Friday, August 2, 2013

Giving Back: Indexing for FamilySearch

When I first learned about FamilySearch several years ago, I was ecstatic.  A FREE genealogy resource with records useful in my personal research?!  It seemed too good to be true.  Yet, it wasn't.  I found myself searching through all types of collections that weren't even available on Ancestry, including Massachusetts births, marriages, and deaths (these recently were added to Ancestry, however).  FamilySearch was a remarkable gold mine for me, giving me access to indexes and record images I couldn't find anywhere else on the internet, and it was all free.

Well, it was free for me.  In reality, FamilySearch is run by LDS, and the records are made available thanks to the efforts of thousands and thousands of volunteers worldwide, LDS and non-LDS, who index and arbitrate the records.  About three years ago, I decided to give back by indexing.  I only did a little bit at first, but as time went on, I found myself hooked.

For those who may not know, indexing is transcribing certain information from an image of the record so that it can become searchable.  Every record at FamilySearch is indexed by two separate individuals.  A third person, called an arbitrator, reviews the indexers' work to fix errors and resolve discrepancies.  Last year, after reaching certain indexing milestones, I became an arbitrator so that I could contribute more to FamilySearch.  Frankly, it's taking up most of my free time because I love doing it so much.  I work on interesting collections or ones that may prove useful to me when they eventually are published for the world to search for free.

FamilySearch has an astounding variety of American and international collections in the works.  I know Massachusetts Vital Records are in the works and move quickly, while New Brunswick Provincial Marriages are slower-going because there aren't as many volunteers working on them.  There are probably about 10 collections to index from Italy alone.

If you're stuck in your research, need a break, or are just looking for a way to help others pursue their own genealogy, I would highly recommend indexing.  It's difficult at first to learn all of the rules and adjust to different handwriting styles, but you will get the hang of it with practice.  There are also several unofficial Facebook groups that provide assistance if you need help, in addition to FamilySearch's official support team.

So, this is what's been taking up all of my time from blogging!  I'm hoping to pry myself away from indexing more frequently and get back here often!  There is plenty I'd like to share still.