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JewishGen Discussion Group: Rules and Guidelines


  1. Introduction
    1. What is JewishGen, Inc.?
    2. What is the JewishGen Discussion Group?
    3. Why does the JewishGen Discussion Group need rules?
    4. What is "moderation"?
    5. Where do I find information about the JewishGen Discussion Group and how to manage my subscription?
  2. Content of Messages
    1. Which topics may be addressed on the JewishGen Discussion Group?
    2. Which topics may not be addressed on the JewishGen Discussion Group?
    3. Is advertising allowed on the JewishGen Discussion Group?
    4. Should texts, lists and similar data be posted to the JewishGen Discussion Group?
    5. What is "netiquette"?
  3. Queries and Replies
    1. What should I do before posting a query?
    2. How should I formulate a query?
    3. Are there special rules for surname queries?
    4. How should I respond to a query?
    5. What should I do if private e-mail in response to a query bounces?
    6. What should I do after my query has been answered?
    7. May I share a success story?
  4. Form of Messages
    1. What is the purpose of the subject line?
    2. What should the body of the message look like?
    3. What should I put in my signature?
    4. Is it permissible to include a list of the names and towns I am searching?
  5. Questions and Complaints
    1. What should I do if I'm not sure whether my message is acceptable?
    2. What should I do if others violate the rules?
    3. What do I do if I disagree with the Moderator?
    4. How are moderators selected?
    5. How are additional rules proposed?

1.   Introduction

1.1   What is JewishGen, Inc.?

JewishGen, Inc. is the leading multi-faceted program on the Internet dedicated to helping people research their Jewish ancestry.  Staffed primarily by volunteers, JewishGen offers discussion groups, InfoFiles, interactive databases, search engines, and ongoing projects and programs — the common purpose of which is to provide as many avenues as possible to assist Jewish genealogists, or anyone else interested in finding Jewish family connections.  For more information, see JewishGen's home page at

JewishGen, Inc. is a non-profit corporation with 501(c)(3) status, which means that all donations are tax deductible for United States citizens.

1.2   What is the JewishGen Discussion Group?

Important among JewishGen's programs is the JewishGen Discussion Group, the primary goal of which is to facilitate communication among researchers worldwide.  The JewishGen Discussion Group assists beginner and experienced genealogists alike, through the free exchange of information.  It facilitates establishing contact with researchers working on the same families or geographical areas, as well as learning about research methods and materials and the social history of the Jewish people.  While all components of JewishGen store and make information freely accessible, it is the JewishGen Discussion Group which functions as one of the primary links by which daily communication between people sharing a common interest takes place.

The JewishGen Discussion Group is accessible in two forms:

The same messages appear in both formats.  For more information, see Introduction to the JewishGen Discussion Group.

1.3   Why does the JewishGen Discussion Group need rules?

Because we are a world-wide means of connecting thousands of participants, we must ensure orderly, courteous, efficient, and legally permissible communication.  We must also protect JewishGen's status as a nonprofit organization.  To this end, some rules and guidelines are necessary, and have been established by an international committee of Discussion Group users.  Adherence to these rules will make using the JewishGen Discussion Group more productive and pleasant for all.

1.4   What is "moderation"?

The JewishGen Discussion Group is "moderated", which means that all messages are subject to review before being posted to the entire group.  In certain cases, messages may be rejected by a computer program on the basis of the format or subject line ("auto-moderation"); primarily however, a member of the moderation team may decide not to post a message because of its content.  Some examples of messages that will be rejected include those containing:

  1. defamatory, abusive or indecent material;
  2. commercial junk mail;
  3. messages which violate the law (such as those that appear to condone copyright violation by offering or requesting lookups in material protected by copyright);
  4. questions and comments entirely unrelated to Jewish genealogy.

If someone quotes extensively from a publication, either in print or on the Internet, the moderator will first request clarification as to copyright and assurance that the person posting has permission of the copyright holder.

Members of the moderation team are also empowered to direct users to more suitable resources instead of posting their messages to the entire group.  Should any participant disagree with the decision of the team member on duty, rule 5.3 describes how to handle this difference of opinion.  It is never appropriate to attempt to discuss differences with the moderator through the discussion group.  Messages of this type will not be posted, and will be sent to the support desk for response.

