Saturday, December 8, 2012

Madame LN: Indexing

Dear Readers: Madame L is pleased that Madame LN has consented to answer questions occasionally, that is, whenever YOU ask them, about genealogy, indexing, family history, and related matters. Please show your support by Madame LN by sending questions!

Dear Madam LN,
Our stake president has asked the members of our stake to index 6 million names in the coming year. I have some questions for you. What is indexing, anyway? How do I get started? Why should I do that instead of my own genealogy? And six MILLION names! Is he out of his mind??
Dear Overwhelmed:
First: What is indexing?
From the website we read this definition:
In-dex-ing: - typing names from historical documents to create a searchable database.
Second: How do I get started?
The best way to learn what indexing is, and why it is important, is to try it! Getting started is easy. Just follow these three simple steps:
Step 1—Install the Indexing Program.
1.       Go to
2.       When the page loads, click “Get Started”
3.       On the next page, click “Download Now”
4.       Once it is finished downloading, open the file to install the Indexing program to your computer.
Step 2—Index your First Batch
1.       Open the FamilySearch Indexing program.
2.       Create a new account and sign in.
3.       When you first sign in, the program will suggest that you watch the Quick Start video. Watch it! (If you missed it, you can find it under the program’s Help menu ->Quick Start).
Step 3—Index away!
Third: Why should I do indexing instead of my own genealogy?
Please, don’t do indexing instead of your own genealogy. Do indexing to help you do your genealogy, as well as to help others do theirs. When you can access databases of marriages, ship logs, birth certificates, parish records, and censuses from years gone by, at no charge and in the comfort of your own home or office, your efforts to find your ancestors will be greatly enhanced! It is a real thrill when you are able to find the names of your ancestors, and prove, through official documentation, when and where they lived and were married and died and are buried.
Here is an example of how it can work, and how it benefits you and all of society:
This past year, volunteers indexed all of the names from the 1940 US Census. You see, by law, census records cannot be released until 72 years have passed. So, on April 2, 2012, the 1940 census records were released, and tens of thousands of volunteer indexers began extracting the information from 132 million records. Their hope was to have them all done by the end of the year.
Did they do it? You bet they did! In fact, they had it all done in just over four months. By June 7, they were halfway done. On Monday, July 2, they challenged each other to index 5 million names on that day alone. By July 17 they were 90% done, and, on August 21, the US 1940 Census Community Project posted on their Facebook page that the last five states were now posted.
What does this mean for you? Well, chances are that you know someone who was alive in 1940 when that census was taken. My husband is one who participated as a volunteer in that indexing project. One Sunday afternoon as he was reading the records and extracting the information, he came across the name of someone he knew, who is no longer living. It was a thrill for him to call that man’s wife and tell her that he had found her husband’s name on the census. In fact, if you’d like to take a look at that census right now, and see if someone you know is listed, just go to this page and conduct a search: When I did this I learned that my grandfather was living in the home of his brother at the time the census was taken, listed as his brother’s boarder. Hmm, very interesting!
When you find the person for whom you are looking, you can not only look at the information that was indexed, but you can also look at an image of the record itself, and read the information for yourself—without having to look through all 132 million names yourself!
Finally: Is it really possible for a stake to index six million names in a year?
Yes! It is. Imagine that each stake has 5,000 members. Six million names divided by 5,000 members equals 1200 names per person. That’s just 100 names a month, or 25 names a week, per person. I can tell you from personal experience that it takes 15 to 30 minutes or less to do 25 names. You can do that! And you’ll be participating in a great community that is working to enhance one another’s genealogical efforts.
 One more thing: I bet that your stake president has called people in your stake to help you with your indexing efforts. When you download the program to your computer and sign in with your account and get started, check with that person in your stake or ward. This is important! Why? Because in order for your stake to be credited with the work you are doing, your efforts need to be coordinated with the person in charge of it all. Otherwise your efforts may be recorded independently, and no one will know that you are contributing to your stake’s efforts.
Please let me know how it goes, and if you have any more questions. Until then, Happy Indexing!


Unknown said...


AskTheGeologist said...

This is a clean and understandable explanation, but I would add one more thing: As I Index I sense the presence of some of the people I am identifying. This is thrilling beyond words. And it IS... beyond words.