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Volunteer Info logo

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Volunteer Information for the
Illinois
Genealogy Trails websites

You've been cruising through our websites and you're pretty excited by what you see us trying to do. And you're asking yourself, how do I become a part of this? Or maybe you're saying to yourself, I wish I could do this, but I don't think I have the skills. Or maybe you're just saying I need to know more of what's involved before I commit to anything. You've come to the right page. :-)

First.... a little history ABOUT US

We started Illinois Genealogy Trails in March 2000, to try and create one central place that Illinois researchers could go to search through free online data for their ancestors. The support for our efforts was almost 100% positive. And we say "almost" because there has always been one complaint. "Why weren't there more states online chock-ful of data just like Illinois?" It was a valid complaint, but one we never thought we'd be in a position to do anything about. Now, after 6 years of hard work of transcribing free Illinois genealogical and historical data, our Illinois Genealogy Trails hosts feel that we CAN do something about it. We're researchers too, and it's frustrating to search online for data from other states only to just not find it available. So, after much discussion amongst our hosts, we decided to try and branch out to cover other states.

File organization issues made a new name and domain imperative, so on March 1, 2006, Genealogy Trails was born, and Illinois Genealogy Trails became another wonderful stop along the nationwide trail. We started with the same Illinois Trails hosts you've become accustomed to working with and maintain the same group philosophy of putting data online for free... now we'll be doing it for the other states of our beautiful country as well!

We are, and always have been, very choosy about our hosts. We could easily adopt out every county of every state if we weren't so picky, but our sites would not be the quality sites you are used to seeing from us. Our group was founded on the idea of transcribing data and the reality is, it's work. The rewards make the work very worthwhile though. The people you work with are individuals who are dedicated to the same ideals and have the same goals as you. The researchers you will meet through your position as host will help further your own family research - it happens to everybody. Some of our hosts are "long-lost" family members who met each other through these very websites and now are returning the favor by hosting their own sites for us.

We're not a political organization, there's no elections to various offices, no unintelligible by-laws to memorize, no list of rules and regulations to adhere to.... we'll leave that to other groups. Genealogy Trails is all about transcribing data and we're all just trying to do our jobs in the best way we know how, with the least bit of conflict possible.


If you're interested in contributing your data to our group -
view this
If you're interested in becoming a State Host for Genealogy Trails -
view this
If you're interested in becoming a County Host for Illinois, or another county in the Genealogy Trails History project, keep reading


Now for the details about joining our group as an unpaid volunteer County Host....
(did we just lose you? :-)


What's needed to host a website....

- You pretty much need to know how to type - accuracy is more important than speed.
- You need to have access to non-copyrighted data to transcribe for your county and the desire to transcribe that data.
- You must know how to make a basic webpage.

(If you're stopping reading right here, there are tutorials to help you learn how to make webpages - it's not that tough, honest. Many of our hosts were complete html newbies and now they're churning out webpages left and right. We can't teach you how cuz we're absolutely swamped with transcribing, but here's a tutorial to get you on the path to becoming an html whiz:
HTML Goodies Tutorial. )


What's involved in hosting a County website?

The responsibilities of a County Host are as follows:

1.  The biggest responsibility of a Genealogy Trails Host is to transcribe data on a regular basis.
That's what our group is about. The good news is there are no schedules. Many of our hosts try to make monthly updates, some weekly, others every two or three months. Some folks work in spurts as their schedules allow and that is fine too. Just make the effort to keep the website current and we'll be happy. Websites that sit without any new data added to them for extended periods of time quickly lose their appeal to researchers. The more you transcribe, the more likely your website visitors will be inspired to contribute data to your site.

Data to be included are items such as Census, Cemeteries, Marriages, Deaths, Histories, Biographies, etc. following all copyright laws.  A good place to begin is with the documents you already have gathered from your own family history. Putting your data online will also increase the chances you'll meet up with somebody researching your own family. ;-)

2.  
Accept data contributions and place them online. If researchers donate their records to Genealogy Trails for your County, it's your job to place that data online, giving a copyright to the person who submitted the material. However, this doesn't mean you have to accept someone's gedcom or family tree and post it online for them; rather we want the records they found that helped them create that family tree. Just a note about the data - It is important to realize that researchers are contributing their family information to the Genealogy Trails project, not to YOU, the county host. If you leave our group for whatever reason, every attempt will be made to retain the data that researchers contributed to your website. It's a confusing point and many of our hosts get attached to "their" researchers, so it's just good to make things as clear as we can. Onward.....

