help new-comers to family history, and to learn from others no matter how experienced they are themselves. Many of you are acknowledged authorities in your genealogical field and yet we never read any evidence of 'talking down' to a less experienced member.

Situations you should avoid when using the Forum

  • Offering a fee-paying 'look-up' service for records contained within commercial databases (eg a DVD or a website) if this violates a Licence Agreement to which you have already agreed.

  • Messages which display text from other sources without the text owner/author's permission.

  • Messages to the Group are for the Group's information only. It is forbidden to 'lift' such messages or parts of messages so that they are published on third party databases or websites without the author's permission.

  • You may not advertise your own products unless it is done in a restrained manner. For example, you might have produced a genealogical publication which has relevance to the main subject of your message.

  • Patronising, highly opinionated or hectoring tones directed at anyone but particularly towards beginners.

  • You may not use the Forum to blatantly advertise your own genealogical expertise. The content and tone of your correspondence is all you need to establish your genealogical credentials.

  • Defamatory comments about an individual.

  • Confidentiality issues: messages (or UDFHG-sponsored databases) which present details of living individuals.

  • Discussions involving a series of messages about non-family history topics. For example, computer technical problems. These are often best dealt with by firstly reading the Questions section of this website, and if you can find no answer there, send a private email to the Technical Moderator. Avoid getting involved with virus warnings - they are usually hoaxes. Remember that each member is responsible for acquiring and maintaining their own anti-virus program with up-to-date 'virus definitions'.

  • Avoid contemporary religious debate, modern-day party-political controversy, pornography, 'chain' letters.

Message-specific guidelines

  • It is customary, when responding to a Forum message, to place your responding message at the top (above the existing message) so your response is the first to be seen when the message is opened. You can set this up yourself - it is one of the options on your local email setup.

  • Take special care over the wording and spelling of your Forum contributions. Errors in names and dates may mean that you don't get an answer to your query because members will be searching for information which doesn't exist or they cannot work out what exactly you are asking. Many personal and place names are prone to spelling variations over the years and experienced family historians will take these into account when they are searching on your behalf. But if they are given imprecise spellings or dates then you may miss out on a useful contact.

  • When you receive an email message from dalesfhs you see at the bottom of the email a link called 'Messages in this topic'. Click on this link and you will see all the previous emails that have the same phrase in the Subject box (because this phrase has become the 'Topic' - and the email is now part of what is called a 'thread'). This is good because you can follow the emails which have contributed to the 'thread' on this particular topic. This link only works if you are a full member.

    So if you reply to an email - and you intend to keep within the scope of the topic subject - if makes sense to avoid altering any aspect of the Subject title.

    This is why it is bad practice to 'hijack' an existing email simply because you want to write to the email's author, perhaps on another matter altogether. If you want to write about a new topic to someone, it is better to click on the 'Start a new topic' link at the bottom of an existing email and create your own appropriate topic in the new email's Subject box.

    Sometimes your new email may have a tenuous connection with an existing topic thread. Supposing the existing topic was 'Leyburn Market' and you wanted to write to a correspondent about meeting her there to discuss suitable accommodation in order to visit this Market. You might consider a Subject title of 'Accommodation required (Leyburn Market)'. Note the use of the round brackets. This email, with its altered Subject text, will not appear in the 'Messages in this topic' - quite understandably. But it does give the Forum an idea of where you are coming from.

  • There are three ways of replying to an email:

    a) Reply to Group - if you click this then your reply will go to and will be distributed to every member of the Forum; a copy will be stored in the archive.

    b) Reply to Sender - the consequences of choosing this option depend on your membership level, so do check to see what address is displayed in your outgoing email before you send it off (some of us have quickly clicked Reply and discovered that what should have been a private comment to a particular member has gone to everybody!) If it is wrong you can overtype it with the correct address.

    c) Reply via Webpost is for full members only and launches the email provider at Yahoo Groups, so the email goes from there rather than from your own email provider. If you use this method you don't get to keep a copy of what you sent.

    If your email system seems not to want to send a reply directly to one particular member, try copying their email address and pasting it into a new, blank email.

  • Messages within threads can grow very long and therefore take up computer resources. Sometimes, when replying to a message it is appropriate to delete some of the existing earlier text. Just before the point of your deletion, please enter a phrase such as 'Rest of the message has been deleted'. This will warn any future correspondent to check the archive so that the thread of the email can be followed.

  • In general, avoid email Subjects which include words in CAPITALS unless the subject is of particular importance to the whole Forum (for example, changes in policy from the Committee or the Moderators). It is also good form to use capitalised words sparingly in the body of emails. To emphasise a phrase within the message, use asterisks - eg *this is a phrase*. However, it is good practice to use capital letters for SURNAMES.

The Moderators may remove
offending messages or members who persistently break these guidelines