Every time you access a census record or other vital record online, it is possible because someone took the time to transcribe it and put it online. You can be a part of that, helping yourself and others have free access to critical genealogy information through Family Search Indexing. This is a volunteer project through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often called Mormons.
This is the perfect volunteer job for genealogy fans and for busy people or people who have trouble doing work outside the home for any reason. You work on your own computer at home whenever you have time. A project can usually be completed during your child’s naptime or while they play. If you get interrupted, you save your work, and return later.
After signing up, you complete a brief online class. After downloading your diploma, you set to work. The site has a list of projects currently in progress–census records, birth records, and other valuable resources for genealogists. It lists the language in which the record is written. Select a project that interests you and download it into your computer. You can save the project to your computer in order to work offline, but you do need to be on the Internet to download projects and to return them. Most projects require a half hour or so if you concentrate and don’t stop to wonder what the story is behind the interesting circumstances you see in the census record, something that often delays my work. If you don’t complete the project in a week, it is given to someone else to complete.
Two people work on each project independently. Each one–and you don’t know who the other person is–completes the entire project. Results are then compared and when there is a difference between the two, a trained arbitrator decides what the correct information is. This gives me a feeling of security when I’m struggling with bad handwriting.
Census records are my favorite project, so I’ll use them as an example. You’re given a portion of the census record, which is normally handwritten. A form below tells you exactly which information you need to enter. Not all information will be indexed. You simply type the information into the correct spaces. Responses not found in the system are marked so you can double check them. This helps me catch errors, although sometimes the name simply isn’t one the system has on file. When you’re finished, the program reviews all marked answers, and you accept or change them. You return the file and choose another or simply exit.
When projects are completed, they are made available on the church’s website at no cost. There is a link to the original document as well, but since they aren’t hosted by the church, there is sometimes a fee assessed by the owners of the document to see them. The transcribed record is always free on the church’s genealogy site, however.
Often, I’ll do a file or two a week, and then go for several months without doing any. This is acceptable. I normally do mine on Sundays, so if I have a demanding calling, I have to take time off.
However, it is an extraordinary opportunity and one that has strengthened my testimony of the sacred nature of family history work. Many times I’ve felt the spirit telling me the name of a person whose name was unreadable on the form, and I realize I’m receiving spiritual help as I work.
Ready to sign up? Visit Family Search Indexing.org.