What should your website look like?

You can be as creative as you'd like with your pages in the style and color of your choice, making sure to include the following
WEBPAGE ELEMENTS:

LINKS - Required ones are: back to our main Genealogy Trails page, your state's main index page and to the surrounding counties. The links must be displayed on your main index page, usually near the bottom of the page is a good place.

CURRENT EMAIL ADDRESS - displayed in an obvious place on the index page of the website so researchers can contact you with questions or data contributions.

LOGO: Your main page must include the OFFICIAL Genealogy Trails Logo of your choice and it needs to be displayed near the top of your index page. Once you join us, you can visit our Graphics Page to pick up one of the OFFICIAL Genealogy Trails Logo. (No, you cannot make your own logo, nor can you alter one of ours) We don't require logos on every page of the website, but you should be sure to include a link back to your county's own main index page for the visitor's convenience.

Your site should
Include a brief history of your County.  Let visitors know what your County was all about. You can include historical photographs, biographies, public officials, tax lists from the past. Libraries are excellent places to find public-domain materials like this to include. Other than that, you're free to add whatever other copyright-free data you can find. :-)

You can create your pages in any style or color that you like, as long as the above elements are present. It is your choice as to whether you add surname/query/brickwall webpages, links to informational websites such as area libraries and societies, etc. The only type of links we don't want are links to commercial websites (ancestry, familytreemaker, genealogy.com, etc - they don't need our help). Remember though - a link is an excuse to leave your website. You're doing a lot of work to attract visitors to your site and when you provide a link, you're providing an easy way for visitors to leave your site.

We have no banners on our sites. We want to keep it that way.

Where do I place my site?

Hosts are NOT required to use our server, though the index page of your website must be on our server displaying our logo. The other webpages of the site may be placed on any server you want - you are not required to use our webspace. There are companies who offer free webspace - geocities, angelfire, etc...

We offer unlimited webspace for Genealogy Trails websites under our genealogytrails.com domain. If you choose to put your webpages on our server, you will be given a password and that space will be considered yours as long as you are hosting for Genealogy Trails. We will respect your privacy and not interfere with the files you place in it. There may be instances where we will have to access the ftp space you are using, but these instances are extremely rare and are usually confined to cases of administrative emergencies. If you leave our group, the password will be changed to protect the privacy of the next host.

And lastly,
does this cost anything? Well.... yes.... our volunteers pay to work for free. How crazy is that!!! But being a group of volunteers with no big corporations hiding behind us to pay our server bill, we need to be able to pay that bill somehow. So the volunteers of the group decided that Annual Dues of $10 would be more than enough to pay for our unlimited server space which we offer to hosts under our domain name. Any extra goes to purchase data to transcribe. We collect dues once a year in March cuz that's when the server bill is due. It is a flat fee of $10 per host, not per number of counties that the host may manage. The dues are required even if you do not host your site on our server. If the $10 is a hardship, we can work this out. Please do not let this be the only reason you decide not to join us. Many of our hosts contribute a little extra every year to help cover hosts who can't pay. Did I mention we have a really good bunch of folks working together?

Sound good? Still interested? Contact
Kim and let's set the process in motion!!!

IMPORTANT: We are not a commercial website - we are volunteer based and do not receive payment. We do not allow our hosts to make a profit from this project and a host should never ask a researcher for money. Also, we do not allow hosts to advertise or link to their own commercial businesses from a Genealogy Trails website. This includes any Professional Genealogy Research business.

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Thinking about wanting to be a STATE HOST for the Genealogy Trails History Project?

Skills and requirements are a little different for this job because there's more work involved.... First, see if the state is available
here. If so, here are the job responsibilities.

What skills do I need?

- You still need to know how to type - accuracy is more important than speed.
- You need to have access to non-copyrighted data to transcribe for your county and state and the desire to transcribe that data.
- You must know how to make a basic webpage.


