Genealogy Trails

Genealogy Trails
Volunteer Information

 line

Volunteers Do It For Free - Join us at Genealogy Trails
To volunteer to host a website, Contact Us with our new Automated Form!
(But read the info below first!!!)


So maybe you've been cruising through our websites and find that you're 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. :-)

We are a group of volunteers trying to put as much free genealogical and historical data online as possible. If that's not where your interests lie, then there's really no point in you reading on. But if you agree with our philosophy of trying to put as much data online for the free use of all, then you're exactly what we're looking for!

First.... a little history
ABOUT US

We started Illinois 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 full of data just like our Illinois sites?" It was a valid complaint, but one we never thought we'd be in a position to do anything about. After 6 years of hard work of transcribing Illinois genealogical and historical data, our Illinois Trails hosts felt that we COULD 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 History Group was born, and Illinois Trails became another wonderful stop along the nationwide trail of free genealogy websites. We started with those same Illinois Trails hosts and maintained the same group philosophy of putting data online for free... now we're doing it for the other states of our beautiful country as well!

And here we are today.... still working on transcribing free data. And if you're interested in joining us, read on...

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.

What we're NOT....
We're not a political organization, there's no elections to various offices, no unintelligible by-laws to memorize, no long list of rules and regulations that have nothing to do with genealogy 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.

So just to be absolutely clear: If you are an individual who enjoys the political world of online genealogy, if you like serving on committees, if you think there aren't enough by-laws in the world today, if you really enjoy the debating of rules and deciding who is and isn't following them --- WE ARE NOT THE PLACE FOR YOU.
We really want to stress that!

We are
ALL ABOUT ADDING DATA to our websites and enjoying each others company while we're doing it - that's it. There's no point in continuing reading if you are only looking for a place to hone or exercise your political prowess.

So, if you're still interested in becoming a host for us, continue reading! If not, thanks for your time and Happy Hunting along your genie trails!

Where does your interest lie?

If you're interested in contributing your data to our group - view this

If you're interested in becoming a County Host, view this

If you're interested in becoming a State Host, view this


County Host

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 county 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 though, cuz we're absolutely swamped with transcribing.

If you don't want to learn the ins and outs of html, then you can always use download an html editor, looking for the word "WYSIWYG" is the programs description - that means it works like WORD works... all the html formatting is done for you behind the scenes. Examples of FREE WYSIWYG editors are
Pagebreeze, BLOCKNOTE.NET, TRELLIAN WEBPAGE, KOMPOZER, SEAMONKEY, Bluegriffon... and the old Frontpage if you can find a copy.

Want a head start on designing an index page, (which is usually a bit more complicated than the interior webpages)... Here's a
basic webpage template to make a county index page.
If you've tried, but you just can't pick up the "how-to's" of making a webpage, write us and we'll see if we can't set something up for you.  But first, PLEASE give it a try.


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. If you don't want to transcribe data, you might as well stop reading right now. 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. We ask that all hosts try to add a little something to their sites every quarter. We're not talking transcribing a census every quarter - though feel free to, lol. Researchers will LOVE YOU if you do. But what we're talking about is transcribing a couple of obituaries and/or biographies every 3 months. If you don't have the time to do even that, then hosting a site is probably not for you. 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. ;-) As you get that data online, you'll want to branch out into data that is beneficial to a wider range of researchers rather than just the ones researching your own family lines. You'll want to progress to transcribing lists of names, rather than just snagging one or two surnames out of a list.

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, rather than the tree itself.
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 for that 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. Any data that's on a site when you join us WILL remain with that site.
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.
We would appreciate it if you crunch/optimize any graphics used in making the site. We try and keep our sites quick loading and big graphics, besides being wasteful of our server space, can slow a website down to a crawl, costing you viewers.
Also, our data files are in html format, trying to keep the webpages as simple as possible for the fastest loading possible. We do not use pdf files due to their large size, the long time they take to actually open and the fact they do not get included in search engines.

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 and many users can't access them). 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... so you'll want to make sure that there's a good reason for providing a link that's going to take your website's visitor away to someone else's site.

We have no commercial ads or 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 under our domain umbrella, and displaying only our group's 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, though they're dwindling rapidly...

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. Again, we ask that you use the space we provide wisely and it is ONLY for our G.T. sites.

DATA ISSUES - who owns the data?
If a researcher contributes it, it's their data.
If a host transcribes it from copyright-free sources, it's their data.
But here's the thing - you're joining a group whose goal is to transcribe data, data and more data for the sole purpose of keeping genealogy free. Why then would you ask for it to be removed? As much as we want to accommodate every request to remove an ex-host's data, it's just not possible to do, especially for a very active transcriber. And it's definitely not fair to the researchers to have to visit an empty site. So our policy is that if a host feels the need to ask for their
own transcribed data to be removed, we will remove the data that host transcribed for their own county site(s) only. If in the unlikely event that the ex-host plans on asking for their data to be removed from their own county site, they need to do that within 3 days of leaving the group. After the 3 days elapses, the data WILL REMAIN ONLINE on the county site of the host, as the host originally intended.

We all work together on unhosted sites and we have a transcription team whose sole function is to transcribe data. Having that data there one day and gone the next is totally unfair to the researchers and other hosts, especially since we provide a lot of the data to be transcribed and also pay for the subscriptions which a host can also use for their family research. Accordingly then, our policy for host contributed data to sites
other than their own is that the data will not be removed once it's online. It's just too hard and time-consuming to go through over a hundred thousand webpages trying to find who did what, when. So if a host or transcription team member made a wonderful gift to researchers by transcribing some data for a county or state other than their own site, we will accept that gift in the spirit it was given and will continue to display the data online, even after a host has left the group.

