There has been a lot of wonderful growth in indexing this year. We are always trying to increase our numbers by adding more indexers, but another way to increase numbers is to be more accurate with the records we index now. As many may already know, each batch of records is indexed twice, which creates two “keys.” If there are any differences between the two keys, the batch is sent to arbitration. Our arbitrators are an essential part of the process because they compare the two keys and make final corrections. If there are a significant number of corrections to be made, the arbitrators can send one or both of the keys back to be re-indexed. The keys sent back are cleared of data, and the batches are assigned to different indexers. This creates more work and slows our progress down.
Because all arbitrators have been indexers before they started arbitration, and because they see a lot of the common indexing mistakes, I asked some of them to give me their best tips for indexers to make sure we only need to index records once. Below you will find a list of their favorite tips so we can all improve our indexing and speed up the process of completing records.
Read the Instructions
The tip most often suggested is to read the field helps and the project information. They are a must-read before beginning a project and are often updated (on the project updates page). If you have a question about a record, this should be the first place you turn. The field helps and project information can be found under their respective tabs while you have a batch open. The link to the project updates is found within the project information.
Leave the field helps open as you index, and use the example images provided to determine where the requested information is found on the document.
Type What You See
Index what you see on the record (unless the field help specifically states otherwise). Don’t skip information. Don’t add information that isn’t there or doesn’t match what is being asked for.
- If the field asks for a christening date, then enter the christening date, not the birth date.
- Don’t expand abbreviated names, such as Wm, Jas, and Chas.
- Middle initials and middle names are part of the given name. Please don’t omit them.
- Index titles and terms such as Mr, Dr, Mrs, or Captain only when they are actually written on the document.
- If a line number is seen on the document as 1, then index 1, not 01.
- Read the field help, and if it says to index the information “just as it was written on the document,” then type exactly what you see. In U.K. projects, if you see Spinster or Bachelor for the condition, then index Spinster or Bachelor. In the Indiana County Marriages projects, the Number of Marriage field could include None, 1st, 2, Third, and more. Do not add the marriage being recorded. If it says None, then please index None.
Make sure you take the requested information from the right lines or areas on the document. If the field asks for a town, but one isn’t listed, don’t take the county and put it in the field.
Do Not Assume
Only index gender when it is stated on the document using terms such as male or female, a son or a daughter, or other gender-specific terms. Do not try to determine the gender from the name. Names such as Ashley, Beverly, Hilary, Kelly, Meredith, Shirley, and Vivian were given to men and women. If the gender is not specifically stated, please leave or mark the field blank.
Do not add information to a record from the name of the project or from other records (unless the field help specifically states otherwise). If the information was not written on that person’s record, don’t add it.
If the city and state are listed, but the county is not, do not try to determine what the county should be. County lines have changed over time. The county may not be the same today as it was when the document was recorded. The same is true for states and countries.
Many people will see a groom’s name and assume the father’s surname, or see a parent’s name and assume the child’s surname. If the surname was not written next to the name, don’t assume.
Index All Records on the Image
You are responsible for indexing all of the records on each image, even if the data entry area is set for only one record per image. Add lines to match the number of records on the image.
An easy way to check the entire image is to zoom out to 25% magnification when you first open the batch, or use the Image Navigation tab.
Ignore Most Punctuation
The only punctuation marks that should be used are hyphens (-) and apostrophes (‘), and only when they are part of the record, such as in the locality Bössow-Westhof or the name O’Farrell. Don’t worry about colons (:), semicolons (;), commas (,), periods (.), or parentheses ( ).
As you can see from the information listed above, arbitrators have a lot of tips to improve our indexing. If we can start to apply this information and try to be more accurate, we will be able to take the great work we are doing now and improve upon it. In doing so, we can make the whole process a better one for everyone, and we can complete records faster. This will allow projects to be completed faster, which will allow more people to find information that will connect families together.