Monday, March 19, 2007

FamilySearch Indexing

When I attended the family history seminar here the weekend before last, I heard several people talking about having signed up to do indexing for As has been widely reported, is being expanded to include a treasure trove of genealogical information to be available free of charge. This requires a huge effort to index all the sources.

I was curious about indexing, so I went to the site and signed up. About an hour or so later, I was indexing a page from a federal census of a Midwestern state. The process that got me there was relatively simple.

Once you sign up, you're given a password. You download the indexing software. You will want to take the appropriate tutorial. Then you begin indexing.

Indexing is a lesson in itself. You can see immediately the problems that can be had with handwriting. And then what is one to do with diacritical marks such as the umlaut or tilde? And those of us who have lived a half-century or more could certainly benefit from larger type in the software!

In any event, the soft ware tells you how much you have completed. Once you have finished your indexing, you submit your work to the familysearchindexing server. Each data batch is indexed by two indexers, whose work is reviewed and reconciled if necessary by an arbitrator.

Apparently you don't have a choice of which data you index. I saw a batch that I thought looked interesting on the home page. I clicked on it, only to be given a different batch. This happened twice.

The website lets you set goals (i.e., the number of names you intend to transcribe in, say, a week). It keeps up with you, too. FamilySearch reports that in January 2007, volunteers indexed nearly 3,660,000 names. That compares with a little more than 114,000 names in January 2006.

It's not too difficult to index 50 names (your typical census page) in less than an hour. But you'll find at the outset that you need to pay close attention to what you are doing. I thought it was an interesting experience that gave me a sense of satisfaction. I recommend trying it. You'll be doing a favor to the entire community.

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