Monday, November 26, 2007

Indexing Frustrations

Ever been frustrated on how poor the indexing is when you are doing a search on Ancestry or another database? I admit I have. How could the indexer not have known that the last name was Smathers not Smothers, or that Nancy was actually Mary? Well, I guarantee you, I won't be judging so quickly the next time it happens.

I spent the long holiday weekend doing volunteer indexing for LDS's ongoing indexing project, and I am now properly humbled at the difficulty of the task. Two projects that currently have a high priority are West Virginia Vital Records and the 1871 Canadian Census. I worked on marriage licenses for the West Virginia Vital Records. Transcribing the marriage records wasn't too bad, since some of these were actually typed records — say Hallelujah!

The Canadian census was a whole other story. The first page I did, the resolution was terrible. Blowing up the page didn't help. Squinting sometimes worked but by the time I got to the end of the 40 or so names, I had a raging headache.

I really thought the next time I logged in I would be greeted with a message asking me to PLEASE NEVER WORK ON THIS CENSUS AGAIN. Thank goodness, each page is transcribed by three different individuals. At completion, the three transcriptions are compared. An arbitrator makes the final decision over which transcription to use when discrepancies exist. I wish the arbitrator luck when looking over that first page I did. I just hope the other two individuals who worked on the same page knew what they were doing.

When I saw Quebec on the second page, I knew I was in trouble. No Parlez-vous Francais! Not even a little! Unfortunately, once you download a page it's yours to transcribe — no givebacks. (Actually, I could have let it sit there until December 2, my official deadline for finishing the page. I don't know what happens if you don't finish it. Maybe you are visited by snarling men in black trench coats, who stand over you with a ruler and smack you until you finish — I didn't read the fine print to know for sure.)

However, this page was easier to read. Unfortunately, not being familiar with French surnames and given names turned out to be a bit of a handicap, but I think I did a much better job with these 40 names than I did with those on the first page.

If I haven't scared you with my whining and you think you might like to try your hand at indexing, visit to get more information. You will need to install special software, and for that reason, they recommend you have broadband capabilities.

Quoting directly from the Web site:“When the information indexed by volunteers is ready for publication, it will be made available FREE OF CHARGE through Some of these indexes will be posted by our partnering societies.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, they have completed indexing the Ohio Death Records, and it's my understanding they will be available for viewing sometime after the first of the year.

Until next time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, November 26 , 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

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