Friday, February 9, 2007

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

Other genea-bloggers have mentioned the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness web site at, so I thought I would check it out.

I used RAOGK recently for the first time. I needed information about who to contact in Houston, Texas for my Joseph Carr research problem (discussed briefly here). I was after an obituary, some city directory lookups, and a Negro Baseball League Museum contact. Initially, I didn't want any documents - just guidance on where to search for the information I wanted.

At the RAOGK web site, I noted that:
Successful genealogical research is based upon people
helping people. The volunteers of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) have agreed at least once per month to do a research task in their local area as an act of kindness. The cost to you would be reimbursing the volunteer for his/her expenses in fulfilling your request (video tape, copy fees, etc.). This is not a FREE service.

In order to find a volunteer, you have to read the Frequently Asked Questions page to get an idea of what the volunteer will do and what they won't do.

I clicked on the "Let's Go Find A Volunteer" button at the end of the FAQs, and clicked on the Texas link. Volunteers for each county are listed in County-Alpha order. Harris County had a number of researchers listed, each with a description of the "acts of kindness" they will perform. I picked one whose name I recognized from the APG list, and because her "act of kindness" included "Will answer general research questions pertaining to Harris County research, records and repositories, etc." That sounded like what I needed.

I clicked on the researcher's name, and sent an email to her asking for inofrmation on who to contact to do the lookups I had in mind. She responded the next day with contact email addresses at the Houston Public Library, plus some info about Joseph Carr's entry in the Texas Birth Index (1903-2000). We exchanged several emails discussing the birth records and census records.

As a result of this RAOGK, I contacted the Houston Public Library by email and had a response within two days answering my questions. They had looked in the Houston City directories for me, but found nothing cxonclusive (too many Joseph Carr's without a spouse name). They looked for information about the Museum, but could come up with only a phone number, plus some links to a Negro Baseball League web site. They promised to search for the obituary but I haven't heard from them yet.

All in all, it was a very satisfying experience using RAOGK. The volunteer I contacted was extremely helpful and responsive. She could have searched for and provided a number of documents for me if I had requested them, but at some cost (document costs, plus travel expenses). The Library was also very helpful and responsive.

Have you used RAOGK? If you are stuck on a brick wall ancestor, please consider using to get some help on the ground where your elusive ancestor lived. I will be using them more often, I think, for those research problems concerning vital records, obituaries, cemeteries, etc.

Check out the volunteers for your county, and if you feel that you could add to the capabilities at RAOGK, then volunteer your services.


Miriam Robbins said...

Randy, I've been using RAOGK volunteers for years and have just been so happy with the results! Of course, I love to do research myself, and I don't expect these volunteers to do my research FOR me...I tend to use them for obtaining obituaries and tombstone photos because those are often the items I can't access by regular research means at my public library or Family History Center.

I've also volunteered for years myself...record lookups in books and microfilms, tombstone photography, etc. It's just a great way to "pay it forward" to the genealogical community for all the help I've gotten over the years!

Anonymous said...

Hi Randy,

Thank you so much for the nice write up regarding RAOGK. I am glad that our volunteers were able to help you.