“FamilySearch Indexing: Anyone Can Help with Family History Anytime, Anywhere,” Liahona, Dec. 2008, N1–N3
As they pore over digitized census records and church ledgers, Church members participating in FamilySearch indexing are reminded that with every click of the mouse a person comes closer to being found and closer to receiving temple ordinances.
Henry Burkhardt, who is indexing the Brandenburg Church Book Transcripts from the Potsdam State Archives in Germany, has experienced this feeling, as have many others.
The vision of FamilySearch’s volunteer indexing projects is spreading worldwide from Latin America to Asia and from the old to the young. Members with access to the Internet are taking advantage of FamilySearch’s user-friendly Web site and taking time to index between classes, during work breaks, or in place of watching television.
For some people like Austin Corry, a university student and a member of the Logan University 15th Ward, Logan Utah University Fifth Stake, indexing has became a fun, relaxing experience.
“I found time to index 15 minutes here, an hour there,” said Brother Corry, who has indexed more than 17,000 names in his spare time. “It really isn’t an inconvenience but a great opportunity to bring the Spirit into your everyday life.”
One of the reasons members worldwide love the FamilySearch indexing program is because the software is designed to fit a busy lifestyle. Previously known as extraction, indexing was once a time-consuming, monotonous process of shuffling through paper copies, taking weeks to do a single batch.
With the help of digitization and the Internet, each batch of names now takes some 30 minutes to complete. Volunteers are given a week to complete a batch, and they can save their work at any time and start again later where they left off.
“What I really like about indexing is that you can do it on your time, one batch at a time,” said Patricia Mollemans of Germany. “It is not overwhelming; it can be done in half an hour or so. I do a batch, I upload it, and it’s done. I think this is great for a lot of people who would not find the time with the old extraction model.”
Indexing creates data files from digitized records, and that allows the information to become searchable through a free electronic database on FamilySearch.org. There is no minimum or maximum limit to how many names an individual can do. Every name indexed makes a difference in helping people locate their ancestors.
FamilySearch has a variety of indexing projects available in Dutch, French, English, German, Italian, and Spanish. Indexing projects in Czech and Russian are forthcoming. Area FamilySearch managers are helping recruit index volunteers in many countries to become a part of the global effort.
“Now that records for more countries are available, more members are enthusiastic about participating,” said Francisco Javier Gómez, FamilySearch support manager for the South America North Area. “They feel that this is one more proof that the Church is really engaged in helping the whole world to get to know their ancestors.”
In 2007 students in the Logan Utah University Fifth Stake not only met their goal of indexing 100,000 names but exceeded it by 3,000. They surpassed that total after the first two months in 2008 while on the way to shattering their new goal of 200,000 names.
But results can’t always be quantified. Blessings have come through increased sacrament meeting attendance and stronger testimonies. Elaine Mander, a FamilySearch representative in West Midlands, United Kingdom, said indexing has brought her closer to heaven more than any other form of service.
The effort put forth in the Logan stake has unified wards. Individually, students have turned their eyes to the temple, gaining a greater appreciation for its significance by committing themselves to maintain their covenants and live temple standards.
“The Spirit is present,” said Kay Baker, stake high councilor over the indexing work. “As young people get on the computer and start entering names and doing family history work, they find it fun and exhilarating.”
Activity has also increased among less-active members as bishops have given them assignments to do indexing.
“[Through indexing] they can serve and feel like they are contributing, and it has helped some of them come back into activity and to correct what was wrong in their lives,” said Bruce M. Cook, recently released president of the student stake.
While family history work is generally regarded as the domain of older members, the students contradict that stereotype. Some ward socials and family home evenings in the stake have turned into indexing “extravaganzas.” Between completing index batches, students snack on treats, socialize, or play a game of volleyball. Some of these socials have lasted into the wee hours of the morning with students signed up to come in at various times of the night. One ward started an indexing marathon at 6:00 p.m. and ended at 8:00 a.m. the next day.
“It was fun to see members of the bishopric and high council stay up through the night with students to [help us] reach our goals,” Belinda Olsen, a member of the stake, said.
The indexing has motivated some to begin working on their own family roots and to do temple work. In 2007 students in the stake researched and cleared some 2,500 family names for temple ordinances.
“I think that it is really important for all members to become involved with indexing and family history work,” Sister Olsen said. “If we always leave the responsibility up to someone else, it will never get done.”