Sunday, April 2, 2017

Now Indexing :
U.S. Naturalization Records

I like to spend some time, regularly, indexing digitized records so that they may be searchable in online genealogical websites. My go-to place for this is the indexing project at That's a natural choice, because I put that site through its paces so regularly, it's a nice feeling to know I'm giving back for all the benefits I'm freely receiving.

There are so many collections still awaiting that indexing step before they are readily searchable online. Once you have the indexing program installed on your computer, when you click on the "download a batch" button, you can get an idea of the wide variety of projects awaiting your help.

I like to focus on collections which match my research goals. Since I am researching family in Illinois, New York and Tennessee in the United States, I often select available projects from those states. It helps me feel like I'm not only helping others, but possibly adding to records I might find myself using in my own research some day.

This week, I decided to work on Illinois records, and to continue with the record set I've worked on before: the Naturalization Records 1837-1988 for the state of Illinois. Many of those records were typewritten to start with, so I don't anticipate encountering impossible-to-read handwriting. Besides, even if they were handwritten, many court records from that earlier era often were composed by clerks who likely were hired partly for their excellent penmanship. Hundred-year-later perk for me: no more eye strain and mental contortions over anguished attempts at deciphering chicken scratch.

True to expectations, this week's effort was relatively painless. Despite enduring the usual flourishes found in some court records, processing the records was a straightforward process. It hardly took much time at all to complete my goal for the day.

While the time and effort taken to perform this little opportunity to give back was minuscule, it is in the aggregate that the volunteer contribution takes on its impressive effect. Working together, volunteers around the clock and around the world have assembled the product that enables so many documents to become searchable online. Our collective effort puts original records at the fingertips of researchers from archives and repositories of many countries. Without this boost, to have assembled these verifications for our own research, piece by piece in person, would have taken ages—if that were even possible at all.

Though assembling those documents, in the first place, was an impressive accomplishment, if it weren't for that other step—translating the words captured in images so computers could search for those terms in rapid response—we would still be "browsing" through those collections, image by image, not much faster than we did, back when we were cranking through old microfilm.

Above: "An Orchard in Springtime," oil on canvas by German landscape artist Hugo Baar (1873 - 1912); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I know I must get back to it! You are a trooper! I like obits the best! :)

    1. I like anything that requires transcribing from typewritten pages. I think I got burned out on chicken scratch handwriting!


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