Now is not the Time to get Cold Feet about Arbitration!

April 23, 2012  - by 

Indexers are signing up in record numbers. Since the start of the 1940 U.S. Census Project, we have seen as many as 3,000 new indexers registering per day. We couldn’t be more thrilled—or concerned.

We currently have a backlog of over 3 million images for active projects that need to be arbitrated. That’s 3 million images and their respective indexes that aren’t published on because they haven’t made it through arbitration. They could be published in a matter of days if they were all arbitrated today. It’s just a matter of having enough volunteers to do the work.

Arbitration Needs Growing
With over 3 million images waiting to be arbitrated, the need for more arbitrators is greater to balance out the work of our indexers than ever before. Become an arbitrator and help get these records published on

Now, imagine what will happen as we add the records of one of the most popular indexing projects in history. How many of the 3.5 million images from the 1940 U.S. Census Project are going to be added to the arbitration backlog? Only time will tell, but “it ain’t gonna be pretty” unless something changes.

How do we fix the backlog? Easy—we just need more arbitrators. If you’re an arbitrator, we need you. If you’re a former arbitrator who left to focus on indexing, we need you. If you’re a former arbitrator who stopped volunteering for FamilySearch altogether, we need you. If you’re an experienced indexer who thinks you might be qualified to arbitrate, we need you. If you’re an indexer who is willing to get the proper amount of experience so you can qualify yourself to arbitrate, we need you too.

If you’re saying to yourself, “OK, I’m convinced; what do I need to do?” then here’s how to take the next step.

For current and past arbitrators, you know what to do. Be sure to get familiar with the projects you are planning to arbitrate. The best way to do this is to thoroughly read the project instructions, field helps, and project updates and then index several batches of the project.

For the rest of you would-be arbitrators, go to the Indexing Resource Guide and look for the section on arbitration, where you’ll find everything you need to become an arbitrator. If you’re part of an organized indexing group or LDS stake, give your group administrator or stake indexing director a call. He or she can probably help you understand the process quickly and help you decide if arbitration is right for you. You can find out the name and contact information for your group administrator or stake indexing director by opening the FamilySearch indexing program, clicking on the Help menu, and selecting Contact Support.

If you’re afraid that you’re not good enough to arbitrate, read the rest of the articles linked to below, and then decide. It’s not for everyone, but if you are mature and meticulous, an experienced indexer, and willing to qualify yourself, you likely have what it takes to become a great arbitrator. You’ll never know unless you try.

This is the first post in a series of articles that reveal the mysteries of arbitration.

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  1. On Sunday, my group administrator asked if I would like to switch from indexing to arbitration and I said no. However, after reading these blogs about arbitration, I rethought my feelings about it, and decided to say “yes”. I do the best on indexing that I can and don’t stress over it anymore, and will do the same on arbitration.

  2. i have read all the blogs and shared the same experiences of indexers. I am just happy to add the gift of my time to share for others to benefit. Thank you to all who are giving of yourselves. Is there some way to correct the final indexes on the web site later if found to be in error or is it too much as problem with the volume of records.

  3. I wish only the information which is necessary for correct temple ordinances would be marked correct or incorrect….Does it really matter if she were a domestic cook …or just a cook…..neither indexer should be marked wrong…..leave out the profession except as a point of interest….

    1. vg, I haven’t ever indexed a profession. I don’t think it has a line to index the profession. Am I reading your remark correctly?

    1. There is a message on the Ten Commandments page from a Charlie – perhaps you lost track of which blog you posted on.

  4. All the comments were very insightful and some troubling. But we are not without opposition in any task we undertake. A comment box in Feedback would be helpful to me as well. It is frustrating as an indexer to labor hours over difficult penmanship or foreign names to see an arbitration result in returning a batch without explanation. There is not much of an opportunity to check in with “experts” and sometimes there are questions that I have spent days searching for an answer. Still I have learned more about doing my own family history and recording my own family’s data by indexing. I have been richly blessed in my experience and desire to arbitrate as well as continue indexing.

  5. I see the benefit of the arbitrator role to make sure that the indexing is as accurate as possible. But I’m wondering if it should be the backlog that keeps indexed records from being published. With three million records waiting to come on line, I’d rather see them with a lower level of indexing accuracy than not at all. Can you just publish them now and fix them later?

  6. I am so glad to see these comments here. I stopped FS indexing after receiving back changes from arbitrators that didn’t make sense (see below) and finding out there is no way to communicate with them.

    This process really will not be successful until there is a two-way communication path between indexer and arbitrator. It gave me a great appreciation for errors created in the indexing process.

    I have had success working with a local genealogy society who has a representative that interfaces for their project between volunteers and Family Search. The result is much higher accuracy and volunteer success thanks to the feedback/question loop. Doesn’t take long to become proficient when there is clear/accurate direction and when there is a glitch in the instructions/process you can contribute to improving the process for others to become proficient more quickly.

    Some examples of my experience with FS indexing and arbitration which easily could’ve been addressed with a feedback loop…

    In one case the pages being sent out were a mismatch – so I indexed them correctly thinking they’d get the point. But the arbitrator changed them back, and there was no way to communicate with the arbitrator. I was told in the future just to send back pages like that — apparently others did but the person sending them out never caught on. I suspect the entire batch is either still out there or useless to researchers.

    In other cases, data was changed by arbitrator(s) and was blatantly incorrect with what the instructions said to do (e.g., instructions said don’t include the church name – only the city, yet the arbitrator put in the church name;; instructions said include aliases – which arbitrator deleted) and/or the document showed something entirely different (e.g., name spelling) than the change made by the arbitrator.

    All of this occurred within a relatively few sets of indexing, which left me feeling that without a feedback process I could not do an adequate job that would be useful to others in their research.

  7. I am frustrated. It states in the instructions when “same place” is written in a space then the others are to be indexed as blank even tho something is written in the spaces. I just had one record where all of them had “same place” written in and I marked the others blank and the arbitrator marked every one of them wrong and lowered my percentage number and there isn’t anything I can do about it. I have a 98% agreement in indexing. What can I do? I sent in feedback but that will not help me! These were New York records and I had two of them exactly the same way. I’m upset. I have indexex close to 7000 1940 census records.

    1. Mary: the arbitrator did not lower your percentage number. A computer program at FamilySearch calculated that number.

      As for leaving two spaces blank after the “same place” entry you did it correctly. The arbitrator got it wrong – sorry. If you’ve indexed 7000 people with a 98% accuracy in the 1940 census find a way to become an arbitrator. When you do you’ll get a much different perspective on what we have to do as arbitrators.

  8. Arbitrators need to become familiar with male female in Spanish. I am indexing mostly New Mexico and Texas both high in latino population, arbitrators keep changing my female a’s to o’s and vice versa. Juanito male Juanita female, Julio male Julia female etc.

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  10. Comment on selecting ‘Preferred Projects’ for arbitrating batches. I’ve set my Level to ‘3’, but having been selecting higher levels frequently from the ‘Complete’ list. I’d suggest making the Level choice option a little more flexible, like ‘2 or higher’, or ‘3 or higher’, etc.

  11. I’ve been asked to give arbitration a try. I’m going to give it a try if I’m eligible 🙂 I certainly can’t do any worse than some of the arbitrators that add non-existant records to my indexing and then ding me for it or those that don’t read the whole obituary and don’t see the “title or term” that shows up later in the obituary and dings me for adding a proper title/term or even scarier is whom ever the arbitrator(s) that turn the children’s fiance(e)s into the deceases fiance(e)s. That has me stumped as to why an arbitrator would do that.