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FamilySearch Indexing is now open to the public

The FamilySearch Indexing project is now open to the public, and is one of the most exciting advances in genealogy technology to ever occur.

The Family History Library is currently in the process of digitizing over two million rolls of microfilm to eventually make them available at FamilySearch.org. The images will need to be indexed to make them easily-searchable. Read all about the digitization project here.

Imagine this - instead of traveling to the Family History Library or one of its centers to manually search through rolls of film for information about an ancestor - you will be able to type in your ancestors' names and click on the search button - from the comfort of your own computer. FamilySearch will then search its millions of rolls of film for your ancestor, present you with a list of possible matches, and with one more click - provide you with a digital image of the record.

This can all be possible with your help via the FamilySearch Indexing project. After you sign up as a volunteer, you can download their indexing software, and begin indexing the records. Once indexed, these indexes will be linked to the actual images, and eventually, made searchable online.

Current indexing projects (as of April 2007) include the following:

  • 1900 U.S. Federal Census
  • George Death Certificates
  • Ontario Deaths
  • Texas Death Certificates
  • West Virginia Births
  • West Virginia Deaths
  • West Virginia Marriages
  • Indiana Marriages
  • Ohio Tax Records
  • Boston, Massachusetts State Census
  • Salt Lake County Deaths

In the first quarter of 2007, almost 29.5 million names were indexed. There are currently about 33 thousand indexers and over one hundred people are joining the workforce every day.

How to sign up

Millennia Corporation, makers of the Legacy Family Tree software, supports this project and encourages all Legacy Family Tree users (and everyone else) to sign up for this project. Just visit www.familysearchindexing.org and click on the Volunteer button. You will be prompted to create a user name and password. Next you will need to download and install the software.

Just imagine if all Legacy users signed up and indexed one page a day - we'd have the 2+ million rolls of microfilm indexed in no time!


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It's not clear whether these records will be made available to the public for free or not? I'm happy to volunteer, but I don't think I will continue helping if they are not going to be made free. The Terms and Conditions basically say that you have no right to the work you're doing nor can you keep the images that you are working on, so if they're not being made freely available, then you really aren't helping the public good.

Does anyone have a link for sure that says these are going to be made freely available?

Steve, an article at http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070330/FEAT05/703300303/1191 states that "Their goal is to index as many documents as they can find and to offer the finished products free of charge for researchers everywhere at familysearch.org."

Fantastic idea! One question - will Australian and UK (and other) records be included?

I'll add a caveat -- after downloading the program on dial-up, which took a verrry long time, I find that my system is not sufficient to run the program. :( I'm sad that I can't help index, but there's no new computer in my future.

Check the computer specifications.


I am working on the record transfers...it's nice to be able to give back to what I have been using for years... I find it very interesting...my question, once all the documents are downloaded into the computer, won't that eventually fill up the hard drive? I think it's a good questions! Has anybody got an answer?

I was recently at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and asked about this indexing project. It sounds that many US records can and will be made available, but don't hold your breath for most foreign records. The library will have to get release forms for each and every one of those foreign locations, and this will likely take much longer than the filming and indexing.

Is the index available on line yet - I didn't see anything at their website about when it would be made public or when they plan to make it public?

Does one need to go to the library to look up the microfilms or are the images also downloaded?

My understanding of the future accessability of the indexes is that they will be released incrementally on the FamilySearch website. The beta testing of the "new" FamilySearch was just concluded and will become available initially (probably this summer) to a few locations and access will slowly expand.

I am involved with the indexing project and this is how it works. You download the records to work on. You may work on or off line. You may choose from several different types of records to transcribe. I've done over 10 census records but there are birth and death records too. With the census records you transcribe 50 lines. When they are completed, the program asks if you are ready to submit them or do your own quality check. I quality check and then submit. Once the records are submitted they are wiped from your computer. Each record is transcribed by 3 different people. The records are checked by a fourth person, a specially trained arbitrator. They look at the record in front of them and sometimes at the census before or the census after what is being transcribed to be sure that the spelling is as accurate as possible. Each record has no fewer than 4 people looking at it to try to weed out as many errors as possible. It is laborious, but we will all be able to enjoy free access to all these records when it is complete. The original goal was for all these records to be done in 20 to 30 years. That goal has been revised to 5-6 years.

