What Has Replaced Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness?

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness RAOGKWhat Has Replaced Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness? It’s a question on many family historians minds, include Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Richard who wrote in with this question:

“Many years ago Bridgett Schneider hosted the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website (RAOGK). This was one of the best sites to get assistance from people willing to give back at a free or very nominal cost (reimbursement). I know someone has attempted to create the same type of page using Wikia (RAOGK wiki) and I have just started working with it, but there are not many volunteers for this site yet.

I was a volunteer for the original RAOGK and will attempt to do the same with the wiki page, but I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for any other types of pages like this. I depend on others so much because my parents’ families are from all over the U.S. My father was career Navy, joining in Minnesota going to Colorado, where my parents met, then moving to Washington DC area, Florida and back to DC. My mom’s family are all from the Minnesota and Oregon areas, so traveling to find information is not always easy. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.”

Here’s the scoop on RAOGK:

You’re right, no other website has really taken hold to replace RAOGK. And that’s because Facebook has filled the bill. Genealogists are joining in droves, and many create Facebook accounts strictly for their genealogy efforts. You certainly don’t have to have personal information posted in order to take advantage of the “genealogical crowd sourcing” ability of Facebook.

By “friending” other genealogists you start to build a group of ‘genealogy friends’ you can turn to with questions. But when it comes to specific areas, I go to the Facebook search box and search for Facebook groups on the topic I’m interested in.

For example, I am researching the Munns, Bax and Dixon families of Margate, Kent, England. A search or “Margate History” brought up a fantastic group devoted to the history of Margate. They have amassed an unbelievable amount of shared info, photos, postcards and documents. Not everyone is a genealogist, but everyone is interested in the history of Margate. It’s the first place I would go to post a question or request for help, and inevitably someone will have the answer or be in a location where they can help me.

Although the Margate group is “history” focused, you can also search adding the word Genealogy to your location search for a group.And if you don’t see a group that meets your needs, create one! From your Facebook account:

1. on the left side of the page under GROUPS click “Find New Groups”

2. Here you can join groups (Facebook will likely recommend some based on your profile interests)

3. In the upper right corner click the green + CREATE GROUP button

4. Give your group a name and select whether it is public or private

5. Start posting content to your group page

6. Start promoting the page on your profile page while also friending other genealogists and soon you will likely have a vibrant group that can assist each other based on a shared interest.

Bottom line: Facebook is the new RAOGK. And the upside is that Facebook expands the resources to folks who may be in a position to help through a shared interest while not necessarily being a genealogist.

I hope that helps. Let me know how it goes, and thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Gems community.

BYU Family History Conference 2016


The BYU family history conference is coming up July 26-29, 2016 in Provo, Utah. I’ll be there! Will you? I hope you’ll come say hello.

I hope to meet many of you at Brigham Young University’s annual Conference on Family History and Genealogy in Provo, Utah, coming up on July 26-29, 2016.byu family history conference 2016They’re keeping me busy during the first two days of the conference, when I will be teaching five lectures! Those presentations will include:

  • Genealogical Time Travel: Google Earth is Your DeLorean. Get ready to experience old historic maps, genealogical records, images, and videos coming together to create stunning time travel experiences in the free Google Earth program. We’ll incorporate automated changing boundaries, and uncover historic maps that are built right into Google Earth. Tell time travel stories that will truly excite your non-genealogist relatives! You’ve never seen anything like this class!
  • Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors with Newspapers. Yearning to “read all about it?” Newspapers are a fantastic source of research leads, information and historical context for your family history. Learn the specialized approach that is required to achieve success in locating the news on your ancestors.  Includes 3 Cool Tech Tools that will get you started.
  • Google Tools & Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries. In this session we will put Google to the test. Discover Google tools and the process for using them to solve the genealogical challenges you face. You’ll walk away with exciting new techniques you can use right away.
  • Soothe Your Tech Tummy Ache with These 10 Tech Tools. Are you sick and tired of navigating the countless tech tools available to help with your family history? The good news: You don’t need them all to accomplish your genealogy goals. The video session will soothe your suffering by simply focusing on these 10 technology tools that will help you bypass tech overload and get back to your genealogy research.
  • Tablet and Smartphone Tricks, Tips and Apps. Tablets and smartphones are built for hitting the road and are ideally suited for genealogy due to their sleek size, gorgeous graphics and myriad of apps and tools.  In this class you will discover the top apps and best practices that will make your mobile device a genealogical powerhouse! (iOS and Android)

WHAT: Brigham Young University Conference on Family History & Genealogy
WHEN: July 26-29, 2016
WHERE:  BYU Conference Center, 730 East University Pkwy, Provo, UT
REGISTER: Click here for full conference information

Gems editor Sunny Morton will join me at the BYU family history conference in the vendor hall and in the classroom. She’ll be lecturing on researching collateral relatives (as indirect routes to direct ancestors); finding “relatively recent” 20th-century relatives; finding family history in Catholic church records; how to carefully consider your sources; and a hands-on workshop for planning your next family history writing project.

