Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

FamilySearch Indexing: The Bridge to Researching Your Ancestors

One of the current topics of discussion in the genealogical community is how to involve more people, especially younger people, in genealogy. The challenge is that genealogy ultimately involves some specific skills, both general and specific, such as researching and reading old handwriting. When people begin to become interested in recording and seeking out their family history, they usually find some information about family members relatively easily. In the genealogical community, we sometimes refer to these easily obtained records of our ancestors as "low hanging fruit" i.e. easily obtained.

But what happens when all the easy work is done? At that point things seem to get complicated rather quickly. This problem has been extensively discussed in online blog posts and other forums around the Web. The problem can be stated as follows:

How do we move new potential genealogical or family history researchers from gathering readily available information to finding sources that are more difficult to discover?

I believe we already have a major part of the solution in the FamilySearch Indexing program. By participating in the Indexing program, a newly interested genealogist or family historian (whichever term you prefer since they mean almost exactly the same thing) learns one important fact: the correspondence between searching various types of records and finding the names of ancestors. This is the major hurdle that anyone has to overcome to get started doing research. Once a person has done Indexing for a while, it is a natural transition to get them searching in other records that contain information about their family. Since they are already familiar with looking at various types of records the transition is much easier.

Presently, there seems to be a lot of interest by FamilySearch in getting members of the Church started with family history through photos and stories, but neither activity gets them looking at records such as censuses and such. Likewise, there is a big push towards getting more volunteer Indexers. But why not combine the two and make Indexing as a pathway to family history. Why not have ads or comments that say, now you have learned to Index, what about your own family history? What records lie out there about your family waiting to be discovered? This needs to work both ways, as people come to, they should be encouraged to try Indexing as a way to begin doing their own family history by learning a few of the skills needed for doing genealogical research.

FamilySearch has two extremely good programs but they need to start working together to help people overcome the initial difficulties of getting started in doing research on their family history.

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