1.5   Where do I find information about the JewishGen Discussion Group, and how to manage my subscription?

Click on the link to the "JewishGen Discussion Group".  This takes you to the page containing instructions on how to subscribe and unsubscribe to the mailing list, how to manage your subscription when going on vacation, how to change the form in which messages come to you, and to which address to write when you're having a problem.  JewishGen has no secretarial staff to make changes in either how you are subscribed or to put temporary or permanent stops on your subscription — You are expected to manage this for yourself.  The information on the JewishGen Discussion Group page spells all this out in complete detail.

2.   Content of Messages

2.1   Which topics may be addressed on the JewishGen Discussion Group?

Please submit only messages which are related to research in Jewish genealogy such as:

  • offering or requesting information on resources
  • inquiries about geographical locations
  • information on research techniques
  • brief reports about research trips
  • concise summaries of meetings and seminars

2.2   Which topics may not be addressed on the JewishGen Discussion Group?

Many topics that might be of interest to some Jewish genealogists are not suitable for this forum, because there are other mailing lists or groups devoted specifically to them.  There, your chances of getting reliable information are much greater.  For example, questions about:

  • Jewish law, politics, customs and culture;
  • Yiddish language, literature and folklore;
  • Hebrew words and grammar.

should not be addressed, unless they are of immediate relevance to genealogy.  All of the above are more appropriately addressed to the usenet newsgroup soc.culture.jewish.moderated.

Questions relating to

  • Software, photography, and document preservation
may be of limited interest to this group, but can be answered more effectively in groups devoted to those specific topics.  The best way to find groups of this kind is to use any search engine and type in appropriate keywords, i.e. photography, computing, document preservation.  For further information about where to discuss what, please see the JewishGen InfoFile "offtopic".

If a discussion threatens to move off topic or to develop into a prolonged debate among a small number of participants, the moderator will direct that it continue privately.

2.3   Is advertising allowed on the JewishGen Discussion Group?

No.  Those who offer products or services for sale may not use this forum to promote their interests.  Because the JewishGen Discussion Group seeks to bring information to its participants, one-time announcements of new books and software are acceptable, as well as repeated references to books as resources when posted by disinterested parties.

2.4   Should texts, lists and similar data be posted to the discussion group?

No.  If you want to offer information that is of long-term interest and takes up considerable space, such as:

  • longer texts (memoirs, research guides etc.);
  • detailed tables of contents or indices of publications;
  • lists of names;
  • descriptions of library or archive holdings;
they should not be posted to the JewishGen Discussion Group (neither in a single message nor in installments).

Instead, they should be offered either as an InfoFile, or, in the case of lists of names exceeding 1,000 in number, as a database.  To explore these possibilities, please see the JewishGen Support Center.

2.5   What is "netiquette"?

"Netiquette" refers to the basic rules of courtesy which should be observed in all communication on the Internet.  In particular, JewishGen asks:

  • that you do not post publicly the postal address or phone number of any individual (living or possibly alive);
  • that you do not make derogatory or prejudicial remarks or attack others personally for their postings (to do so is "flaming");
  • that you do not post any copyright material (including but not limited to excerpts from books, magazines, newspapers, or electronic media) without the written permission of the copyright holder;
  • that you do not copy messages posted to other lists and attempt to post them on the JewishGen Discussion Group without first getting the permission of the person who wrote the original message;
  • that you do not target members of this list with your advertising messages, if you have products or services for sale, either publicly or privately.  This constitutes an abuse and misuse of the e-mail addresses revealed to you, and is a clear violation of JewishGen's site use policy.  Readers who are solicited are free to complain privately to the abuser.

Messages violating any of these rules will be returned unposted by the moderator.

3.   Queries and Replies

3.1   What should I do before posting a query?

Don't use the Discussion Group to do your research; there are many resources within JewishGen that may answer your question — use them first.

