FamilySearch Indexing

“FamilySearch Indexing,” Ensign, Aug. 2007, 34–41

FamilySearch Indexing

You can become part of this worldwide effort to index records and make them accessible on the Internet.

“I don’t have an e–mail address, and I don’t intend to get one,” said Susana Doty, who felt she had no need to use the Internet. Sister Doty is the stake extraction director for her southern Utah stake, and she has worked in the extraction program for nearly 20 years. In her calling she helps others to examine documents and copy names, dates, and places from them. Her remarks about the Internet were made during a meeting held in February 2006 to introduce the new FamilySearch™ indexing program to a group of stake leaders in the area. By the close of the meeting, however, Sister Doty had changed her mind. She confided to the sister sitting next to her, “Well, it looks like I’m going to get onto the Internet.”

Through FamilySearch indexing, you can join Sister Doty and become part of a worldwide effort to index the names found on 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and make them freely accessible on the Internet.

What Records Are Being Indexed?

Since 1894, when the Genealogical Society of Utah was established, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gathered genealogical records to help members research their own family history. The Granite Mountain Records Vault in the mountainside above Salt Lake City now contains nearly two and a half million microfilms from 110 countries and principalities. Very little of the information contained in these films is available online. FamilySearch indexing creates indexes to this information and makes it available to everyone on the Internet.

Records containing information about your own ancestors are probably included in this vast collection of unindexed microfilms. FamilySearch indexing will make it possible for you to find your ancestors’ names on the Internet through easily searchable electronic databases.

To Preserve a Heritage

FamilySearch indexing was first introduced to a few stakes through their stake extraction programs. Nancy Hendrickson was surprised when she was called as extraction director for her Utah stake. “I am not a computer person; I’m not technically savvy. I don’t need to be, because the indexing program is so simple to use.” She attributes her success to the Holy Ghost and to her strong testimony and her commitment to family history work. “Indexing has been such a blessing in my life. When you’re involved with anything that has to do with redeeming the dead, the Spirit of the Lord comes into your life.”

Indexing helps to preserve the heritage of families by recording the lives of individuals who have passed on. Sister Hendrickson explains: “I’m going to sit down and do just one batch; I’ve only got time to do one batch. Then before I know it, I just keep going. It’s as if there are people standing in line saying, ‘Please do one more name, just me, just one more.’”

How Does It Work?

Anyone interested in helping with family history is invited to be a volunteer indexer. You can begin indexing right away. Go to the FamilySearchIndexing.org Web site and click “Volunteer.” Then follow the instructions to install the program onto your computer. You can work when you want to, at your own speed, and you can even choose which records you would like to index.

The FamilySearch indexing software was designed for busy people who have only short blocks of time to devote to family history work. Each batch consists of up to 50 records that you can download using your home computer or a computer at a family history center. Usually, a batch takes only 30 minutes to index, but you have a week to finish it. There is no paperwork to keep track of, and the program remembers what you have done so you can stop when you need to and start again where you left off. If you have felt intimidated by doing family history research, indexing is a simple way to become involved in the important work of redeeming the dead.

Fitting into Different Lives

Jennifer Barkdull of Texas began indexing in 2004 when her ward extraction director invited her to try it. Jennifer is a busy mother of three young children. “When my two older children are at school and my four-year-old son, Jesse, is napping, my time is my own,” says Sister Barkdull, who indexes two or three batches per week. “Sometimes, important household tasks seem never ending. But it’s satisfying to index one batch and know that it’s done and it will stay done.” Jennifer sets her own indexing goals each month, usually 100 to 500 names. The FamilySearch indexing software makes it easy for her to track her own progress at meeting her goals.

“It’s nice for me, personally,” she says, “because for a long time we didn’t live near a temple. Living far from my family and having three small children, I wanted to be more involved in temple work. FamilySearch indexing allows me to feel that I’m doing my part and making a difference. I still do it for that reason, but I also think it’s fun. I love this new program.”

Salle Ostler of Utah has a chronic disease that keeps her homebound much of the time. It was not possible for her to hold a Church calling that would require her to attend regular meetings. She is grateful that she can serve. “Indexing has been really good for me,” she says. “Before I began indexing, I didn’t feel very useful. Now I know I am helping others. And it’s not just that. Indexing helps me with coordination in my hands, and it keeps my brain working. It’s therapeutic for me in a lot of ways.”

John Harrison of Texas does most of his indexing in Chicago, Atlanta, or Philadelphia. He is a pilot for a major airline, and he indexes using his laptop computer. He says: “It’s a good calling for a pilot. My schedule makes it difficult to hold Church callings that require me to be in my home ward on Sundays. This is a way for me to hold a calling, put my whole heart and soul into it, and be able to get it done right.

“The nice thing about FamilySearch indexing is that you can go at your own pace. I usually do about 10 names at a time, so I save my work and come back to it later. For someone who is on the road a lot, staying in hotels, it’s a lot better than just watching TV. I can actually do something that helps others. I can accomplish something and feel good about it.”

A Stake Excited about Indexing

The Salem Utah West Stake has indexed more than two million records using FamilySearch indexing. Former stake president Stanley Green acknowledges the many blessings his stake has received. He remembers how they began six years ago: “As a stake presidency we realized that family history—whether it was temple work, our own family histories, or name extraction—was at a low level; we could do better.”

President Green and his counselors sought to increase temple attendance in the stake. They also believed that an increased effort in any area of family history and temple work would help members feel the power of the Holy Spirit, and that once they felt the Spirit, they would have a desire to do more in the work of redeeming the dead. The stake presidency decided to focus on the extraction program as a simple way to involve members in family history work.

