Saturday, September 13, 2014

5 Tips: Make FamilySearch Indexing More Enjoyable

I was thinking today about how much I love to index and have found a few tricks to make it a little easier and a lot more fun. To those of you who are already indexers, I salute you! But stick around.

What is Indexing?
This is a great explanation of indexing on the LDS website: Getting into Indexing

Basically, FamilySearch indexing gives you the opportunity to help find valuable information in old documents and enter it into a database which can be accessed by people around the world who are looking for important details about their ancestors. (Things like birth dates, death dates, where a person lived or how they died.)

I know what you’re thinking. Sounds like genealogy. Sigh. That overwhelming task which is perceived to be a boring “someday” sort of thing reserved for old-folk. And indexing is another branch of family history, but I have found it to be really fun and not at all boring. (Also, I don’t actually think genealogy is boring and I am anxious to learn more about it, but like I mentioned, it’s… overwhelming.)

Here are some tips that have made indexing more fun for me personally.

#1. Understand Indexing

This is a no-brainer, but it will save you a lot of trouble to simply go through the interactive tutorial and skim over the Frequently Asked Questions. And don’t be afraid to revisit this information if you have long periods of time between indexing sessions. If you come upon a record and you just can’t figure out what the third letter in one of the namse is, it really is a huge relief to know that you can simply put a “?” in its place and spell out the rest of the name.

#2. Take Advantage of Tools Available to You
One of my favorite parts of indexing is that I feel like I get to solve tiny mysteries from time to time. Occasionally, you will get a name, the name of a city or county, or even an entire record that is really hard to read. The beautifully handwritten words are fun to look at, but sometimes very difficult to decipher. I ran into this with the very first record I indexed. The problem was a county name and one or a couple of the letters were smeared or for whatever reason impossible to make out. I could figure out most of the letters and if it had been a state I had been more familiar with, like Utah, I probably would have known right away which county it was. I think in this case it was a California county. How did I solve this problem?

Well, I knew the year this record was made from the other data on the record, I knew it was a county in California, and I knew the letter it started with, along with several other letters in the name. So, I googled it. A quick hop to a wikipedia page with a list of the counties in California and I was able to figure out what it was. (And the wikipedia pages include the dates the counties were established so you can be extra sure it even existed when your record was made.)

#3. Get Comfortable
Indexing is a very calming, therapeutic activity for me. I love to post up in my office chair with a cozy blanket and a big glass of ice water (my favorite drink). Indexing doesn't have to be a big deal or a long time commitment, but I love to get comfortable so that there’s nothing keeping me from starting another batch. :)

#4. Make it Social
My first experience with indexing was right after I got married. My husband and I decided to try it together and I have loved doing it this way ever since. We work on separate batches, but it’s nice to have someone right there who you can have look at a tricky name when you’re second guessing yourself.

I also think it could be a lot of fun to have an indexing party and get together with friends and family to index. It’s fun to talk about names you see and discuss what their life might have been like or the fact that they had 5 sons who all had the first name John. (I’ve talked to my best friend about doing an indexing party over Skype because she lives far away.)

#5. Just Start and Enjoy Indexing
I love indexing and have found it to be very fulfilling. After reading significant dates and details of their lives, I find myself feeling deeply connected to the people whose name I index. I also just think that the old records are fascinating and beautiful. Just try it. There is no pressure and I’m pretty sure it’s good exercise for your brain, too.

I hope someone out there found this helpful and encouraging.

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