Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy

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How to write requests for family history certificates, church record, and genealogical documents.


Be brief and simple. Do not ask for too much at one time. Do not use this guide as the letter itself! That might insult the recipient and lessen the chance of a reply. Your letter should include:

  • the date (at the top)
  • the name and address of the addressee
  • greeting
  • brief introduction
  • biographical information about your relative
  • short, specific, genealogical request
  • referral request(s)
  • comment about payment
  • closing remarks
  • your signature
  • your return address (including your country).

Greetings

1. Dear Sir or Madam:
2. Dear Pastor:


Introductions

3. I am researching my ancestors and need information from your records.
4. My ancestors come from (fill in locality). I would like to know more about them.
5. The following individual is my ancestor (explain exactly how you are descended from or related to the person). Below is all the information I have about this person:

Biographical Information

6. Include as many of these facts as you know:

a. Given name and surname:
b. Date of birth:
c. Place of birth:
d. Father's given name and surname:
e. Mother's given name and surname:
f. Husband's given name and surname:
g. Wife's given name and maiden surname:
h. Date of marriage:
i. Place of marriage:
j. Date of death:
k. Place of death:
l. Date of emigration:
m. Religion:
Roman Catholic
Protestant (Lutheran)
Reformed
Jewish

Genealogical Requests

7. Could you please check your birth registers from (fill in year) to (fill in year) for the birth or christening record of this person?
8. Please send me a complete extract of the birth or christening record (1) of this person. (2) of these persons.
9a. Please send me a complete extract of the marriage record (1) of this person. (2) of this person's parents.
9b. Please send me a copy of the marriage record of this person.
10a. I believe that (fill in name) died in your locality about (fill in year). I would like a complete extract of the death record.
10b. Please send me a copy of the death record of this person.
10c. Could you please check your records to see whether there are probate records for this person. If so, please send me photocopies of the complete probate packet
11. I would like to know more about the family of this person. I would be grateful if you would provide the names and birth dates of the brothers and sisters and an extract of the marriage record of the parents.
12. I would like to locate any relatives who may live in (fill in town). My ancestor was (fill in name). If you know any relatives of the family, I would be grateful if you would give this letter to them so that they can contact me.
13. Please send me a copy of the family information on (fill in husband's name) and (fill in wife's name). They were married (1) (fill in date). (2) approximately (fill in date).
14. For my family research I need information from the Jewish records of births, marriages, and deaths from your community. Do you know where such records were kept and where they are presently located?
15. Would you please inform me if it is possible to obtain photocopies from your records and tell me the cost of such copies?


Referral Requests

16. If you do not have the necessary records, could you provide the address of the place where the records can be found?
17. If you are unable to do this research for me, could you please recommend a local researcher that I could hire for this purpose?

Payment

18. To cover your expenses, I am enclosing $10.00. Please let me know if your fee requires me to send more.
19. Please let me know the cost of your help and how I can pay.


Closing Remarks and Return Address

20. I thank you in advance for your help.
21. Sincerely,
22. My address:


Follow-up

23. Thank you for the information you sent on (fill in date). It has helped me very much.
24. I need further information about one of the individuals you mentioned in your letter: (fill in name).
25. I have already received from you the following information about this person:
26. I am enclosing a copy of a letter I sent you on (fill in date). Please write and tell me if you can do this research.

EXAMPLE LETTER

Date

20 Juli 1993

Addressee

The DHHS Office of Vital Records
1033 "O" Street, Suite 130
Lincoln, NE

Greeting

Dear Sir or Madam, ,

Introduction

I am researching my ancestors and need information from your records.

Genealogical Request

Please send me a complete extract of the birth record of Martha Bond..

Biographical Information
Given name and surname: Martha Bond
Date of birth: about 1884
Place of birth: Lincoln County, Nebraska
Father's given name and surname: Harold Bond
Mother's given name and surname: Margaret


Referral Requests

If you do not have the necessary records, could you provide the address of the place where the records can be found?

Payment

To cover your expenses, I am enclosing $10.00. Please let me know if your fee requires me to send more.

Closing

Thank you in advance for your help.

Sincerely


Signature
Return
Address

My address:


Jane Doe
674 "Q" Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84103 USA