I see they are indexing the 1900 census too. These censuses are already indexed by Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com. Why are they doing it all again? Why don't they work together? Why doing double work? I know that you have to pay for Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com but still, there must be a way to work this out!

I agree about an earlier comment regarding the indexing of census records that have already been indexed and made available by ancestry etc. What would be far more useful and productive would be for those records currently on the IGI, such as earlier than 1837 parish records for the UK. These are not covered by the UK census or BMD records and make researching back beyond those dates essential. No doubt similar early records are just as difficult to find in other countries.

To an earlier question, yes, there will be UK and Australian records. The end result of this indexing project is to index everything from Granite Mountain. That doesn't include the US, Canadian or UK censuses or civil registrations. But there are a whole bunch of church records that have never been digitized.

I totally disagree with those who feel transcribing the 1900 census is a waste of time. There are MANY people, like myself, who cannot afford the fees ancestry.com, genealogy.com, heritagequest.com, etc. insist on charging. We have kids to feed & take care of and have nothing left over for this kind of thing. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that those who can afford to pay are in the minority. The Family History Library will make the census records free to all (as ALL the census & other government records SHOULD be) and benefit all of us who can't afford to pay ancestry.com their outrageous fees.

I also index and arbitrate. This is the thing, have you ever wondered why you could not find a relative on the census? Well, because they never were indexed to begin with. There lots that way. As well as the whole of 1900 census was not all done. Texas death records have not all been done. Indiana Marriages .... this is a first. So, I am all for anybody and everybody to help make the data available for everyone to view. Many thanks to those of you that do index. Its a wonderful thing.

I am glad that family search is finally getting the census info out there for the public to use. I am like the user above, I can't afford to pay the fees required at ancestry.com etc. We should be able to have access to all the public records that are being translated by volunteers. Just as soon as I can get back online at home I will be participating also in the project.

I have a question: I'm not at all clear that these records are going to be free to anyone, not only to paying members of Ancestry.com etc, but people like me and others who do this research as a hobby and cannot afford to pay the fees they charge. I'm often frustrated by above mentioned when typing a surname, only to be told that to see the full list, I need to become a paying member (or words to that effect)!

If you have a Public Library Card you can get free access to Heritagequest.You need to ask your library for the ID and password.Go to your library link online and click texshare databases,
heritagequest,census lookups.They have census from 1820 up to 1930.Hope this helps those in need.

Please don't ignore the local public library!!! I get free, at home, online access to HeritageQuest through my local library!!

Check with your local library or visit their website and see what they offer. You might be surprised!

While some are ranting about Ancestry.com, remember that they pay competitive wages to people to provide the services they do. The census is free to all, but the fact remains that it has been scanned in by Ancestry.com and they paid people to do this as well as to input the other records that they have made available. They offer a service to those who want to take advantage of it and they are, after all a free enterprise. I've been searching the census for 32 years and it hasn't been easy. There's no comparison to looking up information on the computer and spending hours at a film reader when I could find the time and money to get to a library. I'm a volunteer indexer as well and won't it be great when more is available online for free? However, I'm also grateful to Ancestry for their efforts, they have truly provided a wonderful service.

Yes, Ancestry.com has indexed and made available the censuses. Has anyone noticed a significant number of errors, or people are just missing? Not all of Ancestry.com's information is up to date or correct, especially with the censuses.
I believe that it is imperative that the more people that check something for errors, the less chance for errors.

We understand what you are saying about Ancestry.com and why they charge for their service. What everyone here is asking, Will this project stay free to everyone. If I volunteer my time and efforts, I want it to stay free. I think it is a great idea but I don't want the owners of the project to charge for my vounteer work. Since it is the Church of Latter day saints I believe it will stay free.
Now here is my question. What if we find a mistake on a record? First where can I look at the original and see whether it is a records mistake or transcriber mistake? Then who would I contact to fix it? I just looked up a record about a family member and it has a mistake.

Okay did find a problem though. In the terms of use It states;You may view, download, and print material from this site only for your personal, noncommercial use or, if you are a professional genealogist, for use by a current client. You may not post material from this site on another web site or on a computer network without our permission. You may not transmit or distribute material from this site to others" I am doing a family tree and am posting it on a family website. What good is the information if I can't share it?

