A while ago I wrote an entry about Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. This is a great group, and there are several other places to find volunteers. One genealogy volunteer submitted some helpful tips when working with volunteers in the February 17th Ancestry Daily News. Here they are:
1. Be specific in your request. Asking for ". . . anything you can find on John Smith" is asking too much. If you need to know the date of death, place of burial, or want an obituary, then be specific and only ask for what you think the volunteer can find.
2. Don't abuse the generosity of the volunteer. Make sure to search the Web, or call libraries etc. before turning to a volunteer. Volunteers are just that--"volunteers"--and don't have the time or energy to do all your research for you.
3. Don't misuse the volunteer system. If you find more than one volunteer for an area you are searching for information in, choose one, not all of the volunteers. The last thing a volunteer wants is to run into another volunteer searching for the exact same information, in the exact same place, for the exact same person.
4. Don't forget about expenses. Not all records can be found for free, and most volunteers don't live at the library or courthouse. Understand that some may require you to pay their gas, copies, postage, etc. They are not making any money volunteering, but it shouldn't cost them money to help you.
5. Don't expect instant success. Keep in mind that not all volunteers are online all the time. Some check their e-mail at the library on certain days, or with all the disasters in the U.S. (floods, fires, etc.) may not have the ability to check e-mail at all for a week or so. Volunteers have "real lives" outside of volunteering. Normally, you should give at least a week or two to hear back from them. They also may only make trips to the place you need your research done once a week or even once a month, so please be patient.
6. Give the volunteer the information they need to fill your request. You don't have to write a book, but at least make sure to give any names, dates, or places the volunteer would need to complete your request.
7. Check the rules of the website the volunteer is associated with. Not all organizations that give you access to volunteers allow them to look up living people. There are many that do and have links or volunteers to help with that. Be sure of the rules, read the FAQ carefully so as not to waste your time or theirs asking for something they can't help you with.
8. Thank your volunteer. This is the most important tip. Whether you send a thank you e-mail, handwritten card, or sign a guestbook, let the volunteer know you received the information and say THANK YOU. That is all most volunteers want.
Volunteer for RAOGK, OBITL, OKGenWeb, USGenWeb and more!