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  1. How does the SIGS SURNAME REGISTRY work?
  2. How do I write a SURNAME ENTRY?
  4. What if I'm not sure about dates?
  5. Why can't I register a GIVEN NAME with a SURNAME?
  6. What about FOREIGN CHARACTERS like umlauts?
  7. In the Registry, why are some names and places in BOLD TYPE?
  8. How secure is my email address?
  9. How can I contact someone who's registered one of "my names"?
  10. Is the Registry limited to SIGS members only?
  11. How can I update my Surname Registration Information?
  12. Why isn't there a Registration Form?
  13. How do I register MY surnames?

 1.  How does the SIGS SURNAME REGISTRY work?

A researcher sends in a list of SURNAMES of INTEREST with the EARLIEST YEAR for each surname along with an idea of the LOCALITY (or localities) for that surname.  The contributor is then assigned a unique MEMBER NUMBER which appears with the information for those surnames. .  A visitor to the Registry page will notice that a participant is researching, say, his/her REID ancestry, and will be THRILLED to discover that not only is SSR Registrant #1234 researching that very same surname, but is also working on REIDs from Prince Edward Island who ended up in Boston!  The page visitor notes the Registrant Number and sends a response to sigs at using SSR-#1234 as the message header. The SSR project folks will then forward the message to Registrant #1234 who will, of course be EQUALLY thrilled to hear from another REID researcher! WOW! Instant Cousin!

 2.  How do I write a surname entry?

Here's an example - Martin REID, my Great-great grandfather, was born in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1804.  He came to Prince Edward Island before 1830.  His grandson (my own grandfather) emigrated to South Boston, MA.  So, my SSR entry for the REID surname would be ....

REID 1804 IRELAND, Kilkenny > CANADA, Prince Edward Island, Lot 34 > MA, Boston 1234

 3.  How will the Registry deal with alternate spellings?

My great great grandmother's name has appeared in records in the US and in Baden as both GRATZ and KRATZ.  So there's TWO entries for that family line in the SSR database -

GRATZ 1742 GERMANY, Baden, Burbach > MA, Boston 1234
KRATZ 1742 GERMANY, Baden, Burbach > MA, Boston 1234

 4.  I'm not sure of some "earliest dates" and I have no clue at all about some other dates!  What should I enter?

First of all, don't use "UNKNOWN" as the earliest year.  Guess-timate if you have to, and use "e" (for "estimate") after that guess-timated year!  Use "e" whenever you're not sure, or in place of "about". This gives a visitor to the Registry a clue as to the time period involved!

 5.  Why can't I register a GIVEN NAME with a surname?

GOOD question!  For this project, you will be describing the LINES or SURNAMES you are researching, not the individuals, so it makes no sense to include first names.

 6.  What about UMLAUTs and other foreign characters?

For the time being, just ignore umlauts, wiggly things over the letter "n", etc.  Later on, if we need to, we can amend those entries.

 7.  In looking at the Registry, I noticed that some names and places are in BOLD type. Why?

Persons researching in Snohomish and Island Counties will be pleased to note that surnames located in those counties are entered in BOLD.  We want to encourage folks researching in both counties to participate in the Registry!

 8.  I don't feel comfortable about putting my email address on web pages because I'm concerned about getting  a lot of spam.

Well, the SIGS Surname Registry is about as safe as it can be. Each participant is assigned a unique ID number, and that number is the only information about you that will appear on ANY of the project pages. The only persons who have your name and email address are the SSR Project Staff, and we are VERY serious about security. People who respond to YOUR surname entries will NEVER get your name or email address. Inquiries will be emailed to you by the Project Staff, and it is YOUR decision to reply or not.

 9.  I'm SO EXCITED! I just found the surname REID in the SIGS Surname Registry! That's one of "my surnames"! How can I contact #1234, the person that registered that name?

You want to write a First Contact Message that will get results! Here's some ideas:

First, for the message header, you'll use SSR-1234-REID. Putting "SSR" in the header lets the recipient know that you found his/her email address in the SIGS Surname Registry and that your message is NOT spam. Each submitter has registered a plethora of surnames; by specifying in the message header exactly WHICH surname has tweaked your interest, you've made it much easier for the submitter to reply.

Next, as a general rule, it's best to limit the number of surnames discussed in each message to one or two. More than that can be a bit confusing for the recipient, and THAT is the person who just might have the information you really need!

NEVER attach a GEDCOM, an image or a text file to this first contact message. Many people delete email from someone they don't know if the message has an attachment. It's always best to introduce yourself first, tell how the target surname fits into your research and offer to send that GEDCOM or image file ONLY if the recipient gives you the go-ahead.

Finally, send this First Contact Message to sigs at , and the SSR team will forward your message to Registrant 1234 (who, I can assure you, will be MOST thrilled to hear from A New REID Cousin!)

10.  Is the Registry for SIGS Members only?

In the beginning, only SIGS members could submit surnames for the SSR.  Now members of ALL Snohomish County and Island County genealogical and historical societies can contribute information about the surnames they're researching!  The local research community has been invited to participate as well - folks who volunteer at area Family History Centers, participants in SIGS workshops and classes, etc.  Remember - the SIGS Surname Registry is on our website, and anyone can view and respond to the information contained in the Registry data file.

        11.  Uh-oh - what if I need to change some of the information I've sent to the SSR?  What if my email address changes?

Oh, we've got THAT situation covered!  If you have changes in information OR you have a new email address, simply send a message to  sigs at, with SSR-UPDATE as the message header.  Be sure to include your SSR ID number in the message.

12.  Why isn't there a nice tidy little form for me to fill out and email?

Well, the SSR Project Manager figures that it would be easier for her to keep track of multiple surname submissions if all the names were contained in a single email message. Since there are only THREE fields for each surname, it shouldn't be too hard to send in multiple surnames. (See the sample below)

13.  OK, you talked me into it! How can I participate in the SIGS Surname Registry?

This is SO EASY!  Make a list of the SURNAMES that you are researching, with the EARLIEST DATE and LOCALITIES for each surname and email the list  to  sigs at  using SSR-NEW as the message header.  An example  -  the list submitted by "Researcher Cathy" looked like this -

1st YEAR 1819e
LOCALITY from Scotland to Ontario, Canada to No Dakota to Saskatchewan, Canada to Hood River, OR to Port Angeles, WA

1st YEAR 1739e
LOCALITY from Perth, Scotland to New York to Pennsylvania to Texas to Calif to Washington

1st YEAR 1750
LOCALITY from Virginia to Kentucky to Macon Co, Missouri to Billings, Montana to Tumwater, WA

When the Project Staff received the email from "Researcher Cathy", they  assigned a SSR REGISTRANT'S CODE NUMBER, 2345, to each of the 3 SURNAMES, and sent Researcher Cathy a confirmation message with her new CODE NUMBER.  The new surname lines were coded and uploaded to the Registry.  This is what they looked like -

BROWN 1819e SCOTLAND > CAN > Ontario > ND > CAN, Sask > OR > WA, Port Angeles 2345
BUCHANAN 1739e SCOTLAND, Perth > NY > PA > TX > CA > WA 2345
GABBERT 1750 VA > KY > MO, Macon Co > MT, Billings > WA, Tumwater 2345

When it's time to add new surnames (or change information on existing surnames), Researcher Cathy will email the new surnames (or changes) to sigs at, using SSR-UPDATE as the message header and will confirm her identity by including her REGISTRANT NUMBER, 2345 in her message.

Any questions or concerns not addressed in this FAQ?  Let us know - sigs at  with SSR-QUESTIONS as the header.

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