Saturday, November 4, 2017

Now Indexing:
More New York Immigration Records

Two weeks ago, held one of their Worldwide Indexing Events. With all the hoopla they could muster, they encouraged volunteers everywhere to try their hand at transforming already-digitized historical records into a form allowing computers to do the heavy lifting for us family history buffs still on the hunt for missing ancestors.

Since I already try—hoopla or not—to index at least a batch or two of records each month, I figured I could join in the fun on the designated weekend. Turns out, I was in good company. According to a recent report on the indexing site, nearly eighty thousand people joined me in the effort. Better yet, we all managed to index seven million names and add them to the search results at Not bad for one weekend.

And now, it's November. You know me: my philosophy is to keep working at a goal—take it slow and steady. So, hoopla or not, it's a new month and time to index, once again.

This month, I decided to go back to the same collection I had been working on in October. It was gratifying to see, this time, that the collection—naturalization records for New York—has jumped to ninety nine percent completion from the puny few percentage points it had registered at the beginning of the Worldwide Indexing Event.

I had a few reasons for revisiting that collection. Besides the fact that it had barely started showing participation last month, New York is home turf for me, as it was for my immigrant ancestors. I may seem to be altruistically helping others when I index, but the truth of the matter is that I have some skin in this game. Who knows? I might end up indexing the very record of a relative who has eluded me all these years.

That's not all. Indexing naturalization records, whether in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, makes me quite aware of the resources which are daily becoming accessible to all of us who use online resources like FamilySearch. I hear from students all the time that they can't find a trace of their immigrant ancestors—while I know from my indexing experiences that, bit by bit, these documents are getting added online, where they are accessible by a lightning-quick search protocol. It does pay to go back and revisit those ancestors' files which had us stymied in the past.

That's not to say that indexing is a snap. This month's session did present some challenges for me. But what I like about the newly reformatted indexing program is that there are help guides at every step of the process, there to answer questions that might pop up while the indexer is in the midst of the task. If you can follow step-by-step instructions, you can do this. If you are unsure, the FamilySearch people have even provided a sample tutorial so people can try their hand at it. Besides, for the less experienced indexers, each batch is rated by level of difficulty; you can choose to start out at a very simple level until you gain confidence.

Since the records I worked on this time were nearly completed, I doubt I'll be able to work on this same record set next month, but I'm sure I can find an immigration-related batch from another city. There's always more to work on, whether in the United States or another country, whether in English or another language. The sheer vastness of the digitized holdings at never ceases to amaze me.

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