Saturday, September 7, 2019

Now Indexing:
More Draft Registration Cards

Every month, I try to set aside time to do some volunteer work on indexing digitized records which are part of the collection at Indexing is the process whereby the pictures of those many pages of genealogically significant documents are translated into searchable terms—the gold standard that makes them so valuable to family history researchers. Without the process of indexing, all we would otherwise have would be thousands and thousands of pictures; we could browse through them, but we'd have no way to pinpoint our search efforts to get to just the right document.

Lately, I've been working on the draft registration cards filled out by countless young American men, once our country became involved in what later was called World War I. I like to focus on the cards completed in New York because that's where my father's family lived at the time. Of course, I keep hoping it will bring some of my distant cousins to light, but barring that type of serendipity, at least my small effort will help others find their ancestors' records more easily.

This weekend's effort didn't go as smoothly as hoped. For some reason, I ended up choosing short batches to index—apparently, batches that someone else had worked on before me. The record sets were previously organized as if there were information on two pages, when each record gleaned all the data needed in the first page—thus, leaving a second page blank. But you couldn't say that second page was blank—and I could find no way to go back and correct the previous entry to indicate that there was only one page of information per record. So I had to come up with a work-around...and I'm sure my choice wasn't the correct way to handle it, but what could I do? The many pages of instructions at my fingertips spoke not a word about such a dilemma.

Since the batch was such a short batch, I opted, as usual, to do a second batch. This one didn't go so well, either, for right before the final record, I got a phone call. It must have lasted longer than the website granted for my downtime permission, for when I returned to wrap up that last record, all that remained was an error message that the website had retracted my batch and I'd have to call up another entire set if I wished to do more work.

Though such quirks—especially those I've never run across previously—can be annoying, I know there is real value in being part of the vast army of volunteers that makes these digitized documents available for all to use freely. If you've ever looked up a census record, or marriage document, or any other genealogical record from around the world on FamilySearch, you've benefited from the indexing work of a volunteer. Anyone willing to follow the process is welcome to become a volunteer. For the most part, instructions are straightforward and available, any time you wish to refer back to them. The work is served up to volunteers in batches, and each batch is small enough to handle in a minimum amount of time. I've heard people mention that they'd do a "batch before dinner" or during other brief waiting times.

The effort illustrates the beauty of the saying, "Many hands make light work." The results are something every genealogy practitioner appreciates, made possible by the multitude of small, achievable tasks done by many willing people.

I just keep waiting for the moment when I end up indexing a missing record for one of my own family members. But even if that never happens—after all, what are the chances?—it feels good to know that the effort will eventually help someone else.


  1. I really appreciate the efforts of you and others who do this important work.

    1. Family history research has certainly been transformed by the accessibility--and searchability--of these documents, that's for sure! And anyone with a computer, some time and patience can pitch in and help.

  2. I haven't had time to do any indexing, maybe soon. Yeah for you! I know it is very important!

    1. That's totally understandable for you right now, Far Side. I know you'll get back to it when you can!


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