One of the most useful genealogical resources for over a decade has been the many volunteers from across the United States in all locations associated with the online site “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness” (RAOGK). These local volunteers took email requests from people across the country needing assistance obtaining documents from an ancestor’s local courthouse, obituaries, news articles from libraries or photos of headstones from the town’s cemeteries.
The current administrator, Bridgett Schneider, of RAOGK, just sent out the news bulletin in mid-October, 2011, that the site needs to close down ‘for awhile.’ They have had major problems recently with their hard drive on the computer plus the overall health of the administrator is not favorable. This could well turn out to be an indefinite time period the site is closed down.
Such a valuable service for family history researchers will be truly missed. Yet, through the growing social media site such as Facebook, there are a few other sites that can be of assistance.
In the April 12, 2011 FamilyTree.com Genealogical Blog, information was provided about RAOGK. Now in light of what recently happened, here are some other alternatives.
There are Genealogy Research Communities on Facebook such as Ancestry.com. With nearly 200,000 followers, there are many people scattered across the world more than willing to assist a researcher on the Ancestry.com Facebook page. Many Facebook pages exist for hometowns geared towards it history or genealogical resources.
For finding photos of headstones or locations of cemeteries, there is FindAGrave site. Some 70,000 grave records and growing are listed. Not everyone has a photo of the headstone, but many do contain images. It is also possible to contact the person who set up the information on a specific individual listed to request if they could furnish a photo of the headstone.
Using theRootsweb message boards (part of the Ancestry.com community); a whole new resource is also available. These message boards, which are open to everyone, have not only surnames but locations, in the United States and other countries. For example, going to the section ‘United States‘, you then go to the sub-category of ‘States’ and click on the state’s name. Selecting Indiana for example, you go then to ‘Counties’ folder which has 92 different counties. To make a request go to ’Post New Thread’ and a box comes up in which you can place information about an obituary, document, newspaper article, or photo you are looking for from that county. You will need to sign in to form an account, which is free and easy to do. There is no guarantee you will get the response and information you need, but more of the former volunteers of RAOGK will be assisting on Rootsweb in the future.
A similar genealogy message board is GenForum. Again you can get assistance with surnames but also regional locations. It is set by states and counties as well as other nations outside the United States. After locating the county there is a tab at the top titled ‘Post New Messages”. Here you make your request after registering with the site.
The numerous local genealogical or historical societies in counties and regions of each state are always willing to assist a researcher about their local area. Locate them by using a search engine like 'Google.' Some societies may ask a small fee to research the archives, libraries or cemeteries, but it is small price compared to you traveling to that ancestral hometown. Plus they are very familiar with what is available in their county, saving you the search time also.
So RAOGK will be truly missed. However, look to the expansion of other sites to fill the void.