Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
The term bounced e-mail is used to describe an e-mail message that has been sent but does not reach its destination and is returned or "bounced" back. There are many reasons that an e-mail could bounce. Very much like a regular letter, e-mail is sent from one mail server (post office) to another. If the receiving mail server has predetermined it will not accept messages from the originating mail server, the message will be rejected and will be bounced back to the sender. This may occur if the sending mail server is associated with sending SPAM, which is basically junk mail. The individual recipient may also set up his or her personal e-mail preferences to reject messages from a particular domain (or user) or that domain's mail server. A bounce may occur, also, if a server is busy,; if the recipient's "mail box" is at its capacity and can no longer receive e-mail; or if the recipient address does not exist, either because it is a bogus address to begin with or the user id is not longer valid. The message that accompanies a bounced e-mail will typically indicate why the message bounced, so you will know whether to try again or realize it's being sent to the wrong address. CAUTION: Beware of bogus e-mails that have the appearance of a bounced message, but sales pitches or viruses in disguise. A rule of thumb is 1) never reply to bounced back message; never click on any links within a bounced message; and never, never download an attachment in a bounced message or any message you are not specifically expecting. Legitimate bounced e-mail messages are sent for your information only and do not require you to take any action.
In genealogy, having an e-mail bounced back can be like having the lottery check sent to the wrong address. If Mary cannot reach you, she cannot share with you her information, and vice versa. E-mail addresses are subject to change. Anytime a person moves or changes internet network providers (ISP), the e-mail address can change. So maintaining a current e-mail address is important for researchers who wish to participate in online genealogical communities, including message boards, newsgroups, and other social networks. It is also important to check your e-mail preferences to make sure the people and domains you wish to receive e-mail from are not blocked; to periodically check your SPAM filters for anything that may have been inadvertently blocked. It is also important that you do not "store" messages on your mail server; rather, download them to your computer and delete what you do not wish to keep. Pictures, especially, take up a lot of space and can put your mailbox at capacity in a hurry. If someone is sending you a lot of pictures, have them sent a few at a time with some time in between, giving you time to download the files before others are sent.