What is Indexing and Why do We Need It.

Most of the records we use for Genealogy today are from before the age of the computer.  They were typed or handwritten.  The only way to understand the records is for someone to read them.

Today there are hundreds of professional teams traveling the world taking scans or pictures of these records.   Just taking the picture does not make the information available for computer use.  It is still a picture that has to be read by someone to interpret the information.

To use the information in the records on computers and easily find the information with computer searches this information has to be converted to computer "data".  

The second step is the pictures are assigned a blank computer data form or a new form to fit the data.   One form may work for hundreds to millions of records.    Some well typed data can be "recognized" by the computer and converted to data once the proper form is associated.  It is still an art not a science and has to be checked by someone.   The vast majority of records still need to be read by someone.

Part three of indexing is someone reads the record and types in key parts of the record into the computer form.     This is where YOU come in.  When people are asked to do indexing, this is the part that needs millions of people to help.   When the information is typed into the correct areas of the form it becomes data that can be searched, sorted, ordered and tabulated with computer tools.   Indexing is reading the record and typing key parts of the information into a computer data form.   The form and the record together becomes an Indexed Record.  This is the most labor intensive step of the process and a lot of help is needed.

The fourth step is checking the indexing.  Someone with a lot of indexing experience double checks the record for errors.  Your work is checked, do your best and don;t fret.  Many records can be changed later when indexing errors were missed by a checker.  

When the records from an area, group or location are all done they are released for general use.

How are they used?  Searches are done on Familysearch, Ancestry and the like.  The names, birth, marriage, death and other data is read and matched in the computer searches.  Users then decide if the record matches their ancestor.  If it does, they can link or attach the record to the ancestors entry.  Anyone then looking at that ancestor can see the attached record, open it and browse the original picture of the record in most cases.  Others searching can also see the record is used already in Familysearch.  This helps prevent creating duplicate records of people also.

Not all the information on the record is indexed into data.   Reading the record is important.   You may be able to mine more information from the record. 

Is it hard?, not really.  The records are classed as beginning, intermediate and advanced.  Don't start with advanced.  Learn with beginning or intermediate records.  As with anything new it may take some practice to be comfortable.   READ THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE RECORDS TO BE INDEXED.  There are many types of records and many forms to match.  Each has instructions.  

Will we run out of records to index?  Unless indexing becomes a fad world wide, no.   Feb 2022 shows we need to index at 5x the rate than we are currently doing. 

Some good explanations and tutorials on Indexing.

Indexing Overview on FamilySearch.org.   Needs a login.  Getting a login is free.

What is indexing  2 minutes  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p_kechQOao

Web Indexing over-view 8 minutes.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2uHGFQsX4o

Web Indexing from BYU Family History Library 14 minutes Oct 2019.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoiZaETrnV0

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Page last update Feb 13 2022