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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Genealogy Volunteerism

Most of us were taught from birth it seems, that it is better to give than receive. But as a genealogist, its hard to imagine anything better than receiving, when that means getting golden tidbits of family information from someone you don't know who lives far away. Imagine the joy of the giver, though, in those situations, to be able to provide someone with the key that unlocks their family history or mystery!

Volunteer opportunities abound in the genealogical world, and one of the tenants of professional genealogists is to give back to the genealogical community in some fashion. Off the top of my head, I can list several easy ways that anyone, at absolutely any skill or available time level, can be a genealogical volunteer:

1. Indexing. Spend a few minutes whenever you have the chance, or get addicted to it and index for hours a day, and help the folks at index those few million microfilms they have stored in their vaults, so that they can in turn post the records as they are indexed, for the public to search, and find! Sign up at

2. Library Volunteer. Head on down to the genealogy department at your local library, or historical society, and volunteer to help out maybe an hour a week, or more. There's always something that needs an extra hand, or even just a living body to keep a chair warm. Local Family History Centers are almost always looking for volunteers to help out with a shift. Both are a great way to learn the resources you have available in your area, and help other people get excited about their family history at the same time.

3. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. Sign up as a volunteer at if you have access to any special records or books for a particular area or interest, that you'd be willing to help others with. Maybe you live near a library with a great obituary collection, or maybe you have a shelf full of transcribed county court records at home. Sign up, describe what you have to offer, and sooner or later someone will thank you profusely.

4. Books-We-Own.
Very similar to RAOGK, Books-we-own is specifically a book look-up volunteer site, and is hosted by Sign up and list the books you have on your personal bookshelf that you're willing to do look-ups in, and be ready to provide someone with that one piece of information that rocks their world.

5. US GenWeb projects. US Gen Web is always looking for folks to either host state or county sites, or at least add to their collection of information. Check out the opportunities at

6. Share Your Knowledge on a Wiki. Know some great websites for specific state, county, or even town records? Know the best way to find vital records for a particular area? Share your knowledge and help build a genealogical "wiki" on the web. My current personal favorite is hosted by Sign in, then go to the areas of your "expertise", and add your ideas.

I'd love to hear any other ideas for volunteer opportunities for genealogists!

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