I’ve started to volunteer to help with the Indexing project at FamilySearch.org. In order to volunteer you have to download their free software program. The program is an easy to use tool that coordinates the indexing projects and lets you download batches of documents to your computer for indexing.
I have to admit, the process is a little addictive. I think in my first week, I’ve spent more than 4 hours indexing, adding 249 names and earning 349 points. FamilySearch uses points earned to figure out your proficiency at indexing and make more complicated projects available to you. When you are starting out as a newbie, you are shown easier projects for your preferred batches. As you gain points, more complicated batches will become available to you.
I bounced around a little bit, trying several different types of projects – Passenger Lists in Vermont and Maryland, Marriage Records in Tennessee and Coroner Records in San Francisco. You are really only indexing a few key pieces of information, not transcribing the whole document. The purpose of the effort is to make these records searchable online at FamilySearch.org. By contributing to the indexing efforts, volunteers are helping to make more of these records readily available online for genealogists everywhere.
Once a document has been indexed, it may be reviewed by an arbitrator. An arbitrator looks at the quality of the indexing and rules on the accuracy of it. This is key, because most of the documents are handwritten. It is easy for an indexer to misread the handwriting and effectively change the spelling of the person’s name, birthplace or place of residence.
I will likely continue contributing to the indexing project. It’s easy to do in small bits of time and doesn’t require a huge time commitment. It allows genealogists to give back to the community in ways that don’t require a lot of technical skill, so it’s easy for even less experienced genealogists to participate. And the documentation that a volunteer works with is fascinating – you get to see small glimpses of a world to which you wouldn’t otherwise have access.