Spotlight: Raechel Miller - Volunteering Virtually
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Raechel Miller was worried about achieving the volunteer public service hours needed to achieve a Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2021.
Miller lives in Cheyenne and is a junior in high school. She became involved in the Congressional Award program after her friends encouraged her to join her freshman year. She has already earned both her Silver and Bronze Medals.
"Coming into my junior year, I have seen the Congressional Award as an opportunity for college acceptance, scholarships, community involvement, and learning new hobbies and skills," Miller said.
When many organizations and local events in Cheyenne closed down this year, Miller sought online volunteer opportunities to meet her goal of achieving a Gold Medal in 2021. Eventually, she came up with the idea to volunteer through indexing.
Family history indexing is a process where deceased individuals' legal documents and information are placed online for public view on a family history organization's website like FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com.
"In my religion, we believe that family is eternal and that loving and knowing our present and past family should be a priority," Miller explained. "I did a little indexing at the start of quarantine for that reason. When I realized I was helping a worldwide community, I decided to make it one of my volunteer public service goals."
As an indexer, Miller examines pictures of handwritten marriage, migration, death, or birth records kept in a family history center, memorial, or courthouse. She then types out the dates, names, and other important pieces of information from the records and submits her work.
After online index reviewers check that Miller's information is accurate, it is placed in the website's searchable database. From there, people worldwide can search for the name of an ancestor and find the information that was indexed.
If Congressional Award participants are looking for a convenient volunteer goal or online alternative, Miller recommends indexing.
"All it requires is having an account with a certified family history organization's website, and that you can access the website through a phone, tablet or computer," she said. "Often, the organization will have a free app, as well as an online site that you can use."
For anyone considering indexing or just family history in general, Miller recommends signing up with FamilySearch.org. It's a free website that also interacts with other databases and groups. On the other hand, if you are looking for a larger-scale organization and are willing to pay a subscription fee, she recommends Ancestry.com and its World Archives Project.