All of the above sources are linked from JewishGen's homepage.  When you have exhausted all avenues that might lead to answering your question, then and only then send your message to the JewishGen Discussion Group.  Submit your messages to the moderator at <>.

3.2   How should I formulate a query?

Unless you state your question clearly and succinctly, and describe what you have already done to find the answer, it's nearly impossible for anyone to provide an answer that will be helpful.  When you ask for a piece of information or direction, it is important to explain the specific problem that prompts your question.  It is also necessary that you specify when and where – identify the region and the time period to which you are referring.

If you need to ask several unrelated questions, or ask about a list of surnames, put them each in a separate message.

3.3   Are there special rules for surname queries?

Yes, indeed!  The Rules Review Committee has established the following guidelines:

  • Your Subject line should begin with the word "Searching:", followed by the surname typed in all capital letters.  For example:

    Searching: LEVINSON

    You might also add locality names and/or dates.  For example:

    Searching: LEVINSON, Grodno -> Detroit, MI 1906

  • Your Message should include the following information:

    • Where: the place from which family originated; place to which family emigrated.
    • When: the time period in question.
    • List the records you have already researched.
    • Specifically, state what it is you want to know.

It is never appropriate to present your entire family tree, or go into completely irrelevant and extraneous details.  Bear in mind that there is nothing so boring as the nitty-gritty of someone else's family lore, and many of our Australian, European and South American readers pay for incoming messages.

3.4   How should I respond to a query?

First, your own subject line must repeat the subject line of the original query, prefaced by "Re:".  You should never use the date or number of the digest as a subject line.

In your message, quote the relevant part of the original message, to make clear to which message you are responding.  Quote only just enough text of the original — it is not appropriate to quote the entire message, repeating the signature, the surnames being searched, and the tag lines inserted by our Listserver, etc.  Refer also to the name of the person who posted the original question.  Moderators are empowered to either reduce excessive quotes or reject the message entirely.

If your response is to a very limited question, such as "a match on a surname query", or the information that "you know of somebody with the same surname" being searched, respond only to the person who posted the question; do not post this reply to the entire group.

If your response is of general interest to the group, such as "a source of information", "the address of an archive", "a strategy for research", then respond to the entire group, as well as to the person asking the original question.

In either case, before responding, please read the question carefully and make certain that your answer is accurate, relevant and as complete as possible.  Responses such as "I think I saw that information, but I don't remember where" are of no value to anyone, in addition to being an annoyance to many.  If you can't formulate a reasonably complete and helpful answer, please don't send in anything.

Always re-read your response, checking for spelling and punctuation, and be sure to include as much information regarding the sources (even down to microfilm numbers if appropriate).  Remember, the expertise of the discussion group participants varies greatly, so keep your answer simple, clear and straightforward.

JewishGen reaches a global audience.  Many of our readers do not have English as their primary language, so while typing everything in lower case may seem "cool" it doesn't always insure effective communication.  You are expected to use proper upper and lower case format.  The use of slang and abbreviations are discouraged.  Remember also that many newcomers don't have a clue as to what "SSDI", "LOC", or "FHL" mean.  It is always proper to clarify an acronym by using a completely spelled out reference at least once in your post.

3.5   What should I do if private e-mail in response to a query bounces?

First, make absolutely sure that you copied the e-mail address correctly and completely.  Pay particular attention to the difference between the numerals "one" and "zero" and the letters "el" and "oh", as well as between the hyphen "-" and the underscore "_".  Carefully read the error message you have received.  Sometimes you are merely being informed of a delay and that delivery will be re-attempted within a specified time period.

If you have deleted the original post to which you are responding, please do not post a question to the entire list asking for the e-mail address until you have made every effort to find the original post, either in the JewishGen Discussion Group Message Archives, or in any search engine which can retrieve messages posted to soc.genealogy.jewish, such as When all else fails and you must rely on posting to the entire group, please explain why you are posting publicly.

3.6   What should I do after my query has been answered?

A general thank you to all who have helped is appropriate for posting to the entire list.  Please do not waste bandwidth by thanking people individually in separate messages.  If you have received answers that might be helpful to others, it is appropriate to post a summary, but not to burden everybody with all the details.

