If you spent part of your weekend participating in the worldwide indexing event, you were in good company. The event far surpassed its goal of 72,000 participants around the globe; a total of 116,475 individuals worked to make the world’s historical records available to those doing their family history work. These individuals indexed 10,447,887 records to add to the treasure trove of information available to family history researchers.
That final number of participants exceeded the original target by 44,475 participants—a 61.8 percent increase over the original goal.
“Grateful” was how Collin Smith, FamilySearch marketing manager, summed up his feelings at the successful event’s conclusion. “I’m pleased that so many people all over the world heard the call to index and brought so many friends and family to participate.”
From its beginning on Thursday in Southeast Asia and Australia to its conclusion Sunday night in the Pacific, the event attracted a wide range of participants, from those working alone at a home computer to those participating in an organized event like the one held by a group in Zurich, Switzerland. “We were about 20 people,” Joshua Christian Drewlow wrote on the FamilySearch Facebook page. “Everybody brought his own laptop, and we sat in a big conference room. . . . We had a super awesome atmosphere there!”
The scene was similar thousands of miles away. In South Jordan, Utah, 30 individuals participated in a Friday night indexing party where the indexers dined on pizza, helped each other decipher names, and compared document information.
The efforts in Switzerland and Utah were repeated across the globe. While North America had the largest number of participants, with 69,915 total, all regions were represented in reaching the total number of 116,475 participants. The numbers for each region are:
- Africa and the Pacific: 1,876
- Asia: 1,360
- Europe and the Middle East: 3,948
- Latin America: 16,686
- North America: 92,943
Participants in each region could choose record batches to index in their own language.
“So cool to use my Afrikaans language,” Nicole Lerios Randall wrote on Facebook. “Doing Death Notices from the Transvaal 1869–1958. Love being part of something bigger than me!!”
Nancy Van Kesteren Helis of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was a first-time indexer Friday, but she wasn’t new to family history research in another language. “I decided to start with images from The Netherlands,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’ve spent so much time over the years searching through Dutch genealogy records, it feels good to be able to contribute by helping to put more Dutch records online!”
No matter location or language, the participants completed at least one batch each. In the Salt Lake Valley at the annual Draper Days celebration, festival-goers from teens to grandmas stopped by the FamilySearch tent to try indexing at one of the six computer stations. Each participant did one to three batches of records. By and large, the group with the greatest number of people willing to test drive indexing was teens 15 to 19, Smith said. “They have easy computer skills, and they love seeing the old records,” Smith said.
In fact, the younger generation was well represented worldwide. There were 10,348 participants age 17 or younger, according to FamilySearch statistics. The numbers of participants for all age groups are:
- 17 and younger: 10,348
- 18–30: 12,211
- 31–45: 19,460
- 46–65: 31,585
- 66 or older: 24,104
One young woman at the Draper event found indexing so fascinating that she returned a second time to work on Arizona cemetery records. Because she had a family connection to Arizona, “she felt a kinship to these people even though they weren’t her family,” Smith said.
This young woman’s new-found enthusiasm for indexing is not surprising, Smith said. Many non-indexers may perceive the task as boring or difficult, but once an individual becomes involved, that perception is often shattered, he said.
Sandra Thompson, who worked at the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday, would agree. “I cannot imagine why anyone would think indexing is boring,” she said. “The records are always different; the people always interesting.”
Thompson, a veteran indexer, first tried indexing in 2010. Among other tasks Saturday at the Family History Library, she indexed the Salt Lake City Cemetery 1886 records that revealed a large number of causes of death not usually seen today—diphtheria, cholera, and scarlet fever. She only planned to spend a couple of hours at the computer Saturday, but she has found that if she can steal an hour on one day or several hours on another that the number of indexed documents really accumulates. In her two years as a volunteer, Thompson has used down time from her hosting duties at the Family History Library to index approximately 50,000 records.
Aubrey Olsen and Sue Story, both relatively new to indexing, also scrolled through documents at nearby computer stations Saturday. Both said they’ve developed a real affinity for family history because of indexing.
“You look at these records and realize these people were real,” said Olsen. She analyzed North Carolina death certificates and wondered about the lives of those who had died. Story, who worked on records from the Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia, was first introduced to indexing in West Virginia. She tries to index records daily. She says it’s easy to do about 10 records in 15 minutes. “If everyone would do it, we would have so many more projects and records available for everyone to use in their family history.”
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