There are many ways to let people know you are searching for a specific family: Submit information to specialized ethnic or geographic genealogy sites, join discussion groups or send letters to everyone you find with your name.
The Southern California Genealogical Society (Burbank, California) has a good idea.
The SCGS has just launched a free Virtual Surname Wall that anyone can inscribe with their unique names and origins.
It's simple (and free) to write your names on the Wall, and more than 1,000 people from around the world have already joined in. To see if any of your surnames of interest are listed, click on the link "Search the Virtual Surname Wall," at the SCGS homepage.
Once you're there, search by surname, location, Submitter ID or any combination of these parameters.
Features: The site is a "begins with" search, which means that if you search for the last name TAL, you'll also get TALALAY, TALL, TALMADGE, etc.. There are also good search tips.
To enter your names, click on the link "Add Your Surnames." For each name submit the following information:
1. Surnames including spelling variations
2. Geographic area where they lived or the migration path, indicated like this example, Paris -> New York. SCGS asks that geographic information be listed in this order: city, county, state and country. Abbreviations such as two-letter codes for US states should NOT be used to avoid confusion.
3. For time frame, DO use abbreviations (such as approx., abt., or ca.) to indicate approximate timelines.
Visitors may submit as many names as they desire. Each entry screen accepts up to 10 names, but visitors can enter multiple screens. If a message appears saying "the survey has already been completed," just click "take the survey again" and continue adding names.
The Wall is not limited to just California; researchers from around the world are encouraged to submit their names of interest.
I am also impressed by the privacy options offered. Submitters' contact details are not displayed online, and submitters have the options to allow the SCGS to release only an email contact, or full details, or to have SCGS serve as the intermediary in the event they receive an inquiry regarding a possible connection. This is a reassuring way to deal with differing comfort levels.
Participation is voluntary and free and the society asks submitters to let their colleagues, friends and family know that they can also write on the Wall.
As entries are added to the database, the Virtual Surname Wall will become a more valuable resource. And with the publicity this innovation is garnering, check back often to see if you find a match.
Some statistics prove it is catching on: On Friday, January 18, there were some 1,500 visitors and about 5,000 page loads. However, as the genealogy world learned about the Wall - thanks to the genealogy bloggers, the following Monday saw nearly 6,000 visitors and almost 21,000 page loads.
There's also a handy widget that shows where visitors live. Go to the site, scroll to the bottom right hand corner for a world map showing red dots, which represent visitors to the site since January 9; click for a larger version.
Readers in California and neighboring states might be interested in the SCGS Jamboree, set for June 27-29. This excellent regional conference grows every year; some 30 experts will speak this year. Last year, about 1,200 researchers attended; more are anticipated this year. To learn more, go to the SCGS homepage; click on the Jamboree link to learn more about the program, the speakers and for registration details. SCGS has also launched a Jamboree conference blog; for more information.
Good luck in your quest. I look forward to reading your questions and comments.