How did you learn about volunteering for FamilySearch
I think I saw it online back in July, I believe, perhaps on FamilySearch.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer?
I have been helping patrons at the Bradenton, Florida, family history center for about 7 to 8 years. I was mainly working on my ancestry when I had the opportunity to help a patron one day. I was able to help him link his ancestry to one of my lines, the Shelton (Skelton) line. He was so excited, and I was so pleased to have assisted him.
What is your experience as a family researcher?
I joined the LDS Church as a young man of 14. Our family (Smiths) had a family reunion each year. I began collecting family information way back then. Among my prized possessions are family group sheets I handed out to my father’s family, which most of them filled out and returned to me. I still have them today, some 58 years later. All of my father’s brothers and sisters are deceased now, and that information would be hard to come by. I am assistant director of our family history center and work three days a week there. I love helping patrons with their research.
What do you like best about serving as a live research assistance (LRA) volunteer?
One thing I like about live research assistance is having the unique experience of assisting persons from around the world with their research problems. I have had calls from Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, and many, many of the states. This work is spreading by leaps and bounds, and I am glad to be a part of it.
What is frustrating or not so enjoyable?
I hesitate to call it a problem because problems are just opportunities. We have our growing pains with our system, but we are moving steadily forward and slowly improving our techniques and resources. I guess one thing that is frustrating is not being able to find what I am searching for, but I don’t give up. I keep watching the newly digitized records being added each day, and one day I will find those answers. I am a member of several programs that have regular seminars, which I watch as often as I can; some have been recorded.
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering becoming a volunteer?
Yes, get into it and receive the great help that our research group can and will give you to get you going. You will not be alone, and someone can assist you with whatever you may be confronted with. The joy that you will receive in helping others with their research will fill your very soul.
Do you have any ideas about what could be done to improve your experience as a LRA volunteer?
Yes, I am working every day to become more computer savvy and more knowledgeable about the various sources to recommend to the patrons. I was the door prize winner on Legacy’s webinar one day recently, which is a book of websites in every state. I look forward to using it to assist my patrons. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. (I know a lot of those old sayings.)
Please tell us about a positive experience you’ve had as a LRA volunteer.
I have had so many that it is hard to single one out, but one comes to mind, which was simple, but was unknown to the patron. She was searching for an adopted child’s birth parents. After several days of searching, I connected with one of this lady’s cousins, who had a family tree online on Ancestry.com with much information about the family. As I said, it was simple to find that tree, but not everyone knows what is learned by doing, down through the years. It just does not occur to them oftentimes.
Thank you, Gaines, for all of your help!