We're finally recovering from the debilitating snowstorm here in the Northeast United States. We had many massive limbs and even a few trees drop in our garden and on our cars. And we were counted as lucky because we only lost power for several hours. There are some neighbors who are still without power 5 days later. We helped out however we could, providing helping hands to clear debris and bring buckets of water.
This brings to mind the outpouring of responses that I received from the survey I emailed about a last week about whether I should create a volunteer local genealogy lookup service.
Frankly, I'm overwhelmed by the response. As of right now, there have been
898 910 replies, most of which are filled with thoughtful comments and feedback. I've been reading each and every one of them. I wish I could reply to them all.
Here are just a few of the many hundreds of responses I got in the survey:
"It is so nice when people that live in an area are willing to help out. Most of us cannot travel to these locations to do the research ourselves and it is so important to those of us that are trying to build our family trees. It is so aggravating when so many websites claim to be 'free' then ask for a credit card number to give you the needed information. Thank you for what you are doing with this website. I've only just discovered it recently."
"I think it is a very good idea and we should all work together to uncover these hidden or missing info."
"I would love to participate in a service like this. I have never volunteered, but I am great at photographing gravestones or going to a place of records to find info for someone."
What about privacy?
By far, the biggest concern expressed was privacy and interacting with strangers. I'm happy to say that on FamilyTreeCircles we've had that problem pretty well handled for many years now thanks to a messaging system that has now had more than 22,000 private messages sent through it without exposing email addresses or other personal information.
Announcing the Assist! Program
So today I'm pleased to introduce the formation of the FamilyTreeCircles Assist! Program, a free service that will connect volunteers who would like to help out with local assistance at town halls and cemeteries, and to provide access to the vast amounts (or even small bits) of knowledge that they have collected.
There are thousands of individuals who are willing and able to perform lookups and document requests at local town halls or take pictures at local cemeteries on behalf of those without the means to travel to those locations.
Further, we have all obtained at least a small bit of knowledge that very few others have, like local knowledge of libraries, town halls, and other resources, information about the surnames that we're researching, and other rare books and information.
Therefore, there is not only a need for people to get help locally, but there exists a huge need for people to simply help out online in very specific areas of expertise.
We just need a way to make ourselves available to those who are in need of that knowledge.
By identifying yourself as someone who can help out in a specific location, or as someone who is knowlegable in certain surnames or areas of interest, you can help provide information to people seeking help in those areas.
And even if you cannot provide local lookups or you don't get specific requests from people, you can share your knowledge by helping us edit our location and surname information pages.
This Won't Be Easy. I Need Your Help...
This whole project hinges on our ability to get good coverage with a large number of volunteers. The first step is building up this strong network of people who are willing to make their knowledge and assistance available to others.
So I'm asking you to go to our Assist! page and identify the locations, surnames, and other areas in which you may help out.
To do so, go here: Assist! program registration
We'll follow up with how people will be able to get in touch for assistance.
Thank you for your participation. If you have any questions, please feel free to post comments.
p.s. This is not a major commitment on your part. We will ensure that people do not get overwhelmed with requests. How much assistance you give and effort you expend will always be entirely up to you.
Again, simply register your areas of knowlege here: Assist!