Imagine if you could go to a website, search for an ancestor’s name, and almost immediately learn the person’s birth and death dates, names of family members, country of origin, and more! For some people, this scenario is already a reality. There are 5.8 billion searchable records on FamilySearch.org that can connect people with one or more of their ancestors. Many of these records are findable only because of millions of volunteer hours put in by those doing family history indexing.
Of the many volunteers who help people find their ancestors and learn more about themselves through their past, indexers can be some of the most impactful—and dedicated. In 2019 alone, over 300,000 people volunteered 10.9 million hours to indexing. That’s a lot!
Indexing involves looking at a historical record displayed on a screen and typing important details you see to create an index of the record. Although indexing is a simple task, indexers often dedicate hours of their time to indexing batches of records and learning how to help with more complex or harder-to-read records.
Have you ever found one of your ancestors in a record on FamilySearch.org? If not, don’t give up!
Around the world, there are billions of records that aren’t yet searchable. Indexers continue to work on these records every day, creating indexes that computers can read—all so that the next time you search, your ancestor’s records might be there.
True Stories of Family History Indexing
Ashley R., a 16-year-old living in the United States, shared a personal experience with family history indexing: “It’s so easy to index, and with every name I think there’s probably someone out there looking for it. Indexing taught me that some of the most important things we can do are simple, small things that make a big difference.”
A FamilySearch volunteer who spends much of her time indexing talked about having her attention caught by a person in her tree—he had no wife on record, though he lived in an era where most people were married. One day, she viewed that ancestor’s person page in search of some detail she may have overlooked, something to help her discover this ancestor’s wife.
“I clicked once, scrolled down a little bit, and there was his marriage record!” she exclaimed. “No one else had found it because that collection hadn’t been indexed until recently.”
What surprised the volunteer even more was the realization that the collection where the marriage record came from was one that she, herself, had helped index! “I never dreamed it would benefit me personally,” she said. A few minutes later, she was able to find records mentioning the couple’s first child.
The Opportunity to Help
Family history indexing is an incredibly important, selfless act of service that can benefit many. You will probably never meet the people you help, but you are making it possible for them to discover their family—to understand who they are and where they came from. Studies have suggested that family history makes people stronger and more resilient. The records you index make these opportunities available to someone else.
As a volunteer indexer, you decide for yourself what project you would like to work on and how many records you would like to index. Every little bit helps, even if it’s just one or two records at a sitting. Those one or two records could end up being the only records that matter to someone else.