Tuesday Tip: Genealogy Volunteering

Since I’ve been tied up with the class I’m currently taking, I’ve admittedly been slacking in the blog department. I wanted to make sure to share a tip for this week. What better way to get acquainted with genealogical terms and processes than to participate in genealogy volunteering?

I have been volunteering my time for genealogy causes for about a year now and it has helped me in many ways. Here are a few ways to get involved:

Records Transcription: With organizations scanning thousands of original documents every day, there is a great need for transcription services. Transcribing consists of typing out hand-written documents to be indexed and searchable on the web. For transcription opportunities, I recommend the following:

  • FamilySearch.org Family Search is volunteer-run, so you can be sure you’re helping a company that truly needs the help (it’s not to say that transcribing for a paid service is a bad thing as it’s all for a good cause, but I personally prefer volunteering through this site). Family Search requires you to download a program which allows you to easily transcribe documents. They also pre-categorize the material from a transcription difficulty standpoint. If you’re just starting out, a beginner’s project would be perfect for you. You can do as little or as much as you’d like with no required time commitments, which makes it pressure-free.  Click here for more information.
  • New England Historic Genealogical Society – [Disclaimer: I’m an NEHGS member] While I’ve only visited their Boston Headquarters once, this place is such a beautiful and valuable place to do research both on and offline. NEHGS is always working on great projects, but one that caught my eye was the Boston-based historical Catholic Records initiative. NEHGS is digitizing Boston Archdiocese parish records from 1789-1900 and there is so much valuable information to go through. This volunteer work is done manually and you must have a certain number of hours available per month. You work directly with a volunteer lead and submit your work manually as well. I have enjoyed working on this project and look forward to when it is complete.  ] There are additional projects to work on that may pique your interest.  Click here for more info on volunteering with NEHGS.

Cemetery Information/Photo Gathering:

  • FindAGrave.com – This was one I held off volunteering for until yesterday actually. I’ve found Find A Grave to be an invaluable resource in my research. New grave photos and information is added every day, which allows people from around the world to break their brick walls and obtain more definitive information on their ancestors. Yesterday I was in Malden, Massachusetts visiting a relative. I realized that the cemetery of my great grandmother and grandfather was nearby. They had emigrated from Italy long ago and were buried in Malden. As I visited Forest Dale Cemetery, I realized that this cemetery was far bigger than I had ever imagined. As I began to look around for the “Forti” headstone, I saw many others and quickly checked the Find A Grave app to see if any of them were listed. Nearly all of them weren’t. I began to take photos of several headstones and later uploaded them onto the site, along with the associated information. Since several people were listed on many headstones, I was able to add a whopping 85 memorials to the site. I remember the gratitude I felt when I saw someone had uploaded many of my ancestor’s graves to the site, so I’m hoping that I’m able to help others in their search by doing the same.  Another helpful tool available on the site is the ability to list where you are located and enable alerts for people who are looking for a photo to be taken nearby. This way, you will know that there is a specific request and have a chance to fulfill it for someone.
  • BillionGraves.com – This site works much like FindAGrave.com.  Each site requires that any photo you take on one site, cannot be used on another, so your best bet is to pick the one you prefer and stick with it (unless you have infinite amounts of time of course)!

While I have to personally take a temporary hiatus from genealogy volunteering (until I complete my course), I look forward to helping more in the future. Digging into these resources and understanding the background of them by volunteering is an invaluable opportunity to strengthen your skills.  It’s also helping others, so all-in-all, it’s a win-win!

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