By Kimberly Brown, Family Historian
Have you ever found new genealogy information on OneGreatFamily.com, FamilySearch.org, USGenWeb.com, or RootsWeb.com? Have you ever used cemetery records or church records? Have you ever stumbled upon a family tree that a distant relative had compiled and posted online? If so, you have been the beneficiary of genealogy volunteer work.
There are dozens of organizations and countless individuals who donate their time and money to make genealogical records available to others. City and county genealogical societies preserve local sexton’s records and newspapers, and they compile county and city histories that contain genealogical information. There are also state and national organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Mayflower Society. Their local chapters meet regularly and publish genealogies. Some Boy Scout troops do genealogy work; they even transcribe entire cemeteries. There are also dedicated researchers who publish their findings to share with others.
Many people start volunteering out of a sense of gratitude. They want to give back to the genealogical community. Genealogy volunteer work, however, not only benefits others; it benefits you. As you do volunteer work, you are sharpening your genealogical skills and gaining valuable experience. You can network and meet fellow researchers who may be able to help you in your work later on. If you are lucky, the volunteer work that you do may directly include your own family’s research.
There are many different ways that you can volunteer. To start, you can join your local genealogical society or attend one of their meetings to find out about records preservation projects that are being done locally. To find your town’s genealogical society, all you have to do is inquire at your public library or courthouse.
If you like old cemeteries, you can volunteer with the US GenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project. As a volunteer, you visit cemeteries and make a record of what is written on the tombstones. Then the records are made available online so that researchers who are too far away to visit the cemetery can have access to them.
If you don’t have a lot of time to commit to volunteering, there is still work you can do. To volunteer for FamilySearch Indexing (familysearchindexing.org) or the Immigrant Ancestors Project (immigrants.byu.edu), all you need is a computer. For these projects, original census records and ship passenger lists are digitized. Then volunteers go online and extract the information on the records. Then the extractions are posted online so that anyone can access them for free. As a volunteer for one of these organizations, you can just extract a record whenever you have a spare fifteen minutes.
One of the best ways that you can help others is to share what you find. If an interview leads you to find more family history information, share the information with the person that you interviewed. If you have compiled your genealogy work, share it! Distribute copies of your work within your family, and post it online on OneGreatFamily and other family history websites.
Doing genealogy volunteer work can only help you in your research. The relationships you’ll build with other researchers, the research and extraction experience you’ll gain, and the willingness of others to help you in your work all make genealogy volunteering worthwhile.