Here's a column from Everton's Frank Beacon on making a contribution to the genealogical community by transribing and sharing records. Reprinted by permission of Everton Publishers, Inc.

Friday, 1 February 2002

FRANK BEACON: Where Did All Those Names Come From?

Find your favorite Internet browser. Type in the genealogical topic of your choice and press the search button. A long list of Web sites with extensive online databases will instantly appear. One search engine offers 353 Web sites offering free online cemetery records. Each of those offers multiple links to more. A simple search for "church records" offers results of 193 sites -- again, each with a long list of links. Want vital records? Census records? Ship passenger lists? Minutes from Quaker meetings?

The world is at your fingertips. Now here's the kicker: Someone had to put it there.

Yesterday I was scanning a list of dearly departed from a state far away from my own. Not only was there a comprehensive accounting of every cemetery in the state, there was a database containing names and dates of those buried in most. This isn't unusual, of course. We're used to instant information in this day and age; what's more, we demand it. But from time to time I like to mull over the possible identities of those who helped to make sure that I can do a tremendous part of my research from the comfort of my home.

I like to imagine a young mother -- children clinging to her office chair -- as she eagerly extracts information from important files and documents into a searchable form. Sometimes I picture the volunteer as an elderly man who wants to make a contribution to the world of genealogy and thrills at the feel of history in his hands. Other times it's a mature woman in a quiet house who has finally sent the last chick from the nest. I imagine her breathing in the silence and snuggling in to a hobby she has dreamt of forever.

The scenarios of circumstances under which volunteers perform electronic feats of amazement are as varied as the volunteers themselves. Nevertheless, somehow, someone typed in the billions of names, dates and locations available to me. And for that, I thank them.

It isn't enough to research your own family. History is a living thing that changes with each today that becomes yesterday. Those of us who love family history and want to see genealogy forge forward, have an unprecedented opportunity to make information available to others in this electronic age. Consider making a contribution of information by volunteering through your church, local government, nearby history or genealogy societies to help make our ancestors' information accessible. Those with typing skills can input data. Others can offer to check and recheck the information. Some might be more inclined to gather goods together, scan photos or post them on the Internet. In many cases you can inspire another by simply sharing your stories of success.

Regardless of how you make your contribution back to the cyber society, you are sure to make a difference in someone else's research - very likely, in someone else's life.

Just a thought,

Copyright 2002, Everton Publishers, Inc.
All rights reserved.

(FAMILY HISTORY NEWSLINE is apparently now longer being published.)