The following article was written for Genealogy Ensemble by Marian Bulford, a genealogist from the West Island of Montreal who has been indexing for many years. She gives us valuable insight about indexing and how we all benefit from the contributions of those who index the records we use in our genealogical pursuits.
Indexing is the data entry of human records worldwide in any language you choose. If you can type, then you can index, so why not get started today?!
The FamilySearch website has provided a way for anyone with an internet connection to assist in the monumental task of indexing world genealogical records. It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as The Mormons.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in the process of digitizing the bulk of their genealogical records, as well as partnering with genealogical societies and other groups to digitize other records of genealogical value. Most of the websites today have obtained their records from this church.
As indexing is entered, the records are checked and arbitrated a few times. Then these digitized records are uploaded to the online FamilySearch Indexing project site for anyone, including you, to view free of charge.
Easy to download software and index
The indexing software is free and easy to download, and the online tutorials should get you started quickly. There is also an online help desk if you have questions.
You do not have to be a church member to index or search this free website. To start, simply go to the website link here. It takes only a few minutes to download your selected batch of records — in any language and in any part of the world you choose — and transcribe the entries using the provided software you will find on the web page.
Alternatively, if you just want to research a wonderful database for free with no obligation or fees, go to https://familysearch.org.
If you volunteer to index for FamilySearch, just remember, you are helping to add millions of data for us genealogists to find plus, as a side benefit, indexing can help you become a better researcher as you become more familiar with the wide variety of historical documents available to you and the type of information each contains. You can choose a beginner, intermediate, or advanced batch to index.
Where to start?
Indexing consists of births, deaths, marriages, banns, obituaries, christenings, or baptisms. In addition, there are historical records consisting of many other interesting items worldwide. For instance, how about indexing the following databases?
- France, Diocèse de Coutances et Avranches – Registres Paroissiau from 1796 to 1880
- UK Sussex Church of England Parish Records from 1538 to 1910
- US Louisiana WW2 Draft Registration cards from 1940 to 1945
- South African Free State, Estate Files from 1951 to 1980
- Polska, Radom Roman Catholic Church Books from 1733 to 1868
- Brazil, Pernambuco Recife Registro Civil from 1900 to 1920
All of the above databases, and many more, now await us to index them and provide a name or a lead for someone who is searching for their ancestors.
To help you through the indexing process, there are Help fields on the right of every batch you download. You never know, you may even come across some of your family names whilst indexing.
Once records have been indexed through FamilySearch Indexing, the new indices (and sometimes the document images) are posted online for free access at FamilySearch.
How I started
Because I am originally from the UK, I usually go to the UK batches for my indexing as I love history and I find so much of interest there, but I also like to mix it up and, as long as it is in English, I will index it.
Last year, I helped index the US 1940 Census. (As you well know, the census is usually the first place we go to find an ancestor’s name.) That monumental task was also completed well within the time range expected and up and running far sooner than anticipated.
Tremendous response to call for volunteers last month
Last month the FamilySearch website asked for volunteers for two days of indexing by asking everyone you know to join in. This, in part, is their response after that weekend. “We hoped to have an unprecedented 50,000 contributors in a 24-hour period. FamilySearch volunteers excelled, surpassing that goal by 16,511! That’s right—66,511 participants in one day! Incredible! We are grateful for the patience and persistence of many volunteers who faced technical difficulties due to an overwhelming response.” To read more, visit the blog post, FamilySearch Volunteers Set Historic Record.
According to some sources, volunteers participating in online indexing projects are adding over a million names a day in total.
Once records have been indexed through FamilySearch Indexing, the new indices (and sometimes the document images) are posted online for free access at FamilySearch Record Search.
So, log on and go see what you get back for a few hours, or even minutes, of indexing. Why not try a test drive on the above links and be part of the many people proud to add to the billions of records that amateur and professional genealogists like us search for daily.