Steve Haderlie, a former bishop described by President Green as “tenacious, like a bulldog,” was called as stake extraction director. Brother Haderlie enthusiastically began evaluating the stake’s extraction program. President Green recalls: “He asked for 200 workers to do extraction instead of only 20.” Soon these new workers were extracting so many names that they temporarily exhausted the supply of available records.

The Salem west stake was chosen as a test location for the new FamilySearch indexing program. President Green and his wife, Diane, both became indexers. At his request, all the members of the stake high council and all the bishops in the stake also began indexing. “How could a bishop bear testimony of this work or call someone if he hadn’t done it?” explains President Green. The stake’s family history center invited patrons to index, and as a result, dozens of less-active members and people who were not members began indexing. Most indexers hold other callings and work at indexing for less than one hour per week.

Blessings from Participation

President Green had hoped to increase family history and temple work in his stake. He soon realized that the blessings received would be far greater.

Attendance at sacrament meetings increased, and talks in sacrament meeting were more scripture based and more gospel oriented. Fast and testimony meetings became more spiritual and included more heartfelt testimonies of the Savior. The number of full-tithe payers increased, and the number of temple recommend holders increased substantially. More young people chose to serve missions. There was an increase in Church activity among the less active who had chosen to index, and also among less-active family members of indexers.

Stanley Green was released as stake president in late 2004, shortly before the death of his wife, Diane. Today he is a single father and a busy radiologist. He describes himself as “an average member,” and he continues to do FamilySearch indexing. As he puts it, “I go to church, I teach my Sunday School lesson, I come home, I eat my dinner, I do my family history. It’s simply a part of life.”

You Can Make a Difference

Susana Doty now oversees the FamilySearch indexing program in her Utah stake. She has found that indexing using the Internet has made her calling as a stake extraction director much easier. She does have an e-mail address, and she enthusiastically invites members of her stake to participate in FamilySearch indexing. She says, “When I’m indexing, I have to actually limit myself if I expect to get any housework done. After an hour and a half, I have to make myself get up. I’m so glad I can help these people.”

She is just one of thousands of volunteers who are finding they can make a difference by helping preserve our world’s family history. (See pages 40 and 41 for how indexing works.)

How Does Indexing Work?

This is an example of a current indexing project, the 1900 United States Census.

The upper part of the screen is an image of the census form, exactly as it was handwritten by a census taker.

The lower part of the screen is a table where you will type information from the image.

This shows FamilySearch indexing as it appears using Apple OS X. FamilySearch indexing works equally well with Windows and Linux.

indexing screen

Photograph by Robert Casey

Click here to submit your work. There is never any paperwork with FamilySearch indexing, and there is no pressure to index more than you desire. If you don’t finish a batch before your week is up, don’t worry. Someone else will receive the batch and can start where you left off.
You can stop at any time and save your work. When you are ready to index again, you can access your work from any computer that is connected to the Internet.
Two volunteer indexers separately index each batch. Later, an arbitrator will check the two versions and reconcile any differences between them.
Simply type what you see, just as you see it. As you press “Enter” to move to the next field in the table, the highlighter moves to the next field on the image. In this example, type “Walter H” here.

Want to Volunteer?

You can volunteer online at the FamilySearchIndexing.org Web site. Simply follow the instructions to register. Then log in, and you can begin indexing right away.

Who Volunteers?

Volunteer indexers include the young and the old, Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths, men and women, busy professionals as well as the homebound. For example, mothers like the convenience of doing FamilySearch indexing when they have the time. Melissa Knighton from Arizona, a mother of four young children, says, “Since I began indexing, I have a desire to do my own family history, and I feel the Spirit lingering in our home more strongly and regularly than before.”

The Church, through FamilySearch, cooperates with a number of different genealogical or historical archives and societies. For example, Amy Johnson Crow of the Ohio Genealogical Society, in a cooperative arrangement with FamilySearch, oversees a project indexing Ohio tax records. The Ohio Genealogical Society provides volunteers, and FamilySearch provides the software.

Two Bishops Challenge Their Youth

Continuing to Serve

Working Off-Line

Indexing Is Easy to Do

Involving Youth

Photographs by Robert Casey

The Johnson family makes FamilySearch indexing a family activity. “Our family is super busy, but we all enjoy indexing. We usually index in pairs so we feel more confident. We can work on a batch for 15 minutes, save it, and then come back to it.”

Bishop David Rencher of the Riverton Utah Summerhill Stake and Bishop Derek Dobson of the Highland Utah South Stake challenged the youth in their wards to index more names than their bishops could.
The youth in Bishop Rencher’s ward indexed more than 12,000 names in one month.
“It felt almost as good as doing baptisms for the dead knowing that you are doing something good for someone else,” says Lynzie Little, 12. “I just hope I got their names right.”

Cristina Richards gets up every day wanting to see her “friends,” as she calls the people in the records she indexes. Though Cristina suffers from multiple sclerosis and has limited use of her hands, she is one of her stake’s top indexers. “Indexing helps keep my hands moving,” she says. “I can no longer work at our family history center, but the Lord has blessed me so much. Now I can serve others by indexing.”

Derek Maude indexes off-line as he commutes to work. He says, “I have used records indexed by others to find my ancestors. Now I do FamilySearch indexing so I can help others find their ancestors.”

Vonda Pendleton finds that early mornings are one of the best times to do indexing. She says, “When I have a little time, I like to spend it on something useful like indexing. It only takes 30 to 45 minutes to do a batch. I’m not very good on the computer, but I have found that indexing is easy. I just type what I see.”

Mary-Celeste Lewis, 17, right, demonstrates FamilySearch indexing for her friend Danielle Follett, 16. Mary-Celeste says, “I can see the small children playing on the floor while their mother talks with the census taker. I wonder what life in a new land was like for an immigrant family. I feel sad for the mothers whose children have died. I look at the census takers’ handwriting and wonder what they were like too.”