Monday, May 9, 2016

Now Indexing:
Illinois County Naturalization Records

What?! Could it be that I haven't indexed any records at for over one month? So much for good intentions!

Last month just flew by for me. I decided to make amends today by pulling up a new file to index, and selected the United States collection from the state of Illinois, labeled "County Naturalization Records, 1848-1945." Since my husband had family who entered the country from Canada by settling in Chicago, my hope to help the research cause was admittedly not entirely altruistic. But I still want to do my part to help with research progress.

Perhaps I got a little rusty, having taken this more-than-month-long hiatus from my volunteer duties. I read the project notes thoroughly, followed the prompts for each fieldand still felt like I wasn't getting things right. How difficult can this be? I didn't even run into impossible handwriting this time, but still felt like I was missing the mark.

That wasn't the only disorienting feeling about this long-neglected exercise. I kept feeling like I had worked on naturalization records before, but when I pulled up my personal indexing history, apparently I hadn't. Still, I liked the fact that I could look over my past efforts and see which areas tend to have my focus. I decidedly prefer the regions where my ancestors once lived, and that is understandable.

It was interesting to observe the opening message on the indexing program that "for the first time in years, images awaiting arbitration are below three million." Three million? If my slush pile was that large, I'd feel hopelessly behind! However, judging by the fact that that simple message was reprinted in ten other languages, it gives one the idea of how massive a project this indexing endeavor is. Not only does each document get indexed by one volunteer, but by a second one, as welland then discrepancies are arbitrated by a third set of volunteers. A quick visit to see how many record sets are coming online every week gives an idea of the immense amount of data that is sifted through in preparation for that weekly addition.

On the other hand, perhaps seeing less than three million images in the queue for arbitration indicates a hidden plea for more volunteers to send those images to the arbitration step. Though kudos are in order for those hard-working arbitrators, I'm sure additional indexing volunteers would be welcomed to the process with open arms.

Above: 1887 watercolor by English landscape artist Alfred Parsons, "When Nature Painted All Things Gay." Courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I like to do obits and death records...the Alaska ones were really interesting. The past two weeks I have been too busy to index, they asked me to be an arbitrator. I am not ready to do that yet. :)

    1. That's neat about those Alaska records you indexed, Far Side. Yes, there are some really interesting documents in the queue, just waiting to be indexed. Of course, I tend to get lost in those rabbit trails, and then I want to research all the interesting people I've discovered while indexing :)

      Being busy is understandable. Stuff happens. The main point is to keep the perspective of doing the indexing work over the long haul. A little bit here and there, as time permits, is what makes the overall project so successful.

  2. You are so busy, I'm surprised you find time at all to do indexing!


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