Thursday, December 12, 2013

How You Can Help Families Find Their History

In the last post, Finding Oscar; A Case Study, I mentioned finding that there was a problem with the State of Maine's Vital Records prior to 1892. To recap the issue: 

Before 1892, records of births, marriages, and deaths were kept by the towns and cities of Maine. When, in the 1920's, the State requested copies of pre-1892 vital records from the towns, only about 20 percent responded.... During the 1950's, representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints microfilmed town vital records in Maine, although not all towns were covered. (Maine State Archives)

Having at least some of the records microfilmed in one place is good, because the microfilm can be borrowed and viewed without having to dig through every town's reports for vital statistics, but it would be so much more convenient to have all those records easily available and searchable online.

Every problem has a solution, of course (my sister says this attitude is why she calls me Princess Bluebird). All of those microfilmed records, along with other copies of handwritten and previously unpublished documents from all over the world, are being indexed and made available online by an army of volunteers called indexers

I just became an indexer, and you can be an indexer, too!

The FamilySearch website gives these statistics about the project: 

Total records indexed: 1,098,808,633
Year to date: 139,020,544
Total volunteers: 120,926

To become a volunteer indexer, go to the Worldwide Indexing page on the FamilySearch website. There you can read about the program, look at a list of projects, register, download the software needed, and get to work just as soon as there is a project that you are qualified to work on. Projects are in many languages, and are rated by level of difficulty. Records are downloaded in small batches, and there are tutorials and help available for when you get stuck. 

There's also a list of the published record collections so far, and it even includes some of the records for those Maine Births and Christenings, 1739-1900. My Oscar (Oscar Ellis, born 1853 in Smithfield, Maine) isn't there yet, but I'm hoping the army of indexers (me included) finds it soon and makes it available.


  1. I thought about volunteering but don't see where I'll have the time. I have so many of my own records to go through I couldn't see doing extra.

    1. Michael, I've found that seeing what is involved in indexing birth, marriage, and death records through has taught me a lot about how to search for my own information. Seeing the records themselves and figuring out what they say, especially the handwritten ones, makes me more aware of other ways to look for things. I've ended up doing just one or two small batches a day before starting to work on my own stuff. It's a way to pay back the genealogy community, because without volunteers we wouldn't have the riches that are now available online.


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