Lending a hand

1 year ago

If you’ve done genealogy for years, you probably would enjoy helping other genealogists, but maybe you don’t know where to start. 

It’s easy when someone approaches you asking questions about your family, but are there other opportunities? Here’s a listing of a few. There are surely others so if you want to volunteer don’t be shy. Most groups are desperate for volunteers.

The Maine Genealogical Society chapters (find a list on maineroots.org) often hold genealogical fairs or genealogical assistance days at libraries. Consider joining one. The parent group, the Maine Genealogical Society, also solicits volunteers to help with committee work or at their annual workshops and conferences. 

One state chapter, Taconnett Falls in Winslow, owns their own genealogical library, and to my knowledge this is the only chapter that does. Their library holds some unique collections and using it is free. If you’ve never visited, you might want to plan a trip in the warmer months when the library is open. But maintaining a library is a huge responsibility and they need volunteers to help with everything from clearing pathways in winter to assisting researchers to cleaning and maintenance. Check out the library at rootsweb.com or on Facebook and email cvfd4208@outlook.com if you’d like to offer your help or to learn more.

Nearer to home you can ask if your local historical society would like a genealogist’s help in answering queries or creating files on families or individuals in the area. They also may need cataloging help and cross-referencing records regarding family surnames or individuals. Most historical societies in Maine operate with all volunteers, so they are likely to be grateful for any offers of help. The same can be true of your local library. They might welcome a genealogist who will help people by asking about families in your town.  

Your area Latter-Day Saints Family History Center may also welcome volunteers to assist researchers or other tasks. As far as I know, you don’t need to be a member of the church to help, but do ask if you’re interested in assisting. 

There are online volunteer opportunities. The U.S. Census was cataloged with volunteer help, but there are others. The Daughters of the American Revolution (you must be a member) has transcription projects ongoing through their library based in Washington, D.C. These can be done in your home, but don’t volunteer if you find reading old handwriting beyond your abilities as it involves careful transcription work of old documents used in applications. 

The Library of Congress also has transcription projects. Check them out at https://crowd.loc.gov. Right now, they have volunteers transcribing papers and letters of Clara Barton, Civil War nurse and the founder of the Red Cross. 

Whatever you choose, I hope you will reach out to other genealogists and offer help as they begin their journey learning about their families. Everyone needs help in the beginning and I’m eternally grateful to all who helped me when I first started genealogy.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft. Nancy holds an MA in History from UM and lives in DF with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com.