3.7   May I share a success story?

Of course.  Be sure to include the hints which enabled you to achieve success, so that others may benefit either from the advice you received or the strategies that you employed.  You can read about the successes of others at JewishGen Success! Stories.

4.   Form of Messages

4.1   What is the purpose of the Subject line?

The Subject line should be a specific short phrase capturing the essence of your message.  Many readers have less time to read messages than they would like, and will decide whether or not to look at your message based upon its Subject line.  The more accurate, informative and meaningful the Subject line is, the greater the chances of this message being read.

Generalities such as

  • "Genealogy question"
  • "Help needed"
  • "Names"
  • "Researching family"
  • "Vienna"
  • "Greenberg anyone?"
  • "My grandmother"
are absolutely useless, and will result in your message being rejected.  Moderators do not have the time to write proper subject lines for your messages, nor should they be expected to do so.

Some e-mail reader programs truncate the display of subject lines, so keep the subject line brief.

If you read the JewishGen Discussion Group via the e-mail digest, responding to a message in a particular digest by hitting the Reply button will bring up a reference to that digest, "Re: JewishGen Digest: 23 March 1999".  There is no point in sending it in this way, and your message will be rejected.  Please be sure to change the Subject line in this case.  In addition, many email programs will repeat the entire digest as part of your reply message!  The best strategy is to follow your email software's instructions for copying and pasting a portion of a message, open a new email form, write a proper subject line referencing the message to which you are responding, and then "paste" the portion of the message you want to quote, so that people will know to what you are responding.

Some pointers on writing effective subject lines:

  • If your question relates to a specific census, name the census — include when and where — e.g.: "1925 NY State census".
  • If you are seeking help translating a document, name the language, e.g.: "Need German translated".

A test of whether or not you have written an effective subject line is to ask yourself "does my subject line tell somebody exactly what it is I am trying to find out?"  If not, rewrite it!

4.2   What should the body of the message look like?

Our list server accepts straight US-ASCII ("Plain Text") only.  However, most e-mail programs send messages in HTML format as well.  This requires that moderators spend time deleting all HTML, embedded characters and other extraneous material that you do not see as you type the message.  It is your responsibility to inquire of your e-mail tech support how to send messages in straight ASCII "Plain Text" — so before posting to the list, be certain that you have your email program set correctly.  Turn off any HTML and/or MIME settings and be sure your 'word-wrap' feature is set to on.  Also, if your program has any type of 'stationary attachment' please turn it off.  Attachments are not to be posted to this forum under any circumstances.

See the JewishGen Support Center for specific information about how to send "Plain Text" format messages.

The number of letters across the line should not exceed 65, and that includes spaces between the words.  Lines longer than 65 characters often create awkward overflows which result in alternate lines taking the complete width of the screen and the following line containing only one or a few words.  This makes your message difficult to read and excessive in length.

To determine the width limited to 65 characters, you can make your own guide by typing a capital letter or a single number 65 times across the top of the page to see about where it ends.  Once you have an idea, you can narrow your e-mail screen to that width for many e-mail programs.  With some programs, the option to narrow the screen is not available, and even if you do, when the message is transmitted the program sends longer lines than what you have typed.  Your message in the JewishGen Discussion Group will print in that long line, short line pattern.  If it does you should get into the habit of creating a hard return (pressing ENTER) after every 65th character. (Older readers will remember this as a carriage return at the end of a line on those old machines we called typewriters.)  You'll need to explore the possibility of setting your 'word wrap' to 65 characters, or, if this is not a option in your email program remember to create hard returns as described above.

Finally, your message should be typed in proper upper and lower case letters, typing only the surnames being searched in all capital letters.  Sentences or messages typed all in capitals are considered to be impolite shouting and will be rejected by the moderators.

4.3   What should I put in my signature?

The signature should consist of:

  • your full name,
  • the city, state/province and country in which you live.

It may also include:

  • your Jewish Genealogical Society (JGS) affiliation, and
  • the URL of your own genealogy page.

