A few months ago I was called as a ward indexer. I had done a little indexing in the past – about 2 years ago, and I am very computer literate, and I really enjoy family history, and I was pregnant and not really wanting another primary calling so this seemed like a great fit for me.
I started indexing a little bit on Sunday’s and talking to my family about helping to index the 1940 Census that was going to begin soon. Both of my older daughters had been indexing occasionally as well, but this Census project really inspired Emily, she has really been procrastinating learning cursive. She realized that she would be able to do a much better job indexing the census if she studied her cursive, and over the next month her handwriting greatly improved.
At the beginning of April Emily set a goal to index 1000 names that month, and she challenged her sister to a contest. I was impressed but not sure that I would have time to index so many names. However, indexing the census was so easy, and so fun, I found myself doing 2 or 3 batches a day, and every couple of days I would increase my goal, from 200 a month, to 300, then 400 hundred, and then 500. I loved being close to my goal, but was a little nervous about really challenging my myself. However, I am happy to say that by the end of April I had indexed 1200 names! Emily still beat me to 1000, by about 12 hours.
Towards the end of the month we were are my parents house for Sunday dinner. I was visiting with my Mom and we were talking about indexing. I was telling her about some of the little tricks I had discovered that helped me to finish the batch faster. After a little while I walked into the room where my Dad was and he asked me, “What is your arbitration rate?”
It turns out that my Dad has been a closet indexer for 3 weeks. Not even my Mom knew that he was indexing. In those 3 weeks he had indexed over 5000 names, and had a system down. He took us amateur indexers into the office and gave us a tutorial on how to quickly index a census batch.
It was even more fascinating when he came to visit a few days later and told us about the things he had observed while indexing. He would download 10 batches from 1 state at a time, and as he switched from state to state he noticed which names were popular in one state, and virtually non-existent in another. Which states people had settled in for a long time, and which states people moved to from other states.
We really enjoyed listening to the tidbits he had discovered, just from indexing, it would actually be really fascinating to study the census when it is completely indexed.I don’t know if I’ll get to a 1000 names this month, but I still want to do my part to index so that researchers can study the generalities of people in history, and that genealogists can find their family members and connect the generations together.
Check out the map that shows how the Census Indexing Project is progressing.