To try and make this as clear as possible: --- Your transcribed data for your individual county site is yours to do with as you please, leaving it online here, or even contributing it to other genealogical projects, but if we don't hear from you within 3 days of leaving the group, it will continue to be used by and posted on Genealogy Trails websites for the free use of researchers just like you originally intended it to be. Any data you contributed to a site other than your own county will NOT be removed. Material contributed by others, which a host may have posted, will remain the property of the contributor, not the host, and should not be used on any other site without the written permission of the submitter.

For 99.9% of our hosts, all of the above means nothing because they've already made it very clear they want their data to remain online for the free use of all researchers. For that other .1% -- we'll try our best to accommodate the wishes of the host, but there's a point where it's just not feasible, and the guidelines above reflect those instances.

And now, moving on....

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 February cuz that's when the server bill is due. It is a flat fee of $5 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 $5 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
Nancy 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?

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. (We can help with this)
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.

State hosts are making a commitment to work on a number of sites that are not their "own". They're agreeing to add contributed data from researchers and hosts to the unhosted county sites in the state. They need to agree to do this on a regular schedule. As a state host, you need to be able to commit the time every month to add data to the sites or you will fall hopelessly behind. (We get a lot of data contributions!) At the end of a year, in a perfect world, a state host should have tried to add some pieces of data to every unhosted county site.

If you feel like you have the time to devote to hosting a state, we're going to still start you off hosting a county site only for the first month or two. This will give you time to adjust to online genealogy, get your "sea-legs" under you and will help you decide if this is really something you want to do before making the full commitment to host the state. After the initial month or two and if everybody's happy with each other, we'll expand to the full state hosting duties.


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. View the
county host responsibilities above - they apply here as well.

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.) (View the
county host responsibilities above - they apply here as well.)

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 the websites. 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. (View the county host responsibilities above - they apply here as well.) 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.

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 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 National Coordinator (Kim) of those complaints. 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 state webpage 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.

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) A state site should have a G.T. logo on every page.

- 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. 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 banner ads on our sites. We want to keep it that way.

Feel free to create your state pages in any style or color that you like, as long as the above elements are present. However, our county sites are set up already, even the unhosted ones. They don't need a mass overhaul or massive redecorating project, so if you just like to design websites, this isn't what we're looking for in a state host. We live in a busy world, we all have busy schedules and limited time, so we want your available time to be spent in adding data, not redecorating already decorated websites.

*****

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. Your state interior data pages may be placed on any server you want.

All unhosted county sites must remain on our server.

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.

DATA ISSUES - who owns the data?
If a researcher contributes it, it's their data. If a host transcribes it from copyright-free sources, it's their data. But here's the thing - you're joining a group whose goal is to transcribe data, data and more data for the sole purpose of keeping genealogy free. Why then would you ask for it to be removed? As much as we want to accommodate every request to remove an ex-host's data, it's just not possible to do, especially for a very active transcriber. And it's definitely not fair to the researchers to have to visit an empty site. So our policy is that if a host feels the need to ask for their own transcribed data to be removed, we will remove the data that host transcribed for their
own county site(s) only, and that request must be made within 3 days of leaving the group. After the 3 days elapses, the data WILL REMAIN ONLINE on the county site of the host, as the host originally intended.

STATE HOSTS -- Any data you transcribe for your state's unhosted county sites will remain with that county site, even if you ask it to be removed. A state host is assuming a lot of responsibility, including that for unhosted sites and to remove the data they added would most likely be very detrimental to the whole state and we won't allow a state to be stripped bare. Sorry, that's just the way it needs to be.

We all work together on unhosted sites and we have a transcription team whose sole function is to transcribe data. Having that data there one day and gone the next is totally unfair to the researchers and other hosts, especially since we provide a lot of the data to be transcribed and also pay for the subscriptions which a host uses to obtain that data. Accordingly then, our policy for host contributed data to sites
other than their own is that the data will not be removed once it's online. It's just too hard and time-consuming to go through over a hundred thousand webpages trying to find who did what, when. So if a host or transcription team member made a wonderful gift to researchers by transcribing some data for a county or state other than their own site, we will accept that gift in the spirit it was given and will continue to display the data online, even after a host has left the group.

To try and make this as clear as possible: --- Your transcribed data for your individual county site is yours to do with as you please, leaving it online here, or even contributing it to other genealogical projects, but if we don't hear from you within 3 days of leaving the group, it will continue to be used by and posted on Genealogy Trails websites for the free use of researchers just like you originally intended it to be. Any data you contributed to a site other than your own county will NOT be removed. Material contributed by others, which a host may have posted, will remain the property of the contributor, not the host, and should not be used on any other site without the written permission of the submitter.

For 99.9% of our hosts, all of the above means nothing because they've already made it very clear they want their data to remain online for the free use of all researchers. For that other .1% -- we try our best to accommodate the wishes of the host, but there's a point where it's just not feasible, and the guidelines above reflect those instances.

And now, moving on....

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. (and some years, depending on the number of current hosts, it's even less than $10). 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 Nancy and 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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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

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 and we reserve the right to edit the picture to make it "web ready".

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 from non-copyrighted sources and you typed it up yourself, you own it.  If you request it to be removed, we'll do our best to do so.  You do need to help us out a bit and tell us exactly what you provided and where it's located. We have over a hundred thousand webpages online. We will do our best, within reason, to find it and remove it. If it's not feasible, we'll let you know.

NOTE: If you copied and pasted the data from another project's website, we don't want it.
We try very hard to follow copyright laws, so don't get us in trouble by knowingly copying data from other non-public domain websites.

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