Monday, January 7, 2013

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

One of my resolutions for 2013 is to practice and promote random acts of genealogical kindness.  As an amateur genealogist, I know how exciting and rewarding it is to uncover a missing piece of family history.  I also know that it's hard to find all the missing pieces by yourself.  So did Bridgett and Doc Schneider, who established the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) website several years ago.  With this website, the Schneiders created a network for volunteers around the world to help genealogists find information about their family histories.  From obtaining copies of documents to prove lineage to taking photos of old tombstones and homesites, these volunteers provided a valuable service.  The website itself provided a way to match research needs to volunteers.  Sadly, the RAOGK website ceased to exist in 2011 when administrator Bridgett Schneider passed away.  Luckily, some volunteers have continued the cause on other sites.  Facebook, for example, has several RAOGK pages now.  Following are links to a couple of those pages: and  Find A Grave, one of favorite research sites, also offers an outlet for volunteers to take and share gravesite photos in their communities with those requesting them.  Ancestry offers volunteer opportunities through its Ancestry World Archives Project.  To participate in this project, volunteers can work from their home computers and transcribe historical records so they can be placed online for other researchers to access.

Many other opportunities to help family historians exist online and in local communities.  Wouldn't it be great if more of us shared a bit of our time and resources to help other people complete their family histories?  This is what I hope to do in 2013, and I want to share some ideas and opportunities about how to do so on this blog.  Let me share with you now a personal story of an awesome act of genealogical kindness that was done for me and my Lee family.

A couple of years ago, I was browsing the internet for information about my great-great grandfather, Jefferson Francis Marion (Frank) Lee, who lived in Trimble County, Kentucky.  Quite by accident I happened upon an article in an area newsletter that mentioned Frank Lee.  The article featured a Trimble County couple who were avid history buffs and who were sponsoring a local history festival.  The article went on to say that about thirty years ago, this couple had taken it upon themselves to rescue what they considered a local historical treasure--Freedom Home built by Frank Lee around 1860.

Freedom Home (surrounded by trees) on Frank Lee's farm in Trimble County, Kentucky, c. 1950

The old home, rumored to have been part of the Underground Railroad, was about to be demolished so that a new power plant could be built on the home site beside the Ohio River.  This amazing couple bought Freedom Home and had it moved several miles down the road to their own property.  I immediately tracked down a phone number for these folks and made a call.  They graciously invited my husband and I to visit them, and they arranged with the new owners of Freedom Home for us to see my great-great grandfather's home.  The day we spent with these wonderful folks was a gift.  Not only did they give me copies of the history they had collected about my Lee family from Trimble County, they also took my husband and I on a guided tour of Freedom Home.  It was such an amazing experience to walk through the house that my great-great grandfather built, where my great grandfather (Gilbert Oliver Lee) was born and raised, where my granddad (Frank Lewis Lee) visited and played as a child. This was a day I will always treasure.  Following are a few photos I took of Freedom Home during that visit.

J. F. M. Lee's Freedom Home, 2010
Trimble County, Kentucky

Original staircase inside Freedom Home, 2010
Trimble County, Kentucky

The Ohio River from inside Freedom Home, 2010
Trimble County, Kentucky
What random acts of genealogical kindness have you done--or what have others done for you?  I hope you'll share your stories and ideas with me.  Leave a comment below or contact me via email at


  1. It is fabulous that you could visit your ancestor's home. So inspiring to see that strangers acknowledged the house's significance and used their own funds to save it.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Belinda! The people that saved Freedom Home are truly remarkable, and they certainly inspired me.