Or "Rednecks, Amateur Genealogy and Helping Others"
by Uncle Hiram
I am by nature a get involved kind of person, it doesn't matter if it's kids' softball, local politics or my latest hobby. I am one of the people always volunteering to do more. When I first caught the genealogy bug (My sweet blonde calls it an obsession), I got a ton of help from people I barely knew. As time went by I became aware of the plethora (Nice word aint it, I had to look it up), of free online genealogy sites. Rootsweb, CyndisList, USGenWeb, the Golden Gates Genealogy Forum, StateGenSites, and GenealogyToday are mostly staffed by volunteers. People who set aside a few hours a week or month to monitor a mailing list or update a webpage or transcribe a cemetery.
Now Y'all may be asking "does this dumb redneck have a point or is he just babbling." Amazingly enough I do (GRIN).
Online genealogy has been built on the efforts of people just like you who took an extra step. Instead of just putting a copy of that will in their files, they transcribed it and put it on the web. When they went to that back woods cemetery to find their ancestor they went ahead and transcribed the entire cemetery. Then either put it up on the net themselves or gave it to the volunteer that ran their county page. What I am getting at is that the more we help others with volunteering the more we help ourselves.
Now I know you are sitting out there saying "Uncle Hiram, that sounds as good as hot buttered cornbread but I aint a professional. What can I do?"
Okay lets talk specifics:
1) Next time you go to the Court House to get info on a marriage, take an extra step. Instead of just copying down all the info on just the marriage you are looking for, copy down all the info on all the marriages that happened that day or month. Make a note of the volume number, page number, date, bride, groom and anything else listed. Then type up all this info and send it to the county coordinator for your home county. If you are lucky enough to be doing research in a county that will let you Xerox a copy of the documents for a nominal fee, copy a few extra licenses. Scan them and send them to your county coordinator.
2) You can do the same thing for land deeds, wills and all the other public records the county clerk will allow you too. I am not suggesting you invest a lot of cash or time. If we all transcribed one page every time we hit the courthouses or invested a couple of bucks in copying these documents in a few years the amount of available info would be mind boggling.
3) Next time you hit the library to look up something on the census. After you find Grandpa Theophilus go ahead and transcribe the whole page of the census. Write down all the pertinent data, roll number, page number, enum date, etc and send it to your county coordinator. Now I know what you are thinking, we all been taught to verify our sources. A practice I completely agree with but how much time would it save you if you knew exactly which census roll, page and line to go to? Think about it!
4) Write to your county coordinator and ask if you can help them in any way. Volunteer to host a mailing list for your surname, trust me it don't take a lot of time or effort.
5) Join your local Gen Society. Your dues will help to purchase more materials you can use in your research.
6) If you find a site you really like, whether its GenealogyToday (which has an excellent volunteer program) or some other site, send them an email offering to help. Also nominate the site for one of the genealogy awards available. People love feedback.
Finally, all I'm trying to say is take that extra step, we will all benefit from it.
I would like to invite anyone that has a column suggestion, question or complaint to please email me.
Next Week: Lets Talk Homepages
Sometime in the next six weeks I am planning on mixing in 1) Review of Legacy's genealogy Program, 2) A review of DearMyrtle's New Book and 3) A Discussion of why we should join a mailing list.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)