LAYTON - Many hands make light work.
That’s the approach that FamilySearch is taking with their upcoming International Indexing Challenge, starting at 6 p.m. MST on July 20 and ending at the same time on July 21. Their goal is to get 50,000 volunteers to participate during the time period, with a person needing to only transcribe one document to be counted.
“One of our biggest challenges is always finding volunteers,” said Tom Robbins, a Layton resident and technical manager over pre-publication operations for FamilySearch. “We’d love to have more names be indexed.”
The website’s previous record for the number of volunteers in a single day is 49,025, though organizers are confident they can surpass the number with this new challenge.
"With hundreds of thousands of past indexing volunteers and thousands more joining weekly, breaking the record won’t take much if people will commit to spend the 30 minutes or so required to finish and submit a batch," said Mike Judson, indexing workforce manager for FamilySearch.
The term “indexing” means to transcribe information from historical documents into a researchable database that can be accessed for free via familysearch.org. Volunteers don’t need to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to participate in indexing, and all ages are welcome.
“I’ve had my 10-year-old daughter do it,” said Robbins, who also serves as a stake indexing coordinator for his LDS ward. “Everything is keyed twice and arbitrated, so quality comes out even if the volunteers aren’t perfect.”
The FamilySearch system involves two different people transcribing records, allowing more than one perspective on some of the more difficult-to-see documents. The resulting entries are then analyzed by a program that matches the two different sets of answers.
“The computer compares the two, and if they’re different they get sent to a human arbitrator,” said Ned Iverson, who along with his wife serves as the indexing director for the LDS Creekside Stake in Layton. “Only after the arbitrator okays it does it become a final record.”
Indexers also receive records based on experience level, which means that newer volunteers are asked to transcribe the simpler documents.
“As you get more and more confident, you can get to more and more advanced stuff,” said Iverson.
Instructions to begin indexing are available online at indexing.familysearch.org, along with a resource guide for anyone with questions.
“The website tells you all about it and explains how to get started,” said Iverson. “There’s even a test drive, that gives you a chance to try it out.”
Even after the challenge is over, FamilySearch encourages anyone interested to come volunteer with the project.
“We try to publicize it in different ways,” said Robbins. “But we’ve been at this for 10 years.”