Recently, board member Rachel White got an email from a man named Andy Gappa. Andy wrote he had recently visited Antiques on Main, an antique store in Crown Point, Indiana and purchased an old photograph, identified as “Waldemar Wehrli”. Using Ancestry.com, he located Mr. Wehrli on Rachel’s family tree and wanted to send her the photo, free of charge, so it could be reunited with family. This type of selfless act is known in genealogy circles as Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, abbreviated RAOGK. Though of course, not confined to the world of genealogists, RAOGK’s provide a way to give back and also connect with other researchers, even if their areas of focus are completely different.
Other ways genealogists give back include volunteering to index old records, going to nearby cemeteries and taking photos of gravestones for far-flung family and doing record look-ups at local libraries and records depositories. This can save the searcher a lot of money and time.
In addition to the warm fuzzies one gets from helping others, by connecting with researchers who have different research goals, we can discover new insights and ideas on how to further our own research. For example, when looking up documents for a friend at the South Suburban Genealogical and History Society in Hazel Crest, President of the Monee Historical Society Christi Holston discovered a slim volume tucked in among some taller books. Upon examination, she discovered it to be the minutes of the meetings of the Gold Star Mothers of the American Legion Malone-Doss Post in Monee. It listed the members, meeting agenda and dues of the members, in addition to containing thank you letters from soldiers stationed at military bases who had received care packages sent by the group. Many previously unknown veterans of Monee where thereby identified.
In the current climate of “ME FIRST” that seems to be plaguing our society, it is nice to remember that though it may sometimes seem as though everyone is only taking care of themselves, most people still want to be kind to one another, even in small ways.