Genealogists have a special knack for rummaging through old newspapers and being able to trace lineage through documents. Many genealogists trace their own families, but nearly 500 genealogists are providing a public service by helping county coroners find the families of those who died without known next of kin.
Coroners' investigators say they never stop searching for family members; but, if they haven't turned up within three months, the deceased's information usually gets added to the unclaimed database. Their names are listed in no particular order. Each entry includes the deceased person's age as well as place of death and birth location, if known. Some even have listings of tattoos, height and eye color.
At that point, genealogists who belong to Unclaimed Persons (www.unclaimedpersons.org) step in. "We're making a difference to somebody. Each person deserves to be remembered," said Megan Smolenyak, a professional genealogist who operates rootstelevision.com and coordinates the volunteers' efforts. "We have 493 volunteers at the moment, so I’d love to see us get to at least 500. I’m especially pleased with the fact that we’ve solved 44 cases so far – not bad for a spontaneous group of genealogists just formed last June. Each one of those cases means the world to someone, so it’s a great opportunity to use our sleuthing skills for a truly meaningful purpose."
"If they don't have a family, they become part of our family," said San Bernardino (California) County Supervising Coroner's Investigator Randy Emon.
If you would like to read more or even become a volunteer in this public service effort, look at http://www.unclaimedpersons.org. You also might like to read a newspaper article about the efforts of these volunteers at http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_11713453 and at http://www.insidesocal.com/news247/2009/02/sadness-reality-attach-themsel.html as well as an Ancestry January/February 2009 article at http://www.unclaimedpersons.org/pdf/unclaimed.pdf.