If you are a professional genealogist, you are encouraged to include this information in your signature line, but non-genealogical professional affiliations or web pages will not be permitted.  These will either be deleted by the moderator or rejected.

The total length of the signature must not exceed 3 lines, 65 characters each in width (not including the surnames you are searching), and it must be free of graphics, high-ASCII characters and commercial, political, philosophical or "cutesy" sayings.  These contribute nothing but clutter.  The moderator will reject your message if you grossly violate this rule.  An example of an acceptable signature follows:

Herman Petrovich, professional genealogist, Montreal, Canada
Vice-president JGS Montreal
Family page:

4.4   Is it permissible to include a list of the names and towns I am searching?

Yes, providing you follow procedure:

  • surnames are to be in all capital letters,
  • towns in proper upper and lower case letters.

For identification of people with very common surnames (i.e.: Goldberg, Cohen, Levine), it is also a good idea to include the place of origin and to where and when the family or person you are searching emigrated.  For example:

"GOLDBERG Vienna, Austria -> Detroit, Michigan 1921"

Lists of surnames being searched may be no longer than six lines of text no wider than 65 characters.  Anything in excess of this will be deleted as excessive use of space.  If you are in the habit of sending in "laundry lists" of names being searched, please consider setting up as many six line lists which as you need.  Then, these can used in rotation.

5.   Questions and Complaints

5.1   What should I do if I'm not sure whether my message is acceptable?

If you are in doubt as to whether or not the message is acceptable, send it in, and if the moderator finds it unacceptable, it will rejected and a response message will be returned to you.  (Please do not put a note to the Moderator asking about this in your posted message.)

5.2   What should I do if others violate the rules?

You can always write to them directly, expressing your annoyance or concerns.  Public criticism has no place on JewishGen and will not be permitted.  Gentle suggestions and corrections are another matter as long as handled generally and not directed personally.

5.3   What do I do if I disagree with the Moderator?

If you disagree with a Moderator's decision regarding a message you submit or the decision to end a thread, you may write to the JewishGen Support Desk explaining why you are dissatisfied with the decision.  Support Desk volunteers will review the situation and reply, citing the specific section(s) of these Rules that are the basis for the decision.  Since Moderators also are guided by these Rules, it is expected that most of their decisions will be upheld.  Support desk decisions will govern; JewishGen does not have the means to set up an elaborate appeals system.

5.4   How are moderators selected?

Moderators are selected from a pool of volunteers who offer to serve.  Any JewishGen reader is always free to volunteer to serve as a member of the moderation team.  Depending on the traffic, the time involved is generally three to four hours a day, for several days each month.  The number of days per month depends on the number of current moderators available to work.  Anyone interested in being considered for service on the moderation team should contact the JewishGen Support Desk.

5.5   How are additional rules proposed?

If there is a rule that you feel would be appropriate, you are always free to suggest it to the JewishGen Support Desk.

Rules Review Committee (1998):

Judy Baston, San Francisco, CA, USA  ·  Warren Blatt, Boston, MA, USA  ·  Susana Leistner Bloch, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  ·  Lauren Eisenberg Davis, Reisterstown, MD, USA  ·  Ed Ehrlich, Jerusalem, Israel  ·  Sam Elpern, Thornton, CO, USA  ·  David Fielker, London, UK  ·  Robert W. Fraser, Perth, Western Australia  ·  Mike Hilson, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada  ·  Horacio Hirsch, Buenos Aires, Argentina  ·  Susan King, Houston, TX, USA  ·  Errol Kristal, formerly South Africa  ·  Mike Meshenberg, Chicago, IL, USA  ·  Barbara M. Niederhoff, Aurora, CO, USA  ·  Menno Nykerk, Amstelveen, Netherlands  ·  Charles Printz, Elizabeth, NJ, USA  ·  Vivianne Ship, Toronto, Canada  ·  Carol Skydell, Chilmark, MA, Laguna Hills, CA, USA  ·  Carl Ulrich, Peers, Alberta, Canada  ·  Henry Wellisch, Toronto, Canada  ·  James Werner, Barcelona, Spain.

Revision 3.01, June 9, 2000   WSB.
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