Everyone could use a little help from some friends and that is the basis of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK). This site is networking of fellow family history researchers in locations not only across the United States and Canada, but in numerous other places around the globe.
When investigating about our ancestors, they may have lived in different states from the researcher and it can take quite a bit of time to travel to such hometowns or even write to the local museums or courthouses for information. Using the Internet and this network of volunteers has made access to needed family history so easy.
RAOGK started back in 1999 and has grown beyond the United States borders to international locates. If there is a specific need, such as a photograph of an ancestor's headstone you select the USA, then the state and next the county that the ancestor was buried in. If the exact cemetery is known, even better. The same is true for other countries, select the country, then province, region, or county where your ancestor was buried.
Once the county is selected, an array of individuals and their offer of assistance will be listed. One county might have 3 to 8 volunteers listed, with a couple of them offering to photograph tombstones. That is the key item, only select a person who has stated what they will assist with, do not contact a volunteer who does not have listed photographing tombstones.
Then just click on that selected individual’s name and complete the basic form. Select just one volunteer, never make multiple requests for the same thing, no sense duplicating the research. Include a current email address so they can reply with what they have located for you. Provide as much information on the ancestors; their full names, birth and death dates and any information about the cemetery and the location of the grave if known. Never overload a volunteer, make the request simple with just a couple requests concerning one or two ancestors. Arrange with the volunteer how much the cost would be, not for the free service, but for the cost of printing and mailing the photo of the tombstone, plus cost of mileage to go to the cemetery.
The many volunteers in their own hometowns want to help fellow researchers, but never expect them to do in-depth and detailed research for you. Keep in mind in the winter, there are snowy areas, it would be hard for a volunteer to get out to a cemetery, but generally they can do other items like going to the courthouse for documents. A nice thank you for a simple request is all they expect.
Some examples of the items the volunteers will do are: look up obituaries in the local newspaper, check resources at the local library, locate public records at the courthouse, photograph ancestral homes or businesses, county censuses, check local school yearbooks and city directories.