How to Give Back to the Genealogy Community

[Editor’s note: Flip-Pal mobile scanner Ambassador Thomas MacEntee shares his thoughts on the various ways to help others with their genealogy research while giving yourself a gift at the same time.]

Think back to when you first became interested in researching your family history…what was the “catalyst” involved? Most likely there was a specific event or a special person in your family that triggered that moment where you realized, “I want to know who my ancestors were and I want to know who I am.”

As your genealogical journey progressed—what other events, people, places and organizations influenced your research and your discoveries? Have you ever considered where you would be with your family history without those contributors and influencers?

Why should I help others with their genealogy? What’s in it for me?

A very good question. Here’s my reason why I volunteer my time with genealogy organizations and help mentor other genealogists: if I can help someone and make it easier for them and not have them repeat some of my mistakes, then for me I’ve returned the favor that was once given me.

And what do I get out of it? Every contact and every collaboration continues to be a revelation for me. I may have been “doing genealogy” for over 20 years now, but each time I work with someone new I think of resources I haven’t used in a while or I fine tune my approach and skills on a certain type of research problem. It is my way of being in a state of constant learning and constant curiosity.

Ways you can make a contribution to the genealogy community

Just as we all research our ancestors differently, there are different opportunities for you to give back to the genealogy community. Here are a few:

  • Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness has been a mainstay of volunteerism and genealogical assistance for years. Despite the recent death of its creator Bridgette Schneider, the spirit of giving lives on in a new site set up in a wiki format. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Wiki takes requests for lookups, photos, record requests etc. and allows others to pitch in and provide help.
  • Create a blog. Blogs are not just personal diaries or soap boxes anymore. Many genealogists have started to share their own genealogy research experiences online and in public through the use of blogs. Check out to get started and you could have a blog set up in less than five minutes. For examples of genealogy blogs, visit the site which lists over 2,800 different genealogy and family history blogs from around the world.
  • Contribute to message boards and forums. Many sites including and have forums or message boards where newcomers often ask questions. Look for topics related to your own research or your area of expertise and contribute information that will help others.
  • Facebook groups. The hottest thing in collaboration and knowledge sharing right now are the various genealogy groups created on Facebook. Use the search field at the top of the Facebook screen and search for a topic and add the word “genealogy.” There are groups focused on technology and specific locations that are not only fun to contribute to, but who knows, you might also learn a thing or two?
  • Volunteer. Many genealogical and historical societies need volunteers and don’t’ forget that with the ever-expanding Internet technologies and apps, you can often volunteer “virtually” instead of showing up in person. Visit the Federation of Genealogical Societies to locate genealogy societies near and far.

How to use the Flip-Pal mobile scanner to give back

Believe it or not, you can actually use the Flip Pal mobile scanner with many of the suggested methods of giving back listed above. Here are some ideas:

  • Offer to scan documents as part of an indexing project. Many genealogy societies are sitting on holdings such as obituaries, photos, diaries and more that can be shared online with other researchers if only they were scanned and placed in digital form. The Flip-Pal is mobile and allows you to bring the scanner to the items so they don’t need to leave the repository.
  • Share your Flip-Pal success story! Every genealogist loves to hear how another researcher was able to successfully make a break through, either with their research or in sharing their finds with family and friends. If you’ve been able to use the Flip-Pal in a creative way, why not post your story on your blog or on Facebook? You might just inspire another genealogist!
  • Scan and share resources for other researchers. If you’ve found items such as old maps or books that might be of interest to other genealogists and you know they don’t exist online, scan them with your Flip-Pal mobile scanner and then share them online. (Of course, make sure that you check if the item still has copyright protection before undertaking this type of project.)

Who knows? The seeds you plant through your contributions to the genealogy community might inspire the next generation of genealogists to do the same.

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