Friday, August 14, 2009
Hats off to Genealogy volunteers !
Say the words "genealogy volunteer" to a genealogist, and note the twinkle in his/her eyes...
Because genealogists are all hungry for new information of all types.
But, there are many obstacles to finding information.One of these is distance. Finding information or documents when you live far away, or are physically or even financially unable to do a research trip is a big challenge.
Enter stage left, the genealogy volunteer, who does this just to help others, and advance their genealogy.
I have a many a reason to use their kind services ( and I will share my fav websites);First being that distance reason... I live in France and my research is East coast based ! I very rarely have the possibilty to do my research in Schuylkill county or Philadelphia.
Some volunteers can go to town hall and make a copy of a certificate; yet others do look ups on microfilm for newspaper obits or go to cemeteries to take photos of gravestones. Still other can do copies of genealogy books that can contain valuable information.
All do incredible services for either free or at minimal costs because these people live in or near your research areas.
Just a practical note to keep in mind : Volunteers will not do your genealogy research in your place. Just search information on a punctual basis.
And your success with volunteers will depend a lot on the information that you provide them. You will need complete dates to order certifcates, and likewise to do a newspaper obit search.
I don't know how many volunteers would have the patience to go through a whole month's or year's newpapers or birth registers, with just a sketchy date in hand.
As for photographing a gravestone, if you are not sure of plot information, write to the cemetery office in question before asking for a grave photograph. Having the exact plot number will avoid a lot of unescessary plodding about, esp in the often large urban cemeteries.
Here are my favorites which have helped me more than once : RAOGK ( Random acts of Genealogical kindness).
The top of it's kind, which has volunteers in all 50 states and overseas.
Click on the above link and follow their online instructions to see if a volunteer could help you.
If you are searching for a newspaper obit, you must try the Obituary look up volunteers page by Rootsweb. Click on the state that interests you, then scroll down to see the available counties.Follow the instructions, including number of requests.
I have had some good luck with both these genealogy services.
Another volunteer website that I found ( but have no direct experience with) is at Genlookups.
If you are just beginning your research and have little information, these may not (yet) be what you need.
If you are courageous to research by yourself( Congratulations !), you are better beginning with ancestry dot com or going to the National archives, to start accessing US census records. Logicically starting with the generations NEAREST to you- 1930 is the most recent US Census year, which corresponds to the generation of either your parents/grandparents.
Otherwise, hire a serious genealogist who will do the first steps for finding family records.
I think it's wonderful for these genealogy volunteers to give some of their spare time for the rest of us. Don't forget a "Thank you" also, even when s/he has researched and finds nothing; We all love to win but it doesn't happen all the time...
Barbara says :
"Better to have searched and have a negative result, than not trying and never knowing "
Once again, "hats off to you all, wonderful genealogy volunteers ! "