Looking at the FAQ section on the FamilySearchIndexing.com site, they mentioned two items relating to the licensing agreement: 1) To protect the original record custodian’s rights to the images. 2) To protect our rights to the indexed data. We intend to make the indexes freely available to all. The Family History Department has likely signed contracts with the original custodians of the records to help protect everyone's materials and information. The information itself cannot be copyrighted, and you are free to share the info. What they are probably saying is that the digitized images are protected....

How can we trust the accuracy of the info that is being made available for indexing? Not all researchers are careful about checking and rechecking. I have found errors that even my own family members have supplied about info they should have verified but which they just assumed was accurate.

For whatever it is worth, this project is awesome. I can remember when at a genealogy seminar/conference the audience was told that the day would come when it would be probable that there would be a computer in almost every home or access to one close by. We all just were amazed and thought impossible. This was in 1977. Well, guess who has a computer in their home, in fact there are 3 here. Just work at getting the work done, the more the better and what have we got to lose? Nothing. If helping someone 10-20 years down the road takes place, answers found due to the work that was put into the indexing, well, I think that's pretty neat. I am so grateful for whomever indexed the 1880 census on Family Search, it has helped me beyond measure. Just that one census. Thank goodness for all who work so hard to get this information out there.

The Indiana Marriage Records are supposed to be free when done. Thats what I was told.

for Indiana marriages through 1850 go to www.statelib.lib.in.us
You could also probably access this information on the IN GENWEB site and it's free too.

Regarding Ancestry.com's and other internet services' high charges for access to information: that they pay people to input that information which makes it necessary for them to charge others to get it. That is understandable. However, I have for a long time been puzzled about family trees being offered for a charge, all of which are not paid for. Several years ago we had submitted our family tree information to a geneology program in return for accessing other family trees available. Later on, that information began to be offered for sale, along with all the other family trees that they sell. Until then we had believed that the information they sold was researched or paid for by themselves. However, we did all that work in researching and putting together our own family tree, and were not paid for it, so consequently, they make their money off of ours and other's trees free of charge.

Geoff Rasmussen said: "What they are probably saying is that the digitized images are protected...."

I know I'm late to respond, but I decided to try indexing for fun today and the terms of use deeply disturbed me as it has others above. (I found this blog in my searching.) Scanning a document does not copyright the resulting image. (In the US there is a "sweat of the brow" doctrine to support this.) What would it hurt making them available since they are public domain anyway? I also don't understand the second point on the faq. If the resulting data is not copyrightable which rights of theirs to the data need protecting? While I do trust that the church will make the resulting records freely available I believe this is the wrong way to go about it (it is also also called copyfraud http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=787244). This data should be treated as public domain and protected as such. There aren't enough entities protecting the public domain these day. This would be a great place to start.

That said, the idea is great and the software works quite well. The system gave me a page from the 1871 canadian census which was somewhat difficult to work through, but I've never done this before so I'm sure I'll get used to it. I was disappointed that I was sent a low dpi jpeg image to work with. This made it more difficult than anything else because of all the image artefacts. This was probably a design decision to make the download faster, but it would be nice to have an option of a higher quality image. (see http://www.juilliardmanuscriptcollection.org for an example of a nice way to accomplish this)

I'd be all for this but really could only stay interested if the content I was working on was in some way germane to the searches I'm in the middle of. For example, I really need to go through a lot of New Jersey records. Why not kill two birds with one stone? While I'm going through their 1915 state census or their birth or death records, let me go ahead and transcribe.

In fact, you could even let people do this and just list them later as not fully quality checked. As more people do it for each record, it can pass muster and be added to the checked list. Seems to me a way to get a lot more people working on this (we're talking factors of the current number) almost instantly.

This sounds very interesting. To Rich above, why don't you make yourself a excel spreadsheet and transcribe what your looking for as you suggested. I've done it with some death registries that I got from the county and put them on my personal website. Then go to the genweb site for the county in question and ask them to provide a link. Check this http://home.comcast.net/~little-bean/JacksonCountyDeathRegistry.htm
to see what I'm talking about.

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