Why Should We Index?


The world’s records aren’t just names and dates.  They are collectively who we are.

We’ve all been the recipients of someone’s hard work as we make some of those wonderful family history finds.  Shouldn’t we then find a way to give back?  I think so.  That’s one of the reasons I index – to pay forward what I have received.

Indexing can also help us gain proficiency in reading old handwriting and transcribing documents. It gives us an idea of what a certain record looks like and the information it contains.  These are skills I need as I work on becoming a Certified Genealogist.  You can read more about that here.

I often index South African records in the hopes of coming across my great grandfather’s death record which so far has been very difficult to find!  On a broader scale I index South African records to get more of them available online.  We can’t complain that records aren’t there or aren’t indexed if we aren’t willing to contribute something ourselves!

Familysearch.org is one way to index records but by no means is the only way.  There are many different organizations that are always looking for volunteers to help index their records.

Here’s my short but sweet list of indexing projects.  Like I said, short…there are many more projects available.  I’m highlighting these because I have had personal experience indexing these records or because they look really interesting.


  • Familysearch.org   This link has everything you need to know about indexing through Familysearch.  Join Familysearch and the 33 000 (and counting) volunteers ready to index during their Worldwide Indexing Event, a 72 hour period from July 15 – 17, 2016.

familysearch indexing event

  • The National Archives Foundation is hosting a special Independence Day-themed transcribe-a-thon on July 1.
  • As mentioned on Upfront with NGS you can help decode secret civil war telegrams. How fun would that be.
  • eGGSA – the online branch of the Genealogical Society of South Africa has many projects available to work on.  This is such a great site for South African research and I’m glad to be able to contribute a little to it.
  • Operation War Diary is another site I have volunteered with.  These are the records of the British Army on the Western Front during the First World War as told through unit war diaries.  They give a fascinating look at the day to day events of a war.
  • The World Archives Project through Ancestry.  There are several projects here including international ones.

Make the time and contribute.  You’ll find yourself stopping to read a document and wonder about the life of the person or family. You’re a silent witness to an event that shaped that life.  You’ll feel sadness as you index the deaths of several children who appear to be related. This has happened recently as I’ve indexed South African death records for 1895 when measles outbreaks and consumption (TB) were common and deadly and often several children from one family died within days or weeks of one another.  You’ll wonder at the young ages of a couple getting married and read the letter of permission from a father for his 16-year-old daughter to marry.  You’ll index World War One draft records and marvel at how so many stepped forward to answer the call to serve.   Perhaps you’ll read the day-to-day accounts of a military unit during war-time and understand how very much was sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy.   Passenger lists will have you wondering how on earth your ancestors survived some of those long journeys to foreign lands and the courage that must have taken.

We gain so much more than we can ever give back when we index.  Go ahead and give it a try!  What have you gained from indexing?

3 thoughts on “Why Should We Index?

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