I work from home. My commute is the 60-90 seconds it takes me to fill my coffee cup and head to my office. I am not too proud to admit that I sometimes trade my jammies for sweatpants. Sometimes, on particularly chilly, rainy days when I have no plans on leaving the house, I have been known, on occasion, to stay in my jammies. It’s one of the perks of working from home.
Another way to “give back” to the genealogical community, AND STAY IN YOUR JAMMIES, is through online indexing projects. Sometimes these might be sponsored by a local or state genealogical society. However, the largest online project is through FamilySearch Indexing. Since 2006, FamilySearch Indexing has been hosting indexing projects of thousands (millions?) of digitized records. (Their wiki page says they began this in 2006 but I recall that I was in attendance in 2005 at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Salt Lake City when they unrolled this to the public at a conference and I was among the first round of public volunteers to sign up.)
I am not going to describe the technical requirements to get started. Those can be found here. Let me just say that the process is very simple and can be done on either a Mac or PC. Once you sign up to be an indexer, you download a program that will allow you to choose from a variety of projects and then will download your batch of records to be indexed. Each and every project comes with its own set of instructions and help files, so don’t worry. If you are thinking, I don’t think I know how to do that, I encourage you to at least read about it and try it to see if you like it.
A few things that I have learned from doing this since 2005:
- It takes a while to get more proficient at using the software, understanding the instructions, understanding how to download a batch, and so on. So the first few batches you do might take longer than you would like them to. Give it some time before you decide if you’d like to participate or not.
- Since I have been doing the indexing with FamilySearch, I have become a lot better at reading old handwriting. If you find that you read a lot of old documents, there is nothing like transcribing and indexing to really make you see and understand that old script.
- Working on a project like this can be a great way to challenge yourself. The program has a feature that allows you to set goals and keep track of how many names/records you’ve indexed. Setting a weekly, monthly or yearly goal is a lot of fun, if you are that kind of person. I enjoy seeing my numbers.
- When you are using the FamilySearch Records (the portion of the site where you can actually see the digitized records) and you see that camera icon (meaning there are actual pictures of the documents) and then you see “Browse Images” or a number of records available, that tells you if the project has been handled by the indexing program. Often, I find the records I’d like to use have not been indexed yet. By giving up 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes of my day, I can advance a project that will eventually get posted to the Records section and this makes me feel like I’ve helped out other researchers. Goodness knows they’ve helped me!
FamilySearch is not the only project out there. Some other projects to examine are:
- BillionGraves – tombstone transcriptions of photos previously submitted
- Genealogy Trails History Group – projects broken down by location
- GENUKI – UK and Ireland projects
- Immigrant Ships Transcriber’s Guild – help transcribe ships’ lists
If you are like me and sometimes like to stay in your jammies, AND you like helping out other researchers. Give an online volunteer project a try!