Getting Started with FamilySearch Indexing

Not a Researcher? You Can Still Help! (Part 3 of 3)

NOTE: This series focuses on the free website. It is intended for people that have family members that have done research and published the data in the FamilySearch family tree.

3 Easy Tasks for Beginning Family History Work

In an earlier post I stated that there are many different activities that make up part of family history work. To all the tweens, teens, and the trembling, faint-hearted souls who feel a desire to participate but feel intimidated – I invite you to start with 3 activities:

  1. Performing data cleanup
  2. Attaching sources
  3. Indexing records to “Fuel the Find”

In part 3 of this series I explain the value of giving back by indexing records in FamilySearch.

FamilySearch Indexing

FamilySearch is both a Family Tree as well as a HUGE collection of genealogical records. In order to make those records searchable they go through a process called “indexing.” Indexing records is a great way that a beginning genealogist can participate! Indexing is also a tremendous service to the community. FamilySearch has developed a program and process that makes it easy to get started. The app is simply called “FamilySearch Indexing.” Let’s get started!

What is Indexing?

FamilySearch has provided excellent tutorials to help you. My intention is not to recreate those. Instead, I will point you in the right direction and give you a little push.

FamilySearch Indexing - Stats

FamilySearch Indexing at a Glance – August 2016

Indexing involves reading the image and transcribing certain bits of important information. It is like “tagging” a photo, but it is a little more structured. For example, you might be indexing birth records from North Carolina or Civil Registrations from Australia. Each project has different record types and is slightly different from another. The system provides instructions for each batch that you work on.

To get started I suggest you download the app by going to the FamilySearch download page. Then, once you have downloaded and installed the app, find the icon and launch the program. You will need a free FamilySearch account or an “LDS Account” to sign in. If you don’t have one, you can follow the steps to register right within the software program.


Before we go any further, let’s review some terminology for FamilySearch Indexing:

  1. A Project is a defined collection that needs to be indexed. Projects usually are sorted by the type of record that has been imaged, although there are exceptions.
  2. A Batch is a portion of an overall project. Batches are little chunks of the project that can usually be completed in less than an hour. You typically work on one batch at a time.
  3. Record is a single line in the database, typically with the focus on one person. Other related people may also be included in the record – such as parents or a spouse.
  4. A Field is a single piece of information from a Record. This is similar to a single cell in a spreadsheet. For example, a field may be Given Name(s), Surname, or Marriage Date.
  5. Arbitration is a quality review step to help ensure the records are indexed as accurately as possible.  Most batches are indexed by two separate indexers. If there are differences in the results of the two indexers, the batch goes to an arbitrator for final review. Arbitrators have

Start Your First Batch

FamilySearch Indexing - Download a Batch

1. Click ‘Download Batch,’ 2. then select a batch from the window.

If you haven’t opened the application yet, you need to do so. So go ahead, open the FamilySearch Indexing application. Now sign in.

Great! Next click on “Download Batch.” from the top left of the screen (see #1 in the screen shot). A window appears with a list of batches. You have a number of choices to help you filter the batches and choose one appropriate for you. First, let’s click on the column header, “Level,” to sort by the easiest projects first. Within the “Beginning” batches look at the Description to see the language the project is in. Pick a language you know. You can highlight a project and click “View Sample” to see a sample image and learn more about the project.

In the future, I suggest that you “Edit My Preferences.” This will take you to a separate web page where you must log in again. Once logged in you can specify your preferred difficulty level and language. Once you have made changes and saved them, you can click on “Preferred Batches” in the Download Batch window. This only shows batches that match your preferences.

After you have downloaded a batch it opens automatically. Review the Project instructions and start typing what you see!

Quick Steps

In summary, the steps are:

  1. Download batch – you can choose from a wide variety of projects
  2. Review images and Project instructions
  3. Type in requested information into a table format – review “Field Help” for specific instructions about what to put in individual fields.
  4. The system’s “Quality Checker” will ask you to double-check a few things that seem out of the ordinary.
  5. Submit the batch

So, consider this your “push!” There is certainly more to learn. The system is fairly intuitive, but it wouldn’t hurt to watch this 5-minute FamilySearch Indexing “Getting Started” Video. Or a more involved step-by-step tutorial.

A Few More Thoughts

1. Foreign languages

FamilySearch is always in need of indexers that can read languages other than English. If you are proficient in another language I strongly encourage you to try some of those projects.

2. Places you are familiar with

While certainly not a requirement, I find that indexing is more enjoyable if you choose a place you are familiar with. In some ways it make it easier. For example, if you are familiar with the cities, towns, or other geography it will make it easier to decipher some words. In addition, I find that you feel a stronger connection to the records you are indexing. So, if you have a choice, I suggest picking a project from an area you know.

3. What about that hard to read writing?

There is definitely an art to reading old documents. And yes, it is true that many are handwritten in an “old style” script. However, don’t assume you can’t index if you have trouble reading old handwriting. First off, there are some documents that are typed! Secondly, like anything else, you can learn! FamilySearch provides help like this guideline.  With practice you can be a pro at reading handwriting!

Just remember that each project is categorized based on its difficulty. Focus on those that match your skill level and you will avoid getting overly frustrated. There are 3 different levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Serve and Share

After you do your first couple batches come back and share your experience in the comments below!

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