Roots to the Past

Diana Tibert
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Random acts of kindness

The first time I read RAOK in a message posted to a genealogy mailing list, I had to ask what the acronym stood for. A subscriber provided the answer. RAOK referred to the sharing of genealogical information. In other words, it's a Random Act of Kindness.
Every genealogist stumbles upon information buried in records and databases that might never be found by someone who needs it. For example, while searching community church records, an entry for an individual who has no ties with the area may be discovered. Perhaps he was killed in an accident or a victim of a shipwreck and was buried in the nearest cemetery. Sharing this information on mailing lists and in other genealogy discussion groups might solve a mystery for someone looking for that individual.
RAOKs also take place when individuals volunteer their time to visit locations for others who can't make the trip. They also do look-ups in books or at their local archives or library. When genealogists help genealogists, everyone benefits.
This is the philosophy behind RAOGK or Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (, a website linking researchers with volunteers. Anyone searching for genealogy information can browse the list of countries to find someone in their area of interest. Countries are further broken down into provinces or states and specific locations.
The service offered by volunteers is free, but any expenses incurred will be passed on to the researcher. Expenses might include gas, photocopies, postage and parking fees.
RAOGK's success depends equally on their volunteers and those seeking information. Good manners and following the rules are a must. Genealogists should ask volunteers for only the information offered. If a volunteer states they can give an index for a death, but not the obituary, don't ask them to search newspapers for the death announcement.
If you live less than 50 miles from the location which you request information, don't ask a volunteer. Some might live further than you do. It's also against the rules to send the same request to two individuals. It's unfair for two people to do the same legwork. For detailed information on what is expected, read the Guidelines for Requesting Information.
Each request is limited to one or two items concerning one or two ancestors. Be concise and state the basic information needed to fulfill the request and what you hope to find. If the volunteer needs more, they'll ask. Do not send an entire GEDCOM or pages of information.
Response times vary from a few hours to two weeks. Keep in mind, holidays, such as Christmas, will slow response times. Volunteers have a life, too, and sometimes, it throws curves. They may also be busy answering other requests. Be patient, and when an answer arrives, remember to thank them for their time and post a message to the Thank You page.
You can also show your appreciation by returning the favour. Perhaps you live near a cemetery, or have access to a database or a local genealogy centre. Many times helping others solve mysteries is just as satisfying as solving your own.
Researcher's File…
When and where did James Joseph Alexander die? Was it around 1916 in California? James (born 1834, St. Stephen) was the son of Ann McAuley (1796-1869) and Hugh Alexander (1795-1848) who came from Ireland in 1823 and settled in St. Stephen, N.B. James married Hannah Getchell (1838-1872, St. Stephen) in June 1858. He second married Sarah Mariah Yorke in October 1880, Parrsboro.
Contact: Elizabeth Severin
11 Cardinal Terrace, Quispamsis NB,
E2E 1M8; phone: 506-849-3502;
Diana Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living in Milford. Submit a query. It's free! : RR#1 Milford, Hants County, NS, B0N 1Y0; email:

Geographic location: California, Milford, Ireland Hants County

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