Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Now Indexing:
North Dakota Marriage Records,
1882 - 1925

It may have been fascination over the unfolding tale of John Syme Hogue that kept me from my regular indexing duties last month, but this month, it may just be frustration over impossible-to-read handwriting.

When indexing records for FamilySearch.org, you'll find them directing your attention to prioritized projects—ostensibly those they want to wrap up and put online. I've always had a different take on which projects I should spend my volunteer hours indexing, however. Last month—as it has been for many months in the past—it's been records from Chicago, Illinois, home of our Stevens and Tully ancestors during the mid to late 1800s. This time, though, I opted for another direction: North Dakota.

Why North Dakota? It just so happens that there was a project needing indexing that might just help me with a long-unanswered question from the line of one of our Tully family who had married a Ryan and emigrated from Canada to the Dakota Territory. I'm at a loss to find marriage records for some members of that family in exactly that same time frame—and, hopefully, in that same location. Perhaps assisting in that indexing project would not only help me answer my own research questions, but spread some of that good research cheer to others at the same time.

Sometimes, that is more easily said than done. Though this indexing project clocked in at a middling level of difficulty, that estimate was arrived at, likely, from assessing the length of the documents, not from their appearance. The one snag I hit was that of handwriting. I apparently landed a batch drawn up for one particular justice whose handwriting was clear...but illegible. The digitization was clear, there were no confusing stray marks, everything else was easy to read. But the handwriting! It was a case of indistinguishable humps and bumps which could be interpreted any number of ways. Talk about enigmatic.

Sometimes, the longer you stare at a page, the less clear it seems to become. I'm afraid my accuracy rating is going to take a nosedive on this one. But I can hardly call it quits so early in this game. I'd love to see that collection make it to the "indexed" side of the equation at FamilySearch.org. I have a few Ryan and Tully wedding questions I'd love to see resolved.

Above: "Evening Winter Landscape," 1885 oil on canvas by German landscape painter, Johann Jungblut; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I know the feeling too, I did one batch of Marriage record and did ok but lately I have been working on the 1860 census reworked...and wow I hate to look at what my accuracy rate was with them. I guess all you can do is your best! :)

    1. Oh, yeah, there are some digitizations that leave much to be desired. I have to avoid those that are too light to see, or without sufficient contrast for my eyes to handle. I bet the 1860 census would be a bear on that account.

      But hey, the main point is: we're doing our best to add our help to the mix. The system is designed to have two sets of eyes--or more--take a look at each document. All of us together are making it possible for more documents to be searchable for researchers everywhere. Sometimes, the most important thing is to keep our eyes on the goal.

  2. Perhaps it's best to throw in the towel when it's not readable - and move on to something that is? I'm sure there is a lot out there left to do!

    1. Yes, that's what I have to do sometimes, since my eyes can't handle very light or imperceptible writing. But other times...well, at least I can try!


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