Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why Volunteer?

I recently read a very good article in the APG Quarterly by Harold Henderson titled Genealogy Education on a Shoestring Budget. Harold writes about the many different educational opportunities that are available. The price of these programs range from free to upwards of $500. I have experienced many of them and they are wonderful suggestions.

Another educational opportunity to consider is volunteering at your local archives, library, or genealogy society. As I've written about before, I volunteer at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. When I first started to volunteer, and for each subsequent project I've worked on, my request was simple: I want to work on a project I can learn from. Another words, I didn't want to be delegated to a constant stream of filing, copying, or pencil sharpening. It has been a rewarding experience so far.

My first project took 18 months to complete. I was assigned with going through the surname vertical files, scanning any bible records/pages I came across, and create a database of these images. This was an amazing project. Admittedly some vertical files didn't have much in them, while others had a wealth of information, and some gorgeous original color bible pages. I also discovered original discharge papers from the military in 1890. Those have since been transferred to the manuscripts collection. Going through the vertical files was like going through someone's attic. Eventually, this database will end up online. When it does, I will certainly let you know!

The next project was to proofread an index/database that was created from Acts Passed at the Regular Session of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee. This project wasn't as exciting as the bible project, however I learned about a whole new set of records and what they contain. This database is organized according to the Act. It would have been a nice addition to cross reference with individual names that are contained within these records. I actually found two ancestors mentioned in one volume. Exciting stuff!

Currently I'm working on a set of Provost Marshal records. Specifically the records are, Union Provost Marshal's File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians. This is a project that has apparently been in the works for a while, and been across a few desks. As a volunteer, I don't have the distractions of meetings, phone calls, and patrons to attend to. It's also a really big project and I love it. Each microfilm reel takes me about 3-4 hours to get through. My responsibility is to go through the reel, find the records that pertain to Tennessee, scan them, and record the document number. Eventually, I'll go through the images and create an index of the names mentioned in the documents. This last part has been started, but I doubt will be finished by the time I'm done scanning. I believe this project is slated to go online at some point. So far the documents I've seen are; women being prosecuted for providing liquor to soldiers, individuals wanting compensation for livestock or weapons that were seized, testimony by several people regarding a murder of a 12 year old slave boy, and a soldier making a reference to an informant by name that "...by the way is a cripple and a German."

Volunteering doesn't cost anything other than your time. If you are not close to an archives or you are unable to travel easily, many archives have volunteers that work from their home. Records are sent via email to transcribe or index. So if you are looking for ways to give back, learn something, and be involved with a genealogy related project consider volunteering. Believe me it is a rewarding experience for all.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent point well made. I, too, find volunteering to be some of my best educational opportunities.