What are my responsibilities as a
State host?

State Hosts are also expected to transcribe data - this is why we're different from other online projects and this is why folks are so supportive of our group -... data... data... data.

The good news is there are no schedules. Many of our hosts try to make monthly updates, some weekly, others every two or three months. Some folks work in spurts as their schedules allow and that is fine too. Just make the effort to keep the website current and we'll be happy. Websites that sit without any new data added to them for extended periods of time quickly lose their appeal to researchers. The more you transcribe, the more likely your website visitors will be to be inspired to contribute data to your site.

Data to be included are items such as Census, Cemeteries, Marriages, Deaths, Histories, Biographies, etc. following all copyright laws.  A good place to begin is with the documents you already have gathered from your own family history. Putting your data online will also increase the chances you'll meet up with somebody researching your own family. ;-)

State Host Data Requirements:

1. State Hosts should host at least one county and provide transcribed data for that county, as well as state-based transcribed data (when able to). Set a good example for your county hosts. When they see you working hard transcribing, they will be inspired to work just as hard with you.

2. State Hosts are responsible for accepting transcribed data for unhosted counties and placing it within the website on a timely basis and providing a link to that data. (However, this doesn't mean you have to accept someone's gedcom or family tree and post it online for them; rather we want the records they found that helped them create that family tree.)

Just a note about the data -
It is important to realize that researchers are contributing their family information to the Genealogy Trails project, not to YOU, the State host. If you leave our group for whatever reason, every attempt will be made to retain the data that researchers contributed to your website. It's a confusing point and many of our hosts get attached to "their" researchers, so it's just good to make things as clear as we can. Onward.....

Administrative Duties:

1. Help new hosts get their pages up and running, so you need to have a pretty good grasp of html and ftp'ing. We do have tech people who can help out here though and our mailing list is ALWAYS available for asking questions. Once you get a new host, you will need to make sure the Project Supervisor (Kim) has that host's information - name, email address, snail mail address)

2. State Hosts should periodically check to make sure all site requirements are on the county website pages. Logos and links should all be correct.

3. State Hosts are responsible for making sure that sites are kept updated on a regular basis. The timetable for "regular basis" can vary based on the County Host's "real life" schedules. We're pretty flexible time-wise and we try and work with a host's schedule as best we can. The goal is to avoid websites that sit for months on end with no updating activity. Once it is determined that a website has been abandoned or that the County Host no longer wishes to remain as host, the State Host must contact the Project Supervisor (Kim) with that information.

4. State Hosts can expect to handle day-to-day personnel issues that arise with their county hosts. They should respond to emails within a reasonable time, whether from the public or their County Hosts. If there are complaints or inquiries about County Hosts, the State Host is responsible for alerting the Project Supervisor of those complaints. These issues may then be handled
either at the State Host level or the Project Supervisor level, depending on the situation. You're won't be alone in handling "issues" which may arise - there's always someone to help and our mailing list is available 24/7.

What should your website look like?

You can be as creative as you'd like with your pages in the style and color of your choice, making sure to include the following
WEBPAGE ELEMENTS:

- Proper placement of an OFFICIAL Genealogy Trails logo at the top of the page, a link to the main Genealogy Trails page (usually at the bottom of the page) and links to the hosted counties of the state which can be either on the index page or a page linked to from the index page - your choice.
Unhosted counties with no available data are not required to have a webpage set up until data becomes available. If data becomes available for an unhosted county, a link to that data must be provided.

Your main index page
must include the Genealogy Trails Logo and it needs to be displayed near the top of your index page. Once you join us, you can visit our Graphics Page to pick up one of the OFFICIAL Genealogy Trails Logo. (No, you cannot make your own logo, nor can you alter one of ours) We don't require logos on every page of the website, but you should be sure to include a link back to your county's own main index page for the visitor's convenience.

- A current email address displayed in an obvious place on the index page of the website so researchers can contact you with questions or data contributions.

- Information on adopting available counties

- A brief history of the state.


