The Internet has opened up new vistas of opportunity for genealogists to find information about their ancestry. Online forums and discussion boards are helpful web tools that you can use to help you in your research pursuits.
A discussion board, or forum, is the contemporary equivalent of a physical bulletin board where you post your thoughts and ideas about a given subject and get responses from others on the forum. The discussion board provides you with ways to interact with others pursuing the same kinds of information you are, and you will often find great information there to assist you in your genealogy studies.
With most Internet discussion boards, you are required to register on the site before you are allowed to post there. You must first confirm your age and then agree to the terms of service of the forum. Afterwards, a web form is provided in which you select a username and password and provide a valid e-mail address. Your username can, of course, be relatively anonymous and does not have to indicate your true identity. A confirmation e-mail is sent to your web address and then when you reply, you are re-directed back to the discussion board and you can begin posting there. Typically, these forums allow you to receive private messages from other members, post responses to threads on the board and interact with other members.
Moderators or administrators on the website govern the discussion board and ensure that the policies and terms of service are adhered to. They also handle any technical problems that may arise. The moderators also ensure that members follow basic rules of conduct, also known as "netiquette." Essentially, these rules relate to basic politeness and general comportment in dealings with other forum users.
A post is a user-submitted comment that appears on the discussion board. The post contains your username, the time and date of the post and your comments. Then, others on the board respond to your post.
A thread is a unit of posts all discussing the same subject, beginning with the oldest to the newest response. The thread becomes a kind of dialogue in which many users can ask questions and interact with each other.
The most important genealogical contribution that discussion boards make is that they offer a way for researchers to build a community with others pursuing the same ends. By interacting on the forum, you develop relationships with others and share ideas with them. This can help everyone build better family histories and can reveal new possibilities for research.
If, for example, you are looking for information on a particular family, you can post it in the forum, and other users can respond and give you resources or assistance to help you in your search.