Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

smiley face balloon You know what “random acts of kindness” are. It’s when you do something nice for someone else, out of the blue, for no reason other than to make that person’s day a little brighter. You do this “just because”, and are not seeking any reward for the random act of kindness. If you are so inspired, you can put your genealogy skills to use in a random act of kindness for a complete stranger. Start by visiting the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website.

The Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, (RAOGK), website was started in 1999. It is a networking resource for researchers, and also for people who need help with a specific genealogy related task. RAOGK has over 4,000 volunteers located in every state in America, and also in many other countries around the globe. This makes it easier for the volunteers to freely give their time to look up a courthouse record, or to take a photograph of a tombstone, that is located nearby where the volunteer lives.

If you would like to volunteer your time in order to help a stranger to complete a small portion of his or her genealogy research, you should read over the frequently asked questions on the RAOGK website. This is the best way to get a full understanding of what is expected of a volunteer. In short, a volunteer can obtain a copy of a death record, marriage record, land record, will, baptismal records, military records, or obituaries. A volunteer may be asked to take a photo of a tombstone.

Volunteers are asked to refrain from looking up information that is located in books for people who request it. In general, a volunteer is going to physically go get a specific document or photograph of something that is nearby where the volunteer lives. The person who requested help lives too far away from that courthouse or cemetery to reasonably be able to travel there himself. The volunteer does a “random act of (genealogical) kindness” in order to help that person.

Do you need help with your genealogy research? Perhaps you could ask for a volunteer on the RAOGK website to help you. The time that the volunteer spends working on your genealogy task is absolutely free of charge. However, you will be asked to reimburse the volunteer for expenses like the cost of film or video, postage, printing fees, and the cost of copies of documents. Volunteer are also allowed to charge up to fifty cents per mile for travel expenses.

You can ask a volunteer for one or two things, concerning just one or two ancestors. The volunteer is giving you a helping hand, not doing all of your research for you. You may need to seek a professional genealogist for that kind of service. This is also not the way to find out about your birth parents. Volunteers can not look up a birth document about anyone who was born after 1930. You may need to seek the services of a lawyer, or a professional genealogist, in order to locate your birth parents.

Image by Candie_N on Flickr