I’ve been obsessed with genealogy now for four decades. Through those years, I’ve learned from many people and have gotten some expert help from people who freely volunteered their time and shared their talents.
Because of their generosity, I’ve experienced more research success than I had ever dreamed possible when I first started down the family tree trail and I like to return the kindness by helping others.
There are many people working on the family history who only “take” and I don’t mean that in a bad way, as most are very thankful for suggestions and guidance they receive.
If more people “gave” genealogical thanks, imagine how many more records might be available online and how many more people might seriously take up the pursuit of learning about their ancestors.
Here are ten ways that we can all give back to a community that is so generous with its time and expertise.
1. FamilySearch – Did you know that you can index records for FamilySearch? Before you say you don’t have the time or the skills, know that YOU choose your project, which can be as small as one short set of records. If you try it and like it, you can choose more projects. If you are afraid that you might make mistakes indexing, your work will be vetted for accuracy. Think about how many more indexed records would be available if everybody who used the website indexed just one set of records!
3. Facebook has tons of genealogically oriented groups. Katherine Willson diligently updates her PDF list, which now has 380 pages of groups that tie into genealogy research. Join a group or two that ties in with your own research interests and in which you have enough expertise to offer suggestions. I’ve had great success with the Danish-American Genealogy group, as Danes have helped translate records for me and I’ve helped others find the “missing” branch in their own family trees, collateral lines who emigrated to America.
4. Book donations – Do you have genealogically-themed books which you no longer need? If your local genealogy society has a library, would it like to have them? Books that are very specific to one location can be offered to a local library in that town. Also, if the book is an uncommon title and FamilySearch or the DAR Library doesn’t have a copy in their collections, they might welcome the donation.
5. Local Genealogy Societies – Do you belong to a local genealogy society? Offer a bit of your time and/or talents. Societies need more members than just officers to help out, although they would love to have you offer to serve in an office. Is there a topic about which you could give a presentation? Is there a society fundraiser coming up when you could man a table? Is there a remote from-home project in which you could participate? Ask and you might be surprised at the variety of tasks that can be completed by volunteers.
6. So far, all of my suggestions have cost but some time and energy. This one, though, is one of my very favorites and I do spend small amounts of money to accomplish this. I hate to see orphaned vintage photos sitting in antique stores or on EBay when the photo subjects and places are clearly identified. I regularly troll online websites looking for inexpensive photos (usually under $5, but occasionally up to $10). I do some quick research to see if I can easily find descendants. If so, I bid on the photo and when I receive it, write a short note to the recipient explaining that I am sending them a photo of their (whoever) ancestor/s and hope that they will care for it and pass it on to other family members. Often, I find that the photo subjects have no descendants and I sadly pass over those. I do this activity several times a year so it isn’t costly to me and most of the recipients have thanked me profusely.
7. If you like to write and have basic computer skills, think about writing a blog to share your family stories and “how to” knowledge. WordPress and Blogger both have free versions and are easy to use. Believe me, I am not a techie person and, with the help of a “book for dummies” I’ve been blogging now for six years and love it. If you don’t want to blog, at least share your family stories with your relatives so they aren’t lost to time.
8. Volunteer at your local HISTORICAL society or county archives if you have one. They don’t have nearly as high a public profile as a genealogy society or public library, but there are many ways in which you can help out.
9. Share your knowledge. TEACH a class or skill or give a demonstration. I’m a retired teacher and ten years ago, I started a genealogy class because there was no local genealogy society here in Tucson. I teach the class monthly and create short handouts with information. There are about a dozen members, who have changed through the years as some have moved away and others moved to Arizona. I’m not suggesting you take on a ten-year project (unless you want to!), but do consider writing an article on some aspect of genealogy research for your society newsletter, give a demonstration of your software program if that is a strength for you, participate in a question and answer session at a meeting. Just contribute something in some way.
10. If you are unable to give your time right now, but can afford to make a cash donation to a genealogy group or organization of your choice, they will likely be quite grateful. I’ve never heard of an organization that can’t use more money!
How Will You Give Back to the Genealogy Community?