Indexing For The Family History Library

by Patricia A Johnson
Some of us jokingly say that genealogy is an addiction. Now I have discovered a related addiction that is as much fun. Not that I have run out of people to track down, but now I am helping others find their ancestors.

As you know, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City plans to have their entire collection available on the Internet — for free! No more ordering films at the Family History Center and waiting three weeks (or more) to read them. What is the hold up? The entire collection has to be indexed before that will happen. The more people that are indexing, the sooner we can all have access to the vast collection at Salt Lake City.

I am participating in the main project, as well as the Indiana Genealogy Society project. The main project is described on familysearchindexing.org. The Indiana Genealogy Society Project is Indiana Marriages 1790-1957. I had to sign up for each independently.

You do not need to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to participate in either project. It is fun and the software the Church has provided is outstanding. How does it work?

  1. I downloaded the software.
  2. I received my login and password—then
  3. I log on to the “familysearchindexing site”.
  4. I download a set of data (to be completed in 7 days).
  5. On the upper half of my computer screen a page from the census (or other documents) appears, or pages from a County’s marriage records in Indiana for the Indiana Genealogy Society Project.
  6. On the bottom half of my computer screen an entry table appears. It has a highlighter that moves from field to field as I enter data in the table. (this keeps me from going cross eyed).
  7. If I decide to quit in the middle I can save the work to my computer and continue later.
  8. I can decide to work offline if I choose to.
  9. In about 30 minutes, I can have one census page indexed and submitted to the server in Salt Lake City.
  10. A quality check must be run before the work is submitted.
  11. A total of your names submitted is automatically updated after each submission.
  12. There are two teams indexing each page and then an arbitrator decides the difference (if any) detected between the two submissions.

Why is it worthwhile? First, I learn a lot. The 1900 US Census was taken at such a vibrant time in America. It was busy with immigrants coming to America from all over the World. As I index the boroughs of New York City, or Chicago or Philadelphia, I can feel the enthusiasm these new citizens felt. I can see that the immigrant families had many children, since that is the census that asks each woman how many children she has and how many are still living.

Just as today, the immigrant families are having larger families than the regular citizens. It gives me insight into the fact that ours is a great country and appeals to people from everywhere. It gives me insight to the social fabric of our country. As I indexed the “Alms House” on Blackwell’s Island I learned that many immigrants never realized the “American Dream,” and as unpleasant as I am sure it was there, they were at least cared for and fed. Some of the pictures I see as I index are sad, but most are full of hope. It is a good mental exercise and a chance to use my handwriting reading skills, although sometimes I wish I could be there and sharpen the census takers pencil, or get him a new fountain pen!

Anyone can do this project. I have dial up Internet connection and have no problem with indexing. However, being an arbitrator is more than my connection can handle. If you are interested in this worthwhile project, you can get the project details at their website.

Here you can read about the various projects, download the software, or volunteer to index. Membership in the LDS Church is not required, just leave the question blank about this. There are instructions for each project and you receive e-mail messages from headquarters, when they notice a common problem is occurring. Remember, the more people that are indexing, the sooner we can all have access to the vast collection at Salt Lake City. As of March 27, there are 25,000 folks indexing records. Happy Indexing!!

From the Larimer County Genealogical Society Newsletter, Volume 27 Number 3

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