Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Indexing

Genealogy seems like a "tame" adventure to some who know me. When I talk about my discoveries I have friends who listen avidly, or politely and others who roll their eyes. Yeah, the hobbies of a middle-aged white girl. Right. But this is actually something that interested me from the time I was a young girl hearing about the tangle of aunts, uncles and cousins in my mother's family. Who were these people? What did they do? What were they like? As part of the younger generation moved far away from the small hometown, I drove my parents crazy with questions. My mother was reasonably forthcoming, my dad not so much. So when I started my search 4 years ago I had a number of mysteries to solve. For those of us not lucky enough to travel and do research in person, online resources have become a treasure. I soon discovered FamilySearch, an online repository of records kept by the Mormon Church. Records that are indexed are searchable by name or place or date at the click of a mouse. Many more records have been scanned or photographed and are browsable online. I was delighted to discover a written household inventory and will for a family member from the early 1800's. I knew the approximate date and place, but had to patiently browse through the volume. Time consuming, but rewarding. What a glimpse I got into his life! Last spring I got an email from FamilySearch asking me to volunteer to help them index the 1940 census. This simply means looking at a scanned document and keying data into a large form for a database. Boring right? Actually not. One of the lessons I've learned online is that getting to know the unique characteristics of the forms you discover can make your search much easier. Let's say that your family member shows up living in New York City in 1940, but you are unable to find him before that. Looking at the 1940 Census you discover that there is a field for "Residence in 1935". Voila! Your relative was last living in Albany. That 1940 Census, by the way, was indexed in record time by thousands of volunteers. They knew, as I do, that the faster the records are indexed, the sooner they are out there at TheFold or Ancestry or FamilySearch for all of us to use. FamilySearch is always looking for new volunteers. (BTW, I'm not affiliated in any way-just an enthusiastic volunteer) You download some simple software and work whenever you can. Each project has a deadline, but no one keeps track of how often you work. You can even download projects to work in bits and pieces. They especially need people fluent in other languages. Right now they are indexing manifests for immigrant ships. Does that pique your interest? Imagine finding your ancestor on the very boat that brought him to this country! So, if you have become as ensnared by this hobby as I have, consider volunteering to do a little indexing for FamilySearch.

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