The following announcement was written by the U.S. National Genealogical Society:
2008 National Genealogical Society Hall of Fame
The National Genealogical Society, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, is pleased to announce the 2008 election of Lowell M. Volkel to the National Genealogical Society Hall of Fame, who was nominated by the Illinois State Genealogical Society. Born in 1936, Mr. Volkel was a Danville, Illinois High School teacher whose interest in genealogy began at an early age. He was instrumental in establishing and promoting an interest in genealogy in Illinois, but his efforts in making records available also impacted other states. In 1962 he began a genealogy column “Illiana Ancestors” for a local paper, instructing the public on how to do research and where to find records.
In 1970 he moved to Springfield to become an archivist at the Illinois State Archives. Few know how much influence he had with his work there. It was Lowell who worked long, hard and diplomatically over a number of years with the Illinois State Board of Health to get them to move old vital records to the Archives. While at the Archives he organized the filming program in Illinois for the Genealogical Society of Utah to microfilm official records in Illinois courthouses.
From the time he joined the Archives staff in 1970 until his death, he worked with the Illinois State Genealogical Society, the Illinois State Archives, and various record keepers, to make Illinois records available for research. He set a precedent for other states to follow and influenced their attitudes towards record access. The Illinois Marriage Records Project, which he set in motion and which was under his supervision until his death, is a model volunteer program that is still growing. The index currently includes marriages from 97 of Illinois' 102 counties of which 79 counties have been completed.
In the days before computer indexes, he compiled, edited and indexed more than three-dozen volumes of historical sources for Illinois and surrounding states and also compiled census indexes for some East coast states.
In addition to his many publications, Lowell was also founder and first president of the Illinois State Genealogical Society, and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1993. He taught genealogy classes and was a frequent genealogy speaker and lectured in the 1970s at the National Archives Institute on Genealogy in Washington, D.C. He died in 1992 at the young age of 56, but his efforts for over three decades had an impact that would shape the future of records access nationally.
The National Genealogical Society has administered the Hall of Fame program since 1986 to honor outstanding genealogists whose achievements in the field of American genealogy have had an important impact. Nominees must have been deceased for at least five years and have been actively engaged in genealogy for a minimum of ten years. Their contributions to the field of genealogy in this country must have been unique, pioneering, or exemplary. Such contributions could have been as an author of books or articles that added significantly to the body of published works, or served as a model of genealogical research or writing, or made source records more readily available. The nominee could also have been a teacher or lecturer, or contributed to the field through leadership in a genealogical organization or periodical. Further details as well as a nomination form are available on the NGS web site under Competitions.
Genealogical organizations are invited to nominate qualified candidates for consideration in 2009. A representative group of nationwide genealogists reviews the submissions. The current committee consists of Shirley Langdon Wilcox of Virginia, Sandra M. Hewlett of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Shown Mills of Alabama, Christine Rose of California and Loretto D. Szucs of Illinois.
Founded in 1903, the non-profit National Genealogical Society is one of the nation’s largest and most respected organizations devoted to genealogical research. The Society provides leadership along with a wide variety of educational programs for individuals, societies, libraries and institutions.