Monday, April 13, 2015

How indexing can make you a better genealogist

Technically, indexing doesn't really count as genealogy or family history work. It gets lumped in there, for obvious reasons, but it's basically just a service project that helps genealogists. That said, participating in indexing can take your research to the next level pretty fast, if you're paying attention.

Inexperienced genealogists skip over great records all the time. The death place is wrong, the birth year is off, that's not how they spell their name. Indexers know better. They know what's going on behind the curtain.

For example, when you're searching through records it's easy to pass over a census record where the birth year is three years off. If you're born in 1996 you're not going to write 1993. Doesn't make sense. If you're an indexer, though, you know that a 5 and an 8 can look pretty much the same. You also know that when it says that's the birth year, the category could really be "close enough to the birth year". And, after seeing how many people can't sign their own name, it's a little easier to believe that these people might not be keeping track of their age very carefully, much less how they spell their name!

Indexing is a fast and fun way to learn about genealogical records. The little things you learn while you're indexing can be worth years of experience. Here's how to make the most out of it.

1. Choose projects that are relevant to your ancestors if you can
If you can find a project (in a language that you speak) for a country or region where your ancestors lived, choose that one! You'll learn common names, abbreviations, and all kinds of other information that can help you with your family history research.

2. Read (or at the very least skim) the project instructions before you start
Not only is this important if you're going to do a high quality indexing job, but the project instructions can also tell you important information about the types of records you're indexing. For example, one of the projects I recently indexed included "marriage banns", which the project instructions said are basically engagement announcements. There wasn't an indexing category for engagements, so the instructions said to put it down as a marriage. Yikes! Next time I see conflicting marriage dates, I'll know what to look for.

But can youth index? YES! Like family history work, there is no age requirement for indexing. Or skill-level requirement. You don't have to worry about messing up someone's genealogy if you index something incorrectly because someone checks your work. It's set up so that anyone can do it, so there's no reason not to!

Get started here!

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