Need Growing Internationally for Indexers

“Need Growing Internationally for Indexers,” Liahona, June 2011, 74–75

Need Growing Internationally for Indexers

All over the world, people are searching for their ancestors.

And all over the world, other people are making that search possible.

FamilySearch indexing, introduced online in 2006 and powered by volunteers around the world, is the process of taking physical records (such as those found on microfilm) and entering the information they contain into a searchable, online database.

With 122,000 LDS and non-LDS active indexers having completed 547,978,000 records since it began, FamilySearch indexing has had notable success. However, those who coordinate indexing have a new goal: indexing records in languages other than English.

“More and more of the names we are indexing aren’t English names,” said Jim Ericson, product marketing manager for FamilySearch. “We are trying to get people who speak different languages more involved so we can do a better job with non-English names.”

Although indexing English records continues to grow, it is far surpassed by the growth of international records. Projects are becoming available from a variety of countries as more governments and records custodians become aware of the services provided by FamilySearch, Brother Ericson said.

To begin, FamilySearch employees take records from governments, libraries, and other such sources and create digital copies of them. These copies are then gathered into small groups called “batches,” which are available to volunteers online. Volunteers log into FamilySearch, download a batch, and enter the data they see on the screen. That data is later made available more widely to family history researchers. Each batch is a compilation of work that a volunteer could complete in about 30 minutes, says Katie Gale, Indexing Project Coordinator for FamilySearch.

Volunteers participating in FamilySearch indexing might include people whose native language is not English (the site is currently available in seven languages), but it could also include people who have language skills from missionary service, school, or other training.

Even if projects aren’t available in a country where you live or served, projects could be available from countries where the same language is spoken.

When the Kyiv Ukraine Temple was being built, Ukrainian Saints participated in an initiative to find and index names to bring to the temple upon its completion. By the time the temple was dedicated, 401 indexers from the Ukraine, Russia, North and South America, and Europe were working on the Kyiv project, and the Saints were able to bring 200,000 Ukrainian names to the temple.

As indexing work grows in an area, FamilySearch personnel who provide indexing batches will identify areas of growth and then, where possible, accelerate the release of projects related to that region.

At the current rate of indexing, it could take some countries up to a decade to have currently released batches completed—thus the need for additional indexers. Many batches in languages other than English average between two and six years to complete.

“If the project goes on and on, it provides no value to anybody,” said Paul Starkey, Indexing Operations Manager for FamilySearch. “The whole purpose of indexing is to provide these records [electronically] so that people can find their ancestors. We try to turn the projects around fairly quickly.”

The Church owns some 2.4 million rolls of microfilm containing genealogical records that are stored in the Granite Mountain Record Vault. These equate to some 15 billion records waiting to be indexed. Countless other physical records exist throughout the world.

“[Finding a name and personal records] is an experience that turns the hearts of the researchers to their fathers,” Brother Ericson said. “Members of the Church can use the information that has been indexed to document their ancestors’ lines and provide the saving ordinances of the temple.”

While virtually anyone with access to a computer can participate in the simple task of indexing, its importance shouldn’t be minimized, Sister Gale said. “If people [could] see indexing as the grander vision of family history, they could see the importance of it and the need for more volunteers.”

“We need more people engaged in indexing,” Brother Ericson said, “and we are asking people to share this program with their friends and family members, whether or not they are members of the Church. It’s not exclusive to members of the Church. There is a fun interaction when everyone is working on a common goal.”

FamilySearch indexing coordinators have a new goal for volunteers: indexing in languages other than English.

Photograph by Welden C. Andersen, © IRI