- Information on the state's research resources with [optional] links to informational websites. Genealogical/Historical Society website links are optional, but snail mail addresses should be provided. It is your choice as to whether you add surname/query/brickwall webpages or links to informational websites such as area libraries and societies, etc. The only type of links we don't want are links to commercial websites (ancestry, familytreemaker, genealogy.com, etc - they don't need our help). Remember though - a link is an excuse to leave your website. You're doing a lot of work to attract visitors to your site and when you provide a link, you're providing an easy way for visitors to leave your site. We have no banners on our sites. We want to keep it that way.

Feel free to create your pages in any style or color that you like, as long as the above elements are present.

*****

Where do I place my site?

Hosts are NOT required to use our server, though the index page of your website must be on our server displaying our logo. The other webpages of the site may be placed on any server you want - you are not required to use our webspace. There are companies who offer free webspace - geocities, angelfire, etc...

We offer unlimited webspace for Genealogy Trails websites under our genealogytrails.com domain. If you choose to put your webpages on our server, you will be given a password and that space will be considered yours as long as you are hosting for Genealogy Trails. We will respect your privacy and not interfere with the files you place in it. There may be instances where we will have to access the ftp space you are using, but these instances are extremely rare and are usually confined to cases of administrative emergencies. If you leave our group, the password will be changed to protect the privacy of the next host.

And lastly,
does this cost anything? Well.... yes.... our volunteers pay to work for free. How crazy is that!!! But being a group of volunteers with no big corporations hiding behind us to pay our server bill, we need to be able to pay that bill somehow. So the volunteers of the group decided that Annual Dues of $10 would be more than enough to pay for our unlimited server space which we offer to hosts under our domain name. Any extra goes to purchase data to transcribe. We collect dues once a year in March cuz that's when the server bill is due. It is a flat fee of $10 per host, not per number of counties that the host may manage. The dues are required even if you do not host your site on our server. If the $10 is a hardship, we can work this out. Please do not let this be the only reason you decide not to join us. Many of our hosts contribute a little extra every year to help cover hosts who can't pay. Did I mention we have a really good bunch of folks working together?

Sound good? Still interested? Contact the Project Supervisor Kim and set the process in motion!!!

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IMPORTANT: We are not a commercial website - we are volunteer based and do not receive payment. We do not allow our hosts to make a profit from this project and a host should never ask a researcher for money. Also, we do not allow hosts to advertise or link to their own commercial businesses from a Genealogy Trails website. This includes any Professional Genealogy Research business.


CONTRIBUTING DATA

If you have raw data to transcribe, we'd be very happy to accept whatever you care to contribute. The best way is to type it up into an email and send it to the county/state website host. If the state is unhosted, send it to Kim, who will take care of getting it online. Contact
Kim

If you live near a Genealogical Library, in Illinois or nearby, you can transcribe data for the project. You can also order microfilm for your county or counties of interest, and transcribe the material from the film. Your local library, LDS library, the Illinois State Archives and other resources do have microfilmed records of all kinds. We follow copyright laws strictly, however, so if you have any questions about certain material, email Kim. See
this site for more information about copyright laws.

The types of raw data we are looking for are census data, burial/cemetery records (watch out for copyright laws), vital records such as marriage, birth, death, military records, biographies from old county histories, and gee, the old county histories themselves. What we are looking for are the raw records you used to put together your family tree, rather than the family tree itself.

WHAT WE PREFER NOT TO ACCEPT:

Family trees and gedcoms.
Pictures of obituaries or printed text.... we prefer them transcribed to save on server space and so that they will show up in the search engines (pictures do not).
For unhosted counties, we would rather not accept pictures of individuals or "Can you help name this person" type of picture. We'd like to focus on historical pictures or class pictures.

If a site is hosted, it is up to the individual host if they want to accept individual portrait pictures or other pictures which won't help a lot of people. (Aunt Sally's picture usually doesn't help a wide range of people)

DATA ISSUES

Who owns this data?

If you provide it, you own it.  If you request it to be removed, it will be.   You do need to help us out a bit and tell us exactly what you provided and where it's located. We have thousands of webpages online. We will do our best to find it and remove it.

If for any reason a host decides to leave our project, every effort will be made by Genealogy Trails to retain the information within the Genealogy Trails project.

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