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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Q5: All in the indexes

  • It's no insignificant task, in either importance or volume: Taking historical records from a person's life and transitioning them into digital files.
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  • It's no insignificant task, in either importance or volume: Taking historical records from a person's life and transitioning them into digital files.
    But, Leavenworth resident Staci Packer takes on the responsibility with enthusiasm and purpose nonetheless.
    She tells the Leavenworth Times more about indexing records from around the world in this Q5.
    1. Staci, can you tell us what indexing is and how you and your husband got involved in it? How have your indexing goals increased since you both began this activity?
    "There are billions of records in countries around the world that contain information on births, marriages, deaths, immigration, and other significant life events. In order to convert this information to digital, searchable records, people are needed to go through the records and type the names, dates and places listed and enter them into a searchable database. After records are indexed, that is extracted from copies of the original documents and entered into a database, they are made available on www.familysearch.org, a genealogical database provided worldwide for free by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). As more records are indexed, there are greater opportunities to learn more about these ancestors — who they are, where they lived, and what they did during their lives.
    "Indexing consists of two steps: the actual indexing — extracting and typing in the information — and also a process called 'arbitration,' which helps to confirm the correctness of the information extracted. Each digital image is indexed by two random people. One or more images are combined into a batch and provided online for the indexer to work on. After the batch is completed by two indexers, a third random person — who is specially trained for the job of determining the correctness of what has been typed — then arbitrates the work done by the indexers. If the two indexers have different entries, the arbitrator determines which of the two entries is more correct. After the batch has been arbitrated, the images in the batch are published online and are searchable.
    "My husband, Sterling, and I were challenged at a church conference to index 1,000 names during the 2014 year. It seemed like a lot of names, but we were ready for the challenge. Once we both got started, we discovered that 1,000 names wouldn’t take us much time at all. I started out pretty strong. I indexed 1,800 names in the month of January. Quickly, I realized that if I could do 1,800 in one month I could really set a good goal for the year.
    "My husband and I like to challenge each other. So, on Jan. 31, I set the goal to index 10,000 names for the year. Several times I had to set a new goal, then completed it and had to increase my goal again. I achieved the 10,000 mark by the end of April. My current goal is to index 25,000 names and to arbitrate 50,000 names by the end of the year — a total of 75,000 for the year. That is a pretty lofty goal, but I am going to make it. Sterling initially set a goal to index 5,000 names for the year.  Then he realized that he could index 10,000 names by doing just 800 every month."
    Page 2 of 4 - 2. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, why is indexing important to church members?
    "Since its inception in 1830, the church has made a priority of finding our ancestors and learning about their lives. The church has vast collections of records that have previously only been available by visiting one of the Family History Centers. There is a Family History Center at the LDS Church building on 10th and Limit in Leavenworth.
    "We believe that the family is the most important organization on the earth. The indexing effort makes those records that are stored on microfilm and other media available to anyone anywhere with an Internet connection via the familysearch.org website. The information that is indexed helps us to more easily find our loved ones who have gone on before us, to link our families through generations back in time."
    3. How challenging and daunting is it to sort through billions of records while you are indexing from countries around the world to find information about births, marriages, immigration and other significant life events? Is it sometimes hard to break away when you are indexing because the records are so fascinating?
    "It isn’t daunting at all. The indexing batches are broken up into small parts. Each batch is designed to take less than 30 minutes to complete, so that it isn’t daunting. If a batch is too difficult to read or to decipher, I can simply return it for someone else to work on. I can choose the record type that I like and only do that type, if I choose to. The projects, where the records are from, are constantly rotating, but the type of records remain the same — obituary, census, marriage, death, birth, etc.
    "The records are fascinating. I have one week to finish a batch once I have downloaded it.
    "The great thing about indexing is that I can leave it and come back to it. Even though I am a busy mom, I can break away and come back and it will still be there waiting for me. There have been many batches that I have waited to turn in so I can show them to my husband because they are so fascinating. I love this work and know that the work I am doing will help others find their family members."
    4. You have indexed census records and cemetery transcripts from Canada, marriage records from Jamaica, World War II draft registration cards from Georgia, death records from Iowa and Illinois, passenger lists from Massachusetts, obituaries from Kentucky, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, and Utah, and many others.  What are your favorite records to read and index? As a mother of six, how do you find the time for this service?
    Page 3 of 4 - "My favorite records to index are obituaries. I love reading about people’s lives and the things they have done to make their mark on the world. I really enjoy reading about these people, they are not just names. Most of the records tell a story of some kind or another about a birth, a death, or some event in their lives.  It is fascinating to read about these people. I love that they are not just names, but stories of real people who lived and need to be remembered. Obituaries generally record only the good things people have done, ways they have improved their lives and the lives of those around them. This work isn’t just data entry work, it is helping others find their loved ones and family members who have gone on before them. The work of indexing will help people put the pieces of the puzzle together that is their family history.
    "My time is valuable. We have a busy house. I have realized that not only is indexing so much more valuable than time spent on Facebook or playing games on my phone, but also I am so much more fulfilled by doing it. I have removed all of the games off my phone and have decreased drastically the time I spend on Facebook, watching TV, and doing other non-meaningful things. I now use that time to index. Depending on my schedule, some days I only spend 5 or 10 minutes indexing and other days I can index for an hour or two. I try to do it every day — I do have a goal to reach. I still do other things; I haven’t cut all other activities out of my life. I have a blog that I keep for our family; I am learning Spanish on my own; I love to do outdoor activities with our children; I love to do crafts with my daughters and spend time with my family."
    5. What are the greatest benefits of the indexers' labor for people who don't know much about their ancestors? How has this activity enhanced your life? Can anyone volunteer to index and how can they get started?
    "The benefit of indexing allows all of these records that are on microfiche or digital images to be put into a searchable database, so that the people in these records can be found. There are records for almost everyone who has ever lived, we just need to be able to find those records. Indexing makes those records accessible to those who are looking for their family members. One record can tell so much about a loved one and is so exciting to find when searching. Doing genealogy — searching for our ancestors who have passed on — is made so much easier by the work done by indexers.
    Page 4 of 4 - "I discovered that indexing was a way of doing service for others that I could accomplish while being a stay-at-home mother of six kids. Serving helps each of us put our own trials aside and focus on others. Indexing and my faith in Jesus Christ helped me to handle some struggles our family was dealing with and helped me to keep a positive attitude through those trials. Indexing has enhanced my life for several reasons as setting goals and achieving them is fulfilling. Also, the knowledge that the work I am doing will help others is very satisfying.
    "A great thing about indexing is that you do not need to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to participate. Anyone can log on to www.familysearch.org and get her own account to participate. Personal accounts allow participants to find their own ancestors and build their own family trees, as well as to participate in indexing. For me, it is well worth the time I spend on the website and I am so grateful that I can make a difference from my own home. If anyone would like to get started, I would be happy to help. Just contact me at staciindexing@gmail.com. I would be glad to get you going."

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