Sometimes we think we’re all alone in our genealogy research, patiently combing through records and searching databases. But it really does take a village to do genealogy, and untold nameless genealogists have given countless hours of their time and expertise to make your research easier. If you would like to “pay it forward” to the next generation of genealogists, here are some ideas for you.
You’ve used FamilySearch to find records; did you ever think about how those records were indexed? Ordinary people like you and me sat down at their computer, went through image after image, and typed out the pertinent data that others would search on. FamilySearch has a whole system set up for volunteers to index records online, with no need to download special software. The records may be handwritten or typed, and their difficulty level varies from beginner to advanced. Check out their Indexing page to learn more about it and get started. The time you spend indexing will help someone else find their ancestors more easily.
Another genealogy pay it forward opportunity is on the extremely valuable website FindAGrave. FindAGrave hosts photographs of cemeteries and gravestones all over the country and is now branching out to other countries as well. All the information on FindAGrave is provided by volunteers. There are a couple of ways you can contribute. The easiest way is to create a memorial for all your ancestors whose place of burial you know. Upload photographs of their tombstones, and add obituaries or photographs of your ancestors if you have them. Others researching your ancestors will be thrilled with the information you provide. Another way to contribute is to volunteer to take photographs of tombstones that are requested by others. In each case, you are creating new information that will benefit genealogists who come after you. BillionGraves is a similar site to consider.
If historical documents are more to your liking, you might be interested in the Newberry Library’s latest crowd sourcing initiative called Transcribing Modern Manuscripts. The Newberry is putting digital copies of handwritten letters and diaries online for volunteers to transcribe. These transcriptions make it possible to to offer searchable digitized texts for researchers and scholars to use with ease. Documents such as these are often inaccessible in archives and other hard-to-reach depositories, so digitization and your transcriptions will open up new possibilities for genealogists and researchers.
Are you inspired to get involved and pay it forward to the genealogy community? Have you contributed to the genealogy world in some other way? Let us know about it in the comments below. and thank you!