Most genealogists have this in common – The excitement they feel from doing volunteer work, hoping to help others find out more about their ancestors and to feel that same thrill of discovery. Over the next little while we will be taking an in-depth look at some of the main volunteer resources on the web and how best to navigate and use them.
The first website we will be discussing is Raogk.org. RAOGK stands for Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness. In the website’s own words:
“Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) was established in 1999 as a resource for networking among researchers. RAOGK links researchers who need documents from a distant location with others able to obtain them.”
It is a wonderful concept, especially for young mothers like myself. I am not able to travel much at this stage in my life and I have frequently turned to the volunteers at Raogk.org to secure documents or copies of things I could not obtain at this point otherwise.
The website portal has confused some people I know so I’ll explain briefly how it works. There is no button on the front page that takes you directly to the volunteer pages. Instead there is a paragraph titled, Looking for a volunteer? and within that paragraph is a link that says, Frequently Asked Questions. You must click on this link, and at the bottom of the page you are taken to you will see a button that says Let’s go find a Volunteer! Click on that button.
The main volunteer page is indexed by states within the U.S. and below that, Countries. After you have clicked on a Country or one of the U.S. States you will find volunteers indexed by county, region or area. Next to that will be a volunteer’s name along with the Act of Kindness they are willing to perform. Be sure to read carefully about what they are volunteering to do. You may not get a response if you ask someone who has only specified they will take headstone pictures, to look up an obituary for you. Once you have chosen which volunteer to contact, you will click on their name which will then take you to a form to fill out and send. If you haven’t received a response within two weeks you can try again and if a response still hasn’t been given you can contact the RAOGK administrators to let them know the person you tried to reach may no longer have a valid email address.
The website is free of charge and is still growing. New volunteers are added every day so check your places of interest often. It is also free to volunteer yourself. I am able to do a small amount of volunteer work on the Maryland page and it has been a positive, enjoyable experience. I have also had great success with volunteers who have gotten obituaries, probate records and headstone photos for me. It has proven to be an invaluable resource and I hope it will be for you too.