Don’t get me wrong, I don’t give with the expectation of getting. You see, I’m a volunteer, and I don’t volunteer for just anything, I’m a Genealogy Volunteer!
I first discovered Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness many years ago. I lived in the Mountains of California and all of my ancestors were from mid-state Pennsylvania. I had a real problem, didn’t I? Although, we took yearly trips to the area, I could not possibly do all the research necessary in a couple of days a year. Think mid to late 1990′s were there were not the number of genealogy sites on the internet!
We had come back from a vacation on the East Coast, and I had found information about my g-g-g-g-grandmother who had died in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I wrote every conceivable site asking somebody, just anybody, if they would look for an obituary for me. I had the exact place and date of death. Absolutely, no response from any list whatsoever! The next year, that was the first thing I looked for . . . .and found. No problem!
Then I found RAOGK and immediately put my name in to volunteer. I used the service ocassionally to get a record or two, but my first experience taught me the importance of another willing to be the eyes and/or legs of somebody many miles away.
I then discovered Find A Grave and whenever I get a few extra minutes upload headstones. I love going to cemeteries and looking for others as well. I find myself in cemeteries I would not ordinarily go to. I’ve been in a Friends Cemetery, a Mennonite Cemetery, and a Catholic Cemetery, just to name a few denominations. I’ve been in overgrown, deserted cemeteries, and well-manicured and beautifully maintained cemeteries. Some headstones I’ve found and some I haven’t. But I know, deep inside, that I’ve tried. I’ve disappointed a few people and made the day for others.
Last summer a genealogy friend in Chicago told me about indexing for Family Search and I’ve been doing that ever since. Since I am not a stare-at-the-TV type of person, I must be doing something while I’m watching TV. I used to play FreeCell, Cross-Craze, or type obituaries into my database. Now I index for Family Search. While I haven’t indexed as many records as a lot of people, I have indexed over 5K names and I’m delighted I’m giving back to the community.
Since we recently moved into The City and it took awhile to get settled, things slowed down a bit. I no longer volunteered at my Church (Lititz Moravian) and no longer volunteered at the Historical Society in a neighboring community because of the distance. My New Year’s Resolution was to volunteer somewhere and I picked Lancaster County Historical Society. I can walk there since it is less than a mile away and they can always use volunteers. I now volunteer in the Library every Friday and one Saturday a month.
That is what I give. What do I get in return?
- RAOGK: I’ve been able to get obituaries and in one case every conceivable record on my ancestor on the County level because the volunteer worked for the County! I’ve had people I’ve helped ask me if there was anything they could do for me in return and by golly she found baptismal and death records for me!
- Find-A-Grave: Death dates! After volunteers have posted the pictures, I found death dates!
- Family Search Indexing: I thought my g-g-g-g-grandfather’s sister had died after she was baptized. Last record I could find for her. Nope, she had married (I don’t know where) and moved to Ohio. I found her name on her son’s death certificate!
- LCHS: Not only to I have the satisfaction of helping others, I’ve had the opportunity to find out just exactly what records and/or books there are in this awesome facility! Has that helped my genealogy? You bet it has! Besides I work alongside of some of the neatest and most knowledgeable people!
Ever planned on volunteering and not got around to it? Do it! You’ll be a better person for it and glad you did. It doesn’t take that much time and the rewards far outweigh the time and work (if you call it that!) involved.