26 November 2013

Giving thanks genealogy style

Etiquette experts often provide tipping guides during the holidays and throughout the year. Let’s take that idea and use it year-round to show appreciation for all the people who have helped our genealogy research. 

Recently, I requested obituaries from the Worcester Public Library, which has an online form for submitting obituary requests. The search, photocopying, and mailing are free for Massachusetts residents, but you can donate money to support this great service. The Salem Public Library and many others also help with similar services—just don’t expect them to do your research for you.

My public library is part of a consortium of public and academic libraries in the area, making it easy to do interlibrary loans. It provides a wide array of online databases, including newspapers, Ancestry.com, HeritageQuest, and WorldCat. It offers museum passes for JFK Library & Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum. It also maintains its own local archives. I’ve used all these services and I must admit I have “donated” to the library through late-book fees, but I also donate books for the book sales held by the friends of the library, a group of people who support the library by raising funds for services and programs beyond the library’s budget.

As an almost 20-year member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), I have spent days browsing the stacks, checked precious manuscripts for clues, scrolled through microfilm, received advice from staff members, taken classes, read its publications cover to cover, and spent many hours using the online resources. As a nonprofit member organization, NEHGS accepts cash donations and gifts of stock; offers premium membership benefits and volunteer opportunities; and provides a home for donated genealogical materials. 

I consider Plimoth Plantation a top-notch living history museum, well worth visiting even if you only have Puritans in your family tree (like me). It immerses you in the life of the 17th century, from buildings, food, and clothing to artisan crafts and farming techniques. Plimoth has unique gifting opportunities, from providing feed money for rare animal breeds to helping restore the Mayflower II before the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims’ voyage.

Other nonprofits, such as historical societies and museums, provide similar thanks-giving opportunities. Nonprofit cemeteries and churches (where you’ve found family graves and records) usually accept donations. Check with government-run entities to see if you can give a gift or donation.


You also can pay back your genealogical successes without providing a dime. I use FamilySearch frequently to access vital records, censuses, wills, passenger lists, draft cards, and so much more. Its web site grows frequently, thanks to thousands of volunteers who index records. I have transcribed records from Texas to New York, regardless whether or not I have any genealogical interest in the area. I figure it’s good karma to help others. I keep hoping another volunteer will come across the ship manifest listing my great-great-grandmother. 

Typically, I read blogs to stay up-to-date on genealogy news, research suggestions, technology issues, legal conundrums, case studies, and DNA. If you’ve read a particularly good blog or one that’s useful to your research, consider commenting on it or sharing it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, other social media platforms, or email. Writers like feedback and they like knowing they’re being read by someone other than their mothers. 

Support the genealogy community and others who help your family research by tipping to show your appreciation.