This is the number one question heard this year in the genealogy community “What happened to www.RAOGK.com?” I was a longtime RAOGK volunteer for over ten years, photographing gravestones in Londonderry and Derry, and looking up obituaries in the Derry News for descendants all over the US, Canada and even Australia. Over the years I’ve also been asked to find living cousins in the Derry phone book, to photograph childhood homes, and one time I found a contractor who was renovating a family’s ancestral home. It was fun and helped me to hone my genealogy detective skills.
The RAOGK website matched up volunteers willing to do “acts of kindness” across North America and in several other countries across the globe. I took advantage of asking for my own favors twice. The first was before I went to Nova Scotia on a research trip, and I asked a local Nova Scotia genealogist her opinion of some archives I wanted to visit. The second was to ask a volunteer in Hawaii to locate a gravesite I wanted to photograph during a vacation, and she went above and beyond the call of duty by sending me photos, maps, hand drawn diagrams of the family plot and her private contact information in case I needed assistance while in Honolulu.
The RAOGK site administrator, genealogist Bridget Schneider, fell ill and the website closed on 16 October 2011. Bridget passed away on 12 November 2011. Her husband, Doc the webmaster, closed the site as he grieved and it has not re-opened. The entire genealogy community felt the loss with him. Several volunteers opened two RAOGK groups on Facebook for requests. This seems to be working for now, and is a grassroots effort to keep these “acts of kindness” going.
There are many websites out there run by individuals, not corporations, run out of the goodness of someone’s heart. If anything should ever happen to Cyndi Howell of the famous website “Cyndi’s List” www.cyndislist.com where would we all be? And what about Thomas MacEntee of the GeneaBlogger website www.geneablogger.com ? I also count Jim Tipton at www.FindAGrave.com in this category, although he has a team of administrators assisting his project. These websites, which are as valuable as Ancestry.com and familysearch.org, are small operations run out of basements or home offices. As long as they remain one person administrators of their websites I worry about another RAOGK crisis. There are also hundreds and hundreds of genealogy blogs, local history projects, transcription projects and other genealogy website in this same category.
Since RAOGK already had thousands of volunteers, and FindAGrave does, too, they may find a way to build new websites and continue their missions if the administrators die, retire, or just decide to walk away from their websites. Using Facebook is not a perfect solution for RAOGK, but I see many requests posted every day, with lots of folks collaborating on responses. I like that multiple responses seem to be not only answering these requests, but also teaching new genealogist some of the basic research techniques.
Anyone who has spent hours and hours listing cemetery records and photos on FindAGrave should be making backup records of their work, because if the website folds, their work will be lost. The same is true of BillionGraves www.billiongraves.com , which is becoming popular because of its use of GPS in its apps on each volunteer’s cell phone or iPad. I have donated photos and transcriptions to both projects, and save all the work myself as I go along. There is no reason why your photos can’t be donated to both projects or to any other cemetery project that comes along in the future.
Website mentioned above:
www.RAOGK.com (closed indefinitely)
www.BillionGraves.com Billion Graves website, which syncs with the app is a commercial project run by AppTime, LLC, but uses the photographs taken by thousands of volunteers
www.cyndislist.com Cyndi Howells website, Cyndi’s List
www.findagrave.com Find A Grave
www.geneabloggers.com GeneaBloggers by Thomas MacEntee
On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/raogkUSA/ for requests in the USA
https://www.facebook.com/groups/raogkinternational/ for international requests