Saturday, July 17, 2010


I'm sure you have been the recipient of a RAOK (random act of kindness) at one time or another, and surely you have done them for other people (open the door for an elderly person, pick up a dropped item for a mom with toddlers, give a person a nickel or dime at the grocery store when they are searching for change) ...well,  maybe that last one is actually a self-RAOK. You probably want that person to STOP searching in their bottomless handbag and just MOVE ALONG in the line, but you get my drift. Most of these take little time to do and, if you were to think about it, probably occur more often in your life than you realize. They bring a little bit of sunshine to our daily lives.

RAOGKS - random acts of GENALOGICAL kindnesses - are a bit different. They can be as simple as looking up a date for someone on a subscription website you belong to or in a book you own. They can entail some serious legwork, like tracking down a grave for someone and taking a picture of it, visiting a local government office to copy a document, or guiding a newbie on how to start their family tree. Most of these RAOGKS require little time; some require a bit of money (parking or document fees); and some can drive you nuts if you don't know where to find the information.

However, I enjoy RAOGKS and have been doing them for about the past three years since I'm no longer able to work. I've actually gained an education that has been quite unexpected. I didn't realize HOW much I had learned until I offered to help a friend with a project.

I met Silvana when I was managing a fabric outlet. Then I came upon her again when I discovered that she and I were members of a few Yahoo groups about historical needlework. You know how those groups go, you meet someone who belongs to a few groups you frequent and after a while you feel as though you've known them forever. This is how I became friends with Silvana.

Silvana needed some information on a few people from the Civil War era. She gave me a few names, I found the information and sent it to her (email is SO great!). She sent a few more names which proved a bit more challenging to find, but I finally succeeded and zipped them over to her. She started to get excited, I started to get excited, and after a few days of messaging back and forth her project was complete; she had met her deadline.

Imagine my delight a few months later when I received a copy of her "project" in the mail:
Missouri's War: The Civil War in Documents (Civil War in the Great Interior)
Silvana R. Siddali, editor

Inside on the Acknowledgments page (page xii) Silvana wrote:

Cathy Champion graciously donated her time in tracking down genealogical information.

Now I would like to add that Silvana DID offer me something in exchange for my time, but since she had already offered to let me paw through her collection of vintage sewing patterns I felt that that was payment enough!  If you don't sew, you just won't understand!

Since Missouri's War I've also helped Silvana with a book she is compiling about another state and an investigative piece for a private group.  I'm honored that she thinks my work is good enough to include in her books. 

Now I'm working on a few ideas of my own.  All involve real people who lived in the 1900s, and all have some sort of connection to St. Louis.  So I'm sure that I'll be asking for ROAGKS from others in the near future! 

So watch for YOUR chance to do a RAOK - or a RAOGK if you are a genealogist - for you never know where an act of kindness will lead.  I've always loved these lyrics from the Annie Lenox song "Put A Little Love In Your Heart":
Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart

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