This is a great question. It’s one that has kept volunteers scratching their heads since the dawn of indexing. So here goes—the explanation we’ve all been waiting for.
Fewer fields allow more collections to be published more quickly.
FamilySearch chooses to index the fields we do today because of an extremely insightful finding at the beginning of 2010. Analysts determined that a field reduction of 37 percent would result in approximately 169 million additional records that could be published yearly. That’s a lot of records! Now we streamline to include fields that are genealogically significant, such as birthplace, mother, father, and so on and leave out information such as “rent vs. own.” This way, we follow the principle—that “fewer fields allow more collections to be published more quickly,” and indexers can still link to images in order to interpret the remaining fields.
Another reason we focus on fewer fields is that even in the Advanced Search option at FamilySearch.org, only a limited number of fields can efficiently link you to your ancestor. Fields such as name, event, place, and year are key in narrowing your search. These, then, are the fields we are most interested in indexing.
Pretty insightful, right? Unfortunately, there are always exceptions. If there weren’t, the Norwegian project wouldn’t have 47 fields to index! It would be more like the World War II Draft Registration project, which merely has 10. So what are the other factors that determine what fields we index? There are two.
Third parties—societies, organizations, and archives—that contract with FamilySearch to provide records often request additional fields. If it is in the best interest of genealogists to access these records for free, FamilySearch makes an exception to our rule. Also, if images are not available for publication, we will index a broader range of information, which also benefits the genealogists when they do not have free access to the images.
So that’s it! Rest easy, knowing that FamilySearch is always looking out for the researcher, while holding in high regard those who have made a digital dream a reality: the indexers.