Help Others, Help Yourself

There are many opportunities to volunteer within the genealogy community.  Whether it is working with a genealogical society, indexing records, performing “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness,” or fulfilling Find-a-Grave requests, opportunities large and small abound.  I would even venture to say that all us geneabloggers are volunteers every time we write a blog article; after all, we are sharing our knowledge, our expertise, and the fruits of our own labors and very few of us get paid for doing so.

I recently started indexing records for FamilySearch.  I had read about the project many months ago, on Dear Myrtle’s blog, and had even gone to the FamilySearch indexing site a few times, but I didn’t join until November.  The project appealed to me for several reasons.

  1. I like the fact that FamilySearch records are provided to the public at no charge.  I subscribe to some of the “pay” sites and I think they are worth every penny, but if I’m going to volunteer my time, I would prefer to do so for a non-profit organization.
  2. I can index as much or as little as I want, given the fluctuating demands on my time.  I’m not committed to anything, which means I don’t have to guilty when life gets in the way of genealogy.
  3. I can index from the comforts of home, in my jammies, if I so choose.

My first experience was serendipitous.  I logged into the site and went to the download batch page.  As I looked over the list of projects, “US, Georgia – Deaths 1928-1929” jumped out at me.  I live in Georgia, as did many of my ancestors, and I use the Georgia online archives – Georgia’s Virtual Vault – all the time.  Several months ago, they put up a collection called “Georgia Non-Indexed Death Certificates, 1928-1930” with a note that indexing was in process.  I quickly realized that the indexing was being handled by FamilySearch volunteers.  Not only would I be helping the genealogy community at large, but my efforts also would help my own state improve its already excellent online archives.

I downloaded my first batch of ten death certificates.  The indexing instructions are very easy to follow and the software even highlights the field you are working on each time.  The first field to index was the county of death.  This was my second moment of serendipity.  The death certificate I was looking at was for Whitfield County, which is adjacent to the county where I live.

My third moment of serendipity came a few certificates later, when I saw that the deceased individual was buried in a cemetery where several of my ancestors are buried.  I then recognized the attending physician’s name, Dr. Morgan Bates – he was a boarder in my great-great-grandfather’s home in 1900.1

The signs clearly told me that I had chosen the right volunteer project.  Since that first batch, I’ve indexed three more batches of Georgia death certificates, and I’m pleased to say that that project is completed.  I can’t wait for the results to be posted at both FamilySearch and Georgia’s Virtual Vault.

I’m currently working on a page from the 1910 census in Santa Clara County, California.  While I haven’t seen any names that I know and I’m not familiar with the locations, I’m having just as much fun with this batch, because it is so different from what I usually see on the census records of my ancestors.  My people all came to America before the mid-1700’s, so I’m not used to seeing immigration information on census records, since birthplaces weren’t recorded until 1850.  This California page that I’m working on has people who were born (or their parents were born) in England, Germany, and Ireland, as well as a wide variety of states.

1910 Census - Immigration Year highlighted

And I had no idea that the 1910 census recorded the year of immigration for individuals born outside our country.  I had never seen a 1910 census page that had anything recorded in that column, so I never paid any attention to it, until I began working on this batch.  Not only am I volunteering, but I’m also expanding my own knowledge of genealogy while I work.

I think we’ve all been helped by others as we’ve pursued our family histories, and we’ve helped others along the way.  If you are interested in volunteering with FamilySearch indexing, click here.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. 1900 U.S. census, Murray County, Georgia population schedule, Ball Ground, enumeration district (ED) 69, sheet 4 B, dwelling 73, family 73, Morgan P. Bates; digital images, ( : accessed 23 Feb 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 213.

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  1. says

    Tonia, I’m so grateful to you for introducing me to Georgia’s Virtual Vault! I immediately went to the page you linked and searched for my grandfather’s name of Gailey. I found several images of death certificates, civil war veteran’s widow’s pension applications, marriage certificates, and even a photograph of 2 of my grandfather’s cousins in Habersham County. Thank you so much for the work you are doing with this site, as well as others.
    .-= Judith Richards Shubert´s last blog .."Happy 101" Award for Genealogy Traces =-.

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