RAOGK is a global volunteer organization. The purpose of this site is to help others obtain copies of documents, pictures of tombstones, etc., that can not be obtained easily by those who do not live in the area of their ancestors.
At one time there were thousands of volunteers in every U.S. state and many international locations, and helped thousands of researchers.
Is this your first visit to Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness? We want your visit to be a successful one. Our staff has put together a list of Guidlines for making requests for you to view and read before making any requests.
Our volunteers take time to do everything from looking up courthouse records to taking pictures of tombstones. All they ask in return is reimbursement for their expenses (never their time) and a thank you.
We also provide U.S., State by State and County by County Research guides. In these you will find resources and information that can be found. Most will inform you of what type of records can by found in each area, dates of availability and addresses, links and contact info to those records.
FAQ – Guidelines for Requesting a lookup from a Volunteers
Looking for a RAOGK volunteer? Our volunteers have agreed to do a free genealogy research task at least once per month in their local area as an act of kindness. Please read the FAQs in this section before you decide to make a Request from a RAOGK volunteer.
While the volunteers of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) have agreed to donate their time for free, you MUST PAY the volunteer for his/her expenses in fulfilling your request (copies, printing fees, postage, film or video tape, parking fees, etc.) if they ask for it.
Then go to the Volunteer Directory and locate someone in your area to do a lookup. Be sure to Rate your Volunteer to tell them and others how they did!
Please do not send your requests for lookups to the site coordinator, or the site’s hosting service. Requests sent to either one will not be answered.
The site is free to use. However, you WILL be expected to reimburse expenses incurred such as: film, video, postage, copies, and/or printing fees. In some areas you will also be expected to pick up parking fees. You are NOT to be charged time. If you feel you have been unfairly charged, please contact us and we will look into the situation.
Locate a volunteer in the area where information is needed. Read their Act of Kindness. Please only select a volunteer who has stated they will do the research you need in that area. Please do NOT request lookups/information if you live within travelling distance (up to 50 miles) from the city/area where you’ve made your request. In some instances and in some areas, the volunteer you’ve requested information from may even live further away than you do. When you have made your selection, click on the volunteer’s name. Fill in the form, making sure you have entered your e-mail address correctly. Click the submit button. If you have filled your e-mail address in correctly, you should receive a blind carbon copy of your request for your own records.
No, please don’t. Our volunteers do not appreciate duplicating another volunteer’s work. If you do place the same request to more than one volunteer in the same location you will receive notice of your error, with the possibility that your lookup will not be honored.
A timely response (from 48 hours to 2 weeks) indicating whether they will be able to honor your request. If the volunteer will be able to honor your request they might at this time make you aware there is a waiting list, their methods of honoring your requests, whether there is any charge in doing this request, and if so, some may request pre-payment.
They normally do not. It is up to each volunteer to choose if they want to do more than our recommended guidelines. If you need someone to do in-depth researching, your best course of action is to hire a professional genealogist. Some sites on the internet that list professional researchers are:
Volunteers are only obligated to do one look-up per month. However, many volunteers choose to do more than the one per month. You may be placed on a waiting list if that volunteer already has other requests to fill.
If your first attempt receives no response after 2 weeks, e-mail that volunteer again. Please use the RAOGK website to make your second attempt, so there will be documentation of both attempts. There are many legitimate reasons why a volunteer may not have responded timely to a request, such as e-mail or computer problems, family or personal illness, or vacations. Please remember that those who have signed up for this site are volunteers and may be busy with other aspects of their lives. If you receive no response to your second attempt after one week contact us to report the non-responsive volunteer. Be sure to enter both dates you attempted to make contact when completing the “contact us” form. NOTE: If you (or your ISP) use a spam blocking service that rejects mail from unauthorized addresses (either addresses not on an approved sender list or not in your address book), our volunteers cannot be expected to click a link to verify that they are not spammers in order to reply to you. Make sure your spam filters allow mail from all senders and do not use a challenge/response blocking feature.
All of our volunteers have come to us, we do not solicit folks to do so. Our volunteers consist of people who are from all walks of life, with various knowledge of genealogy and the areas for which they volunteer. Many of our people sign up after being helped by one of our volunteers and only wish to “pass it on.” Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness is NOT in any way responsible for the transactions between volunteers and requesters. This site only lists those who have submitted their names to be volunteers.
Federal, State, County and local Records
A genealogist researching a family history or pedigree faces mountains of records that may contain some reference to the family or ancestor of interest. This series focuses on the major finding aids that enable genealogical researchers to tap these vast resources faster and more efficiently.
Many countries took periodic censuses to keep track of various aspects of the population. Where available, these records often include helpful details about your ancestors and their families and allow you to pinpoint their location at a particular point in time.
While the questions in census records vary from place to place, and year to year, you can find information like names of other household members, ages, birthplaces, residence, occupation, immigration and citizenship details, marriage information, military service and more.
Whether appearing as litigants, witnesses, jurors, appointees to office, petition signatories, or in some other role, surprisingly few people have escaped mention in court records at some time during their lives.
The paper trail left behind by these major and trivial legal events can provide incredible clues and insights into the lives and times of our ancestors.
Cemetery records and headstone inscriptions are also sources of birth and death information. The records of this type most commonly found are church burial registers, sextons’ records, cemetery deed and plot registers, burial permit records, grave opening orders, and monument (gravestone) inscriptions.
Such records usually supplement standard sources of genealogical information, but sometimes they represent the only information that can be found pertaining to the birth and death of an ancestor. Using these records effectively requires specific knowledge of their content, availability, and location.
Most Church records predate civil records and therefore record vital events, providing birth, marriage, and death details that might otherwise be lost.
Aside from supplying names and dates, church records may show you associations between people and portray a family’s position in the community. In addition, entries of a personal nature are not uncommon, and these can provide you with a glimpse into an ancestor’s identity or behaviors.
Family Bibles are invaluable research tools. Despite the fact that the dates may not be guaranteed, Family Bibles are a tangible link with past generations.
Knowing the immigrant’s birthplace or last place of residence before emigrating is essential to finding more information in the native land. Yet, unless the ancestors arrived relatively recently in the United States, family origins may have been forgotten.
Because most foreign records are kept at the town level, discovering the name of a native town, county, or parish is an important goal. Without that information, it is impossible to know where to conduct research in the country of origin.
Most Americans owned at least some land prior to the twentieth century, making individual land records a treasure trove for genealogists.
Land records provide two types of important evidence for the genealogist. First, they often state kinship ties, especially when a group of heirs jointly sells some inherited land. Second, they place individuals in a specific time and place, allowing the researcher to sort people and families into neighborhoods and closely related groups.
Probate records can be any kind of document used in an individuals’ estate settlement in court. The amount of documents and their contents can differ depending on the time period. If here is a large amount of property to settle, then multiple jurisdictions may carry records. These records are rarely found together in one place.
Vital records, as their name suggests, are connected with central life events: birth, marriage, and death.
These records are prime sources of genealogical information, but, unfortunately, official vital records (those maintained by county and state governments), are available only for relatively recent time periods.
Marriage records, the oldest of the vital records, will be considered first. The more recent records of birth and death will follow.