This year’s conference promises to be rich in expertise and education. Keynote speakers include FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood and professional genealogist and author, Paul Milner. There are more than 100 classes planned in several topic areas. ICAPGen will host a luncheon, too. A nice extra is that the conference center is so easy to get around in, with free parking right next to the building.

Click here to learn more about the conference and register. And please come say hello to me and Sunny at the Genealogy Gems booth in the exhibit hall on Wednesday or Thursday!

The BYU Family History Conference 2015

Last year, I delivered gave a keynote address on various technologies that help our research. It reminds me how quickly technology moves–and how enthusiastically genealogists continue to embrace new opportunities given them by technology. Click here to read a summary of that talk and whet your appetite for this year’s conference!

Canadiana: Canadian Digital Archive and Portal to the Past

CanadianaDo you have Canadian roots? Then Canadiana should be on your list of online resources searched regularly for family history information.

Recently Newswire.ca described Canadiana as “a digital initiative of extraordinary scale,…a joint effort of 25 leading research institutions, libraries and archives working together with the goal of creating Canada’s multi-million page, comprehensive online archive.” Its digital collections chronicle Canada’s past since the 1600s and most of its content is free.

What we especially noticed in a recent peek at this enormous Canadian digital archive:

  • The Héritage Project. This FREE resource “aims to digitize, preserve and make accessible Canada’s archival materials for Canadians and the world. Héritage is also a pathfinder project to determine the best ways to organize and fund ongoing efforts to make all of Canada’s remaining documentary heritage accessible online.” Their large collection of genealogy materials so far includes immigration records, church records, land records, family histories, voters’ lists and more. Military history, government documents and aboriginal records are also well-represented. Tip: check back often! More is coming, like local and regional newspaper digitization and records of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
  • The Canadiana Discovery Portal. This gateway to digital collections from 40 repositories points to 65 million pages! Sample subjects include  Ontario genealogy and War of 1812 campaigns. This portal is also free to use.
  • Early Canadiana Online, with 5 million images already and expected to grow to 16 million. This part of the website requires a subscription ($10/month or a year for $100) This is “a full-text collection of published documentary material, including monographs, government documents, and specialized or mass-market periodicals from the 16th to 20th centuries. Law, literature, religion, education, women’s history and aboriginal history are particular areas of strength.” The site describes itself as “the most complete set of full-text historical content about Canada, including books, magazines and government documents.” Tip: scroll down on the home page to click the Genealogy and Local History portal, but don’t ignore the rest of the site!

how to start a genealogy blogLike this post? Here’s a few more posts you may enjoy:

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A Tip for Harnessing New Technologies for Genealogy

Lisa BYU Keynote

Photo courtesy of The Ancestry Insider

New technologies don’t stay new. They keep evolving. Here’s a tip for harnessing new and emerging technologies to advance family history research and stay connected with living relatives. 

Last week, I was at the BYU Conference on Family History & Genealogy in Provo, Utah. What a friendly, welcoming group! (Be sure to check out the BYU Family History Library here.) All week, I taught sessions and gave a keynote address on various technologies that help our research. The week’s discussions reminded me how quickly technology moves–and how enthusiastically genealogists continue to embrace new opportunities given them by technology.

It’s part of my job to learn about these new technologies and pass the best ones–the “gems” along to you. But here’s a tip I shared during my keynote address that will help you focus on the technologies you care most about: Think about which tasks you want to accomplish with technology, rather than just learning genealogy-specific technology. Then keep up with developments in the technologies that accomplish those tasks.

For example, by now, many of us have used (or at least heard of) Google Translate. We can use it with foreign-language documents and to correspond with overseas relatives and archives. But Google Translate’s functionality keeps improving. “By the audible gasps of the audience” (during my keynote address) reported the FamilySearch blog, “most were not aware that the Google Translate app enables you to literally hold up your phone to the computer screen or typeset document, and it will translate foreign text on the fly for you—a must have free tool when dabbling in nonnative language content.”

Genealogists are really thinking about these issues. The Ancestry Insider blogged about my keynote talk, too, and my observation that genealogists haven’t been embracing digital video at the same speed at which they embrace other forms of digital media. In the comments section of that post Cathy added, “Now what we need to do is get FamilySearch to figure out a way to let us upload our URL YOUTube videos, not only for our deceased, but for our living….Our children and grandchildren don’t write letters, they email, text, instagram. They don’t write journals, they blog. They make videos of current history….We all need to look to the future and [learn] how to save the new technologies.” Cathy gets it!

A special thanks to conference organizers Stephen Young and John Best, who welcomed me and Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton all week long. They did a fantastic job of organizing a large event while retaining a warm, personal environment.

Continue reading about applying technology to your family history here.

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