Saturday, October 6, 2018
Now Indexing: With a Personalized Twist
Each month, I try to spend some time—just a few minutes out of one day—to give back to the genealogy community from what I've gained. One of the ways I do that is by volunteering to help get digitized historical records online at FamilySearch.org. That's the reason behind my once-monthly "Now Indexing" posts: it's a type of accountability that keeps me doing my small part on a regular basis. Small tasks done regularly can add up, over the long haul, to make a difference.
Of course, this week, I returned to the record set that holds my interest right now: the naturalization records for the New York City area. The projects I pick, admittedly, do have a selfish tinge in all this volunteering altruism—and I actually came close to working on a surname in my own family this week—but the fact is, the more we all work together to get those digitized records online and searchable, the more people this resource can benefit.
This month, I also added a twist to the project. Instead of just indexing as plain ol' me, picking out whatever project I wanted to work on, I set up a group to do indexing. I got the idea back in August while attending the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Fort Wayne. One of the key speakers from FamilySearch helped us explore ideas on how to accelerate the rate at which records can be brought online. Of course, a key bottleneck is transforming those digitized pictures of records into searchable documents. That is where the service called indexing comes in. Indexing is FamilySearch's planned format for making that conversion from picture to word possible.
Our local society has been wanting to help bring records of local interest online at FamilySearch. We've already tackled other indexing projects there—but that was years ago. Things have changed immensely since then, including the option to now index directly online. We want to revisit that process and see what we can do, collectively, to make things happen—at least for the record sets for our own geographic area.
With the advent of the online indexing format, I noticed that it is possible to set up a group for indexing projects. Thus, rather than just volunteering on my own, I can set up a team to take on a project. Teamwork comes with all its pluses: encouraging each other, training each other, challenging each other to do more—and perhaps even setting up competitions among team members to achieve even more in a fun, collegiate manner.
So this week, I took the first step and set up an indexing group for the members of our local genealogical society. We'll follow that up by selecting specific indexing projects to tackle, and get to work. As the admin for the group, I can see how we are progressing and which of our members are participating. As I learn more about the ins and outs of coordinating an indexing group on FamilySearch, I'm sure I'll realize other ways to help our group help others in the genealogy community.
While I asked someone at the FGS conference about the specifics of setting up such an indexing group for our own society, I'm sure that option is open to anyone else. All you need to do, once you have signed up for a free account at FamilySearch (which is required now, even for general research on the site), is to click on the "Indexing" tab across the top of the page, select "Overview" from the drop-down menu, and, on the new page, click "Web Indexing" on the second line of the header.
Once you are to that point, if you scroll down to the bottom of that page, you will find a section on the left labeled "Groups." To the right of that word is a button labeled "Find Groups." Clicking on that button drops down a short menu with two choices: "Find Groups" or "Create Groups."
If you find that a group you are interested in has already set up an identity on FamilySearch, it is possible that you can request to join it and become part of that group's efforts to help bring more digitized records online through indexing.
However, if you are part of a local genealogical society—especially if part of your organization's mission is to preserve records of local interest—I hope you will consider setting up a group on FamilySearch so that your own members can participate as part of your society. It's easy to set up a group—and if you are already a part of your society's leadership, you are in a position to take the lead in training and encouraging your members to make a difference through a simple volunteer project that they can do at home, in their leisure.
Of course, if you don't have a local society to work with, and if you can't find any other group to join, you can still just volunteer to index as an individual person. But if you want some company and if teamwork helps you be more productive—even in volunteer efforts—then feel free to join our brand new group. Just search for "San Joaquin Genealogical Society," click the request to join (it's free) and join us as we work on ways to give back to the genealogical community for all that others have done for us.
Above: Our "baby" web indexing group, just formed this week, is all set to start working on indexing projects as a group. Once we launch the project for our members, we'll see that membership number move up from the lone member (me) already registered. Next comes a training session for our members, then selection of an indexing project to tackle, and we'll be off and running, doing our part.