Written by Kris Jackson
Years ago, after graduating from college, I was anxious to find employment. Trying to use all the resources available, I signed up at our local workforce office. Through a series of exams, they tested my natural aptitude for different careers. Hours, even days, later they had collected data on my problem solving, writing, English, math, social, and communication skills. All we needed were the results. Two weeks later I received a phone call from a workforce counselor who wanted to go over my exams. As a new graduate with a degree in physical education, I had thoughts of grandeur, all of which included titles that started with director, so I thought it strange that the interviewer kept repeating, “That’s odd; there must be a mistake,” over and over to himself. I finally got enough courage to ask what was odd. Here I was dressed, in my finest attire, only to hear that my ideal position for a career was that of an auto mechanic. To say I was surprised was an understatement.
Having grown up in a family of all girls, there were times I found myself under the hood of my car with my dad attempting to fix the 1968 Datsun station wagon that I was doomed as a teenager to drive. It is possible I picked up a few “skills” in regards to mechanics. Needless to say, when it’s time to put together household items, especially around Christmas, my mechanic ability comes to the rescue in assembling toys, bicycles, gas grills, and the list goes on. My secret: I follow instructions—step 1, step 2, step 3, until we have the fully assembled product, functioning and working properly.
So what does this story have to do with indexing? Well, for an obscure reason I thought I could download batches and start indexing without reading the instructions. The beginning sounded easy. Step 1, download software, check. Step 2, sign up for an LDS Account, check. Step 3, activate the account by responding to the confirmation e-mail, check. It seems easy enough, but I got stuck and ended up spending several minutes on the phone with a very kind help desk support person. The reason I couldn’t get into the indexing site was that I had failed to click the correct link in my confirmation e-mail. I clicked the help desk link in haste because I didn’t take time to read all of the instructions in the e-mail.
My confident, overeager, I-can-do-anything attitude that I had applied when seeking my first career out of college had caused me to fail when applying that same attitude to indexing. I failed to use the help that is available to train the new indexer.
“It doesn’t matter if you try and try and try again, and fail. It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again.” Charles Kettering
Somewhat frustrated, I broke down and asked my 13-year-old daughter, who had indexed before, to walk me through the main indexing page. She was my lifesaver. She taught me the importance of reading the instructions prior to starting the project. She also pointed out the tutorials that are available to watch. I spent a wonderful afternoon with my daughter in a role reversal where she taught me the shortcuts available to help me become better and faster at indexing. Just as learning a new skill takes time, it takes some time to learn how to index and become familiar with the shortcuts that are available.
Here are a few things that I have learned:
- You are not alone. There is help available to assist you. Call the help desk at 866-406-1830 (within the United States and Canada; click here to find the toll-free number for your area), or chat online. These people are volunteers just like you and me, and they will help you find answers and solve problems.
- Don’t be afraid to try. You will make mistakes! This is not a problem. Each batch is indexed twice for accuracy, and discrepancies are fixed by an arbitrator.
- Don’t be afraid to send back a batch. If you don’t know what to do after reading the instructions for a specific batch, return it. We have a wide range of indexers, many with advanced experience who can complete the batch. It can be done by someone else.
- Start with “beginner” level projects. Try looking at different types of projects, including births, deaths, and censuses, until you become familiar with the different types of historical records. Once you have some experience behind you, we encourage you to try more advanced projects.
- Print out a copy of the shortcuts, and put it next to the computer you use for indexing. This is your help tutorial at a glance and will be a great resource guide.
- Join a society, group, or stake. These organizations have experienced family history enthusiasts. Indexing with someone else is fun! Projects finish faster when groups work towards a common goal, and it provides networking opportunities if you have questions.
- Make new friends. Join our indexing group on Facebook. Post your questions. We have great fans on Facebook who are eager to help you.
As you take the time necessary to learn the new indexing software, remember that you are helping others find members of their family tree. At FamilySearch, we have received countless stories from people who have unsuccessfully researched specific family lines for many years. Then, moments after a newly indexed project is published, they not only find who they originally sought, but also numerous others, just by connecting one piece of the puzzle. Seeking ONE person can result in finding hundreds of members of your family. As an active volunteer indexer, you are helping others find the ONE person who needs to be found.
If you have tried indexing and failed, like I did the first time, please try again. Your volunteer efforts make a difference. Everyone should have a right to know who they are and where they came from, if that is their desire. As a volunteer indexer, you are making this knowledge a reality.