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Chesterfield volunteer digging up the past to help others

Posted at 12:11 AM, Jul 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-09 00:11:51-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A Chesterfield volunteer who loves to help people find their roots is giving families from all across the world the closure they are looking for.

Genealogy, the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history, is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the country.

Bob Olsen says all he needs a map and clipboard. The Midlothian man traipses through cemeteries across Richmond.

“I enjoy genealogy and I enjoy history. I enjoy a good mystery… In Hollywood Cemetery there are 68,000 burials,” he said walking through the cemetery.

For the last two and a half years, Bob has been piecing the puzzle together for people whose roots stretch back to Richmond.

Bob Olsen

Bob Olsen

“In that time I’ve fulfilled 2,400 requests and taken over 8,000 pictures,” he said.

Requests for information pour in on the website Findagrave.com.

“By claiming a request, we promise to take a picture of the gravestone within two weeks. Two of the requests here are from the United Kingdom,” he said.

The history buff gathers the precious information for free, but Olsen said the scavenger hunts have fringe benefits for him too.

“This gets me my exercise,” he said. “It works my mind. It works my body.”

The former crane operator delivers results all year round. Even the conditions won’t stop him.

“It can be hot, stormy, and raining,” he explained.

He said delivering answers for inquiring minds is what’s most gratifying.

“I enjoy it,” he said with a smile. “'You don’t know where you